There’s plenty of talk around the Chicago Cubs of signing their young players before they hit free agency. And while we continue to hear the names like Kris Bryant and Addison Russell, the Cubs need to make sure Kyle Hendricks is added to that list.
The Chicago Cubs are in a perfect place right now. The roster is filled with superb young players and a good mix of veterans. Sure, there are a few big contracts (Jon Lester, Jason Heyward), but most of the young players are on “team friendly” rookie deals or will be for a few more years. The Cubs have shown the willingness in pre-arbitration to take care of their players, but this is small change considering what it will be.
Around the year 2020, the Cubs “kids” will start becoming men. Not just in age, but in what they’re getting paid. Addison Russell got a bump in pay in pre-arbitration, and that was basically on his potential. Kris Bryant will likely get one as well, and I think we’re all very aware of why. Then you’ve got Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber to add to the list. But one name I never hear is that of Kyle Hendricks.
We need to start hearing it mentioned, a WHOLE lot more.
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I would be willing to go out on a limb and say that Hendricks is about to become one of the league’s best–and consistent pitchers–over the next four years, barring injury. While Jake Arrieta has been phenomenal for the Cubs, there’s been a noticeable–decline–if you can call it that. When you have a power pitcher like Arrieta, it seems that there are more things that can go wrong.
It’s not just about “the stuff”
Mechanics can get off, and then you see a lack of command. Or the stuff starts to dissipate, and they don’t have what they had before to get hitters out. But what if you didn’t really have to worry about your stuff? And your command was just about as good as it can get? With Hendricks, he doesn’t throw hard which is one of the big keys, but not the biggest.
Hendricks relies on essentially two changeups. He throws a “fastball” and a curve, but these are used sparingly. But it’s the two different changeups that he not only survives on–but thrives. The time that Chris Bosio has put into Hendricks could pay huge dividends for the Cubs. So why shouldn’t the Cubs return the favor?
Look, I’m just going to go ahead and compare these two because, well, why not? Both have been nicknamed “the Professor”, and that’s not just a coincidence. When you watch how Hendricks works a hitter and the time he puts into studying them? It’s very similar to that of former Cubs’ pitcher Greg Maddux. Hendricks got the nickname from being an Ivy-league kid from Dartmouth, but there’s more to it than that.
Pitching will be a weak spot unless things change
If there’s one spot on the roster that might concern you, it’s the Cubs staff. Sure, this year it’s still strong with Jon Lester and Arrieta, as well as Hendricks and John Lackey. But as good as it was last year and could be this year, that might change in an instant. Arrieta is likely to be in his final season with the Cubs. Lackey could retire after this season. Lester doesn’t seem to be slowed at all, but he might be what’s left.
The timing of the end of Lester’s contract and the time to sign Hendricks will line up just right. So if Hendricks pitches to or beyond expectation, should the Cubs consider a long-term deal for him? The answer should be a resounding yes.
Hendricks will be near the same age as Arrieta is now when he becomes a free agent. Some have questioned if Arrieta is worth the money he’s asking? If the Cubs didn’t have a large portion tied up in other players, they would consider it. But realistically, they can’t. Or at least shouldn’t. But when Hendricks turns 31, there won’t be as much fear that he’s “losing his stuff”. To be honest, there isn’t much to lose.
And I mean that in the most complimentary way. He doesn’t throw hard. His control is magnificent, and with another strong year in 2017, the Cubs need to make Hendricks a priority.