It’s trade season, and the Chicago Cubs are in the market for pitching. That being said, the club shouldn’t completely write off their internal options.
This past offseason it became apparent that pitching, starting pitching especially, was a huge necessity for the Chicago Cubs. The team’s ace, Jake Arrieta, was on his way out and as a team in need of something, they turned toward a low-risk option in Drew Smyly.
The Cubs signed Smyly to a two-year contract worth $10 million, with an additional $7 million in performance bonuses.
Smyly has been excellent when healthy, posting a career record of 31-27 with a 3.74 ERA and an 8.7 WAR in five seasons at the major league level.
Around this time last season, while with the Seattle Mariners, Smyly, unfortunately, suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament, requiring Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss the rest of the season. The Cubs, meanwhile, did not let that scare them off making a deal for Smyly who, now close to a full recovery, could provide a nice boon to the team in their drive towards October.
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Connecting the pitcher dots
During the team’s search for pitching this offseason, the Cubs also brought in former Tampa Bay Rays, and Joe Maddon staffer, pitching coach Jim Hickey. Hickey, who spent 11 years with the Rays, including eight with Maddon, helped develop Smyly into a reliable rotation option.
For Smyly, revisiting the decision in signing with the Cubs, it indeed was a driving force in his decision to join the club. Hickey also helped Smyly continue to be a decent back-end rotation guy while in Tampa.
Smyly, during his tenure with the Rays, finished with a respectable 3.95 ERA in 289 2/3 innings pitched. During this offseason before last, Smyly found himself as part of a trade package which sent him to Seattle in a multi-player trade. Not long after in March, unfortunately, Smyly would require surgery all but ending his Mariners career before it started.
Providing late-season value
The Cubs brass is still high on Drew Smyly, and there is no doubt about that. General Manager Jed Hoyer knew what he was getting himself, and the club respectively, into when they decided to sign Smyly.
In a piece from Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball beat writer Carrie Muskat last December, Hoyer was quoted speaking on Smyly.
"“Anything we can get out of him next year will be sort of gravy. He may be able to help us late in the season out of the bullpen. This is a move that is focused on 2019. He’s a really good, high-quality starting pitcher, and we’re excited to get him on this deal and rehab him and hopefully get him back to where he was.”"
Now, that could be a realistic scenario for the Cubs.
The Cubs recently acquired former Texas Rangers relief pitcher Jesse Chavez. As the trade deadline nears, reports are coming in that they are serious about going all-in for Baltimore Orioles star reliever Zach Britton.
For a team needing pitching as the season turns towards August, Smyly will hopefully fully regain his health for a final push into October. With Tyler Chatwood struggling and Mike Montgomery filling in as an atypical starter, Smyly has options as either a rotation arm or as a long-reliever.
Before yesterday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Smyly ramped up his work, throwing a simulated game. It puts him on the path for a minor-league rehab and hopefully can join the club by September.
Whatever the case may be, Drew Smyly is a name to keep an eye on in the midst of trade season and a guy who can provide much-needed pitching value for the Cubs in their drive to the World Series.