Chicago Cubs: A Noah Syndergaard signing is unquestionably worth the risk
By Jake Misener
Given the sheer scope of the starting pitching woes the Chicago Cubs experienced this year, you can bet the new-look front office is doing its homework on just about every free agent arm right now.
The team needs a bona fide ace – especially after trading Yu Darvish last December and watching Kyle Hendricks struggle through the worst season of his career in 2021. There could be a number of attractive options in play, including guys like Marcus Stroman. But where Chicago seems more likely to play is that next tier of pitchers – a group that includes Noah Syndergaard.
If you think that Syndergaard fixes the Cubs’ ace problem, you’re wrong. At least as things currently stand, that is. The big right-hander once had the makings of a top-of-the-rotation arm and he still might yet recapture that standing. After all, next year is just his age-29 campaign – hardly the end of the road for most pitchers.
But he hasn’t been the same guy, really since 2018 when he worked to a 3.03 ERA and 2.80 FIP in 25 starts. Injuries have derailed his once promising career, which could very well lead to him seeking out a prove it-style deal this winter in free agency. Here’s a brief rundown of his lengthy injury history, courtesy of MLB.com.
"Before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2020, Syndergaard missed considerable time with a partially torn lat muscle in ’17 and a strained ligament in his right index finger in ’18, making 32 starts combined in those two seasons. Plus, his comeback attempt from elbow surgery didn’t exactly go smoothly, as he dealt with right elbow inflammation during his rehab and refrained from throwing breaking balls on the advice of doctors to prevent additional flare-ups."
If you’re like me, you still remember Syndergaard from the Mets’ 2015 World Series run. At that time, he was another impressive cog in the pitching machine New York had assembled in Queens – one that looked like it could be a recipe for annual October runs. Against the Cubs in the NLCS, the right-hander dominated Game 2, striking out nine in 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. In his brief postseason career, Syndergaard carries a 2.42 ERA across 26 innings of work – including four starts and one relief appearance.
Chicago Cubs know that Noah Syndergaard comes with a high degree of risk
Stability is something the Cubs desperately need in the starting rotation. Right now, you can pencil in Hendricks – and then it’s a whole mix of young, unproven arms jockeying for position behind him – including Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson.
A move to bring in Syndergaard could end up being a steal, especially if he stays healthy and proves he’s got plenty left in the tank. Or it could end up in disaster, with the hurler on the bench working his way through another injury setback. No one knows which way it’ll go – but for a team like Chicago, the potential reward is certainly worth the risk.
It’s highly unlikely the Cubs compete at a high level next year. They might be in the mix in the NL Central, but even then, could look to flip valuable assets at the deadline to further bolster the farm system ranks. A resurgent Syndergaard on a one-year deal would be a major trade chip to dangle in front of teams with World Series aspirations. You know there’s risk here. But it might prove too enticing to pass up.