This still-ongoing offseason has been a nightmare. There has been very little activity – well, essentially zero activity – leading us to believe the 2021 season will be a wash. It all started with the departure of Theo Epstein and has seen the departure of key members of the 2016 World Series team.
Now, the Chicago Cubs find themselves in organizational limbo. We wake up each day, unsure of who the next departure will be. While some questions remain unanswered, one thing is for sure: Kyle Hendricks will be the Cubs Opening Day starter in 2021.
The news of former Cardinals righty, Shelby Miller signing a non-guaranteed deal certainly didn’t change matters. This past week has brought bone-chilling temperatures through Chicago and recent news hasn’t made the conditions any better.
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For starters, southpaw Jon Lester joined Kyle Schwarber and Dave Martinez by inking a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals. Following up would be Tyler Chatwood landing with the Blue Jays and Jose Quintana reuniting with Joe Maddon in Los Angeles.
Kyle Hendricks is the last man standing in the Cubs rotation.
Losing out on all three men was a huge blow to Chicago’s 2021 pitching staff hopes. Lester, 37, had been the team’s ace for several years in addition to picking up four total Opening Day nods. He made several in a row from 2017 through 2019 as Hendricks took over the role last season.
Lester’s four Opening Day was the team’s second-most in the past decade. Big right-hander Carlos Zambrano, led the 2000s with six Opening Day starts. Zambrano’s impressive stretch put him second all-time to Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins who owns the franchise record with seven.
On Friday, July 24, 2020, Hendricks took the mound against Milwaukee in David Ross’ first game as a big league skipper. It also marked his first Opening Day start as a big-league pitcher. The then-30-year-old right-hander worked a nine-inning complete game shutout, recording nine strikeouts in the process.
Pending any big chances, expect Hendricks to get the Opening Day nod for years to come. Unless the front office is approached with a trade too good to pass up. Let us hope that won’t be the case.
Hendricks is set to make $14 million a year beginning this season through 2023. He’ll receive a bump in pay of $16 million during the final year of his contract as he approaches his 34th birthday.
It would be wonderful to see The Professor end his career in a Cubs uniform. The man has grown so much over the years, not as just a ballplayer but a human being as well. Hendricks, no doubt, earned himself Cubs immortality with his postseason performances in 2016.
If the franchise ends up finding themselves in the same position within a few years, Hendricks deserves to be part of that journey yet again.