Former Cubs pitcher Dan Straily just re-established himself in the KBO

If he returns to the U.S., could Dan Straily be a Cubs target? (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
If he returns to the U.S., could Dan Straily be a Cubs target? (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

Former Cubs pitcher Dan St raily was lights-out in the KBO this season.

A part of two key trades in Chicago Cubs history, right-hander Dan Straily could wind up returning to the big leagues in 2021. The 31-year-old is coming off a breakout season playing overseas, emerging as an ace in the KBO – putting up numbers that will undoubtedly intrigue big league clubs in need of pitching depth.

Straily turned in 194 2/3 innings of 2.50 ERA ball – with 205 strikeouts – with the Lotte Giants, who definitely got the most out of the veteran’s one-year, $1 million contract. He started Opening Day for the club and never looked back, establishing himself as one of the league’s top arms.

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"“I came here with the utmost respect for the league and the players, and never once thought I could just walk in here and dominate,” Straily said. “I knew I really had to work hard for it. I feel like some guys might feel like you can just show up here and succeed. But you have to really adjust your game and learn the hitters in any league you’re playing, and that’s no different in the KBO.”"

If that name rings a bell with Cubs fans, it’s probably because of his role as a piece in Theo Epstein’s building of an eventual World Series championship team. First, he came over along with Billy McKinney in the now-infamous Addison Russell trade that saw Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel head to Oakland.

Down the stretch in 2014, Straily allowed 20 runs in just 11 innings of work, prompting the Cubs to package him with Luis Valbuena in the trade that netted Dexter Fowler ahead of the 2015 campaign. Of course, we know now Fowler was the spark plug for the team during its peak – setting the table for a deep and talented lineup.

From there, the right-hander bounced around, pitching for Cincinnati, Miami and Baltimore before packing his bags for Korea. He was largely a mediocre to average presence during his time with the big leagues, so seeing him break out in the KBO came as a bit of a surprise, to be honest.

After all, it wasn’t just that he was good – he became just the second foreign-born pitcher in the league’s history to eclipse the 200-strikeout mark and only the 10th-ever.

"“Throwing close to 200 innings was great, and doing it with quality innings,” he said. “One of the things I am most proud of is I had eight shutout starts this season. It is hard to throw shutouts in this league, because KBO guys are so good at making contact.”"

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If Straily looks to return to the bigs, a team like the Cubs could check in with him. Of course, there’s a familiarity here with the front office and Chicago desperately needs some pitching depth. Then again, after breaking out in such a big way, Straily might decide the KBO is where he wants to be moving forward. Regardless, this is a guy to keep an eye on in the weeks and months to come.