Chicago Cubs: Kyle Hendricks could be an all-time great Cubs pitcher

Kyle Hendricks has a chance to be one of the all-time great Chicago Cubs pitchers. Here we look at what he needs to do over the next few years.

When Chicago Cubs baseball returns, Kyle Hendricks will be one of the most important Cubs hurlers taking the mound. “The Professor” has already solidified his place in team history with his incredible run during the 2016 championship season, along with his other accomplishments with the team.

Yet with the 30-year-old right-hander locked up with the team through 2024, it’s time to start talking about where Hendricks could rank among all-time Cubs pitchers when his career is finished. It’s not too far-fetched to say that he could end up being one of the three best Cubs pitchers since World War II.

If we look at the current career rankings in franchise history, Hendricks ranks 22nd in WAR, at 20.4. That’s already pretty good. He posted a 4.0 WAR in 2019 and has averaged 4.0 WAR over the past four seasons. Though nothing is a guarantee, when we consider the fact that he doesn’t rely much on velocity, Hendricks is a good bet to continue posting strong numbers throughout the rest of his contract.

So let’s say that, over the next five years, Hendricks posts a 3.5 WAR per season. That would give him a 17.5 WAR through 2024, bringing his career total to 37.9. That would be good for eighth all-time in Cubs franchise history; although, of the pitchers above him, only Fergie Jenkins (#1 at 53.0) and Rick Reuschel (#2 at 48.3) have pitched since WWII. Among those he would pass are Carlos Zambrano (37.7), meaning that Hendricks would have the highest WAR among Cubs pitchers since 1984.

So, is it possible that Hendricks could catch Jenkins? If he were to stay with the team through 2027 and average a 4.1 WAR over that time, that would put him at 53.2, leaving him alone in first place. It seems like a long shot, yet it’s not entirely out of the question.

In order to put up the 3.5 to 4.0 WAR totals we’ve been talking about, Hendricks simply needs to keep doing what he’s been doing: posting ERAs in the 3.00s, giving the team 30 or so starts per year while keeping the walk totals down. I think he can do it, and I know a lot of Cubs fans think so too.

Of course, this all depends on Hendricks staying healthy and with him staying with the team throughout the rest of his contract and possibly beyond. Yet the right-hander, for the most part, has stayed healthy throughout his career, and the fact that the team was so quickly able to sign him long-term when they’ve had trouble signing their other core players to long-term deals shows that the Cubs and Hendricks seem to be a good match.

Next: Figuring out Carlos Marmol's place in Cubs history

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Cubs fans have grown to love Kyle Hendricks over the past few years, and I really hope that he pitches well for several more years so that we can indeed discuss his place among the all-time great Cubs. In any case, in watching him pitch, we are witnessing Cubs history.