The 2022 Chicago Cubs finished the season with a 74-88 record, placing them third in the National League Central, nineteen games back of the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals, and thirteen games out of a Wild Card berth.
Aside from the Covid-shortened 2020 season, it has been four years since the team has had a winning record and five since they advanced to the postseason. However, all is not doom and gloom for the Cubbies and their fans as the team finished the second half of the season going 39-31, largely thanks to their starting pitching.
After slow starts, members of the starting rotation, including veterans Marcus Stroman, Adrian Sampson, Drew Smyly, and rookie Hayden Wesneski all seemed to find their groove.
Should the #Cubs bring back Drew Smyly this off-season?
Smyly’s stats with the Cubs:
1.19 WHIP pic.twitter.com/E819MhWTWE
— Just Another Year Chicago (@OfficialJAYCHI) October 12, 2022
Lock Him Up
Heading into the 2023 season, Stroman is locked up, Sampson is heading to arbitration and Wesneski was on a one-year deal that leaves him as a free agent. As for Smyly, he owns a $10 million mutual option with a $1 million buyout for next season, one that the Cubs seem to be more than willing to discuss in depth.
It seems to be a given that the Cubs and Smyly will be agreeable to his return for $10 million next season, but at 33 years old (turning 34 next June), locking in a quality starting pitcher for at least two to three more seasons would be ideal for a team that is on the outside of the playoffs looking in.
With several rookies and minor league pitchers ready to make their mark in the “bigs”, the team still needs a couple of established vets to help bridge the gap.
— MLB Trade Rumors (@mlbtraderumors) October 10, 2022
Drafted and signed by the Detroit Tigers as the 68th pick in the 2010 draft, Smyly has been around the block, making his MLB debut in 2012. Since then, he has suited up for the Tampa Bay Rays, Seattle Mariners (though he never played a game for the M’s due to Tommy John surgery), Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, and the Atlanta Braves.
Smyly had a previous stint with the Cubs organization in 2018 but was regulated to their farm team following his surgery. In 2012, 2013, and 2021, Smyly would make postseason appearances with the Tigers and the Braves.
— MLB (@MLB) August 12, 2022
While his 7-8 record in twenty-two starts isn’t earth-shattering, his 3.47 ERA and 4.23 FIP were slightly better than the league average and his 2.98 ERA during the final few months of the season were certainly notable. Nobody is saying that Smyly is a top-three pitcher, but he can certainly be in the starting rotation or at the very least brought in from the bullpen if need be.
Having thrown just 106.1 innings this past season, even entering his mid-thirties there wasn’t much mileage on his arm this season that would give concern for any physical decline.
While his strikeout numbers were the worst of his career at just 20.4%, Smyly only gave up 5.8% of free bases, which was below the league average of 7.5%.
While it does raise some questions as to why Smyly was the seventh-highest-paid roster member and third-highest-paid pitcher this season at $4.25 million, it seems that the Cubs got a pretty good deal.
Congratulations to Drew Smyly and Chris Martin, who received their World Series rings before tonight's game! pic.twitter.com/Pogg2hjANx
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 26, 2022
One of the most critical factors heading into contract negotiations for both parties is that Smyly has openly stated how much he enjoys being a part of the Cubs roster. If the Cubs are open to discussing bringing the lefty back on a two or three-year deal, there is a good chance that Smyly will remain in Chicago. Smyly has shown that he can provide depth to a starting rotation as well as veteran playoff experience and with quality pitching at a premium throughout the league, there will be a number of teams willing to throw a few bones his way.
One factor playing against Smyly and his quest for a lengthy contract is the fact that he has found himself on the injured list every season since 2016 and has only pitched 175 innings once in his career. In today’s MLB, starting pitchers aren’t usually on the mound longer than five innings (4.96 average), which puts Smyly just short at 4.81 this season.
So what kind of money would make a deal work between Smyly and the Cubs front office? Being that he is no spring chicken, a two-year deal with a possible option for a third at roughly six million per season plus some incentives may be enough to offer Smyly some security and not lock the Cubs down financially.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 12, 2022
Credits on Featured Image: Flickr/Roger De Witt