The Chicago Cubs have not created many headlines during the current offseason, but they recently picked up a reliever on a low-risk, high-reward contract.
According to Bruce Levine of WSCR-AM in Chicago (Twitter link), the Chicago Cubs agreed to a minor-league contract with right-handed reliever George Kontos. Although this may initially not sound appealing, Levine revealed that Kontos has reportedly improved his fastball velocity since the last time he took the mound at the MLB level.
During the 2018 regular season, the 33-year-old Kontos made 28 appearances spread out between his time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians, and New York Yankees. Throughout these appearances, he posted a combined 4.39 ERA, 5.60 FIP, and 1.275 WHIP through 26.2 innings pitched.
According to FanGraphs, Kontos averaged 89.6 mph on his fastball during his time on these three teams. His average last season was also only 0.7 mph off of his career average of 90.9 mph.
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Even though his fastball velocities have been nothing to write home about, Kontos has reportedly spent the current offseason working with Driveline Baseball to improve his overall velocity. Driveline is a pitching and hitting training company that uses data to further develop the skill of a player.
After completing an assessment on Kontos to formulate a training program, the right-handed reliever is rumored to have added 3 mph to his fastball during the current offseason. As his hardest-throwing season was back in 2014 with the San Francisco Giants in which he threw 91.3 mph, it will be very impressive if Kontos is throwing 93.0 mph or more in Spring Training next month.
The Cubs have been unable to spend money on upgrades this offseason due to bringing in Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood, and Brandon Morrow last year, so it is important to bring in players such as Kontos on a low-risk, high-reward type of contract. After all, between 2012-17, he put together a very solid 3.00 ERA, 3.65 FIP, and 1.144 WHIP through 315 appearances at the MLB level, so there is still hope that he can return to this level of performance, especially with his potential velocity increase.
Levine also reported that the Cubs have invited Kontos to major league camp (Twitter link). If his velocity has increased as reported, it will be interesting to see how many more players will look to a data-driven company such as Driveline Baseball to improve their abilities in order to prolong their careers.