All things considered, the Chicago Cubs are off to a solid start to the season. With one series win and two splits, the new offense has impressed along with the pitching staff. The offense is actually third in the MLB in batting average (.266) and OPS (.786) through 11 games. Sure, the sample size is very small but it reinforces the nice start this group is off to.
We’ve seen some contributions from some unlikely names so far this season and when we look on the pitching side of things, Drew Smyly is a name that’s impressed out of the gate. If he can stay healthy, look for him to be an X-factor for this group.
Smyly had a cup of coffee with the Cubs in 2017 when he signed a two-year deal but was unable to find his way onto the mound before being traded to the Rangers in November of 2018 as the Cubs shed salary in order to pick up Cole Hamels for one more year.
After finally getting himself healthy, Smyly got the chance to prove himself with the Braves this past season. He signed a one-year, $11 million deal with Atlanta and added a ton of value to the World Series champs. He recorded 23 starts and 11 wins with a 4.49 ERA. He was a great example of a low-risk, high-upside signing turning out for the better.
His season in Atlanta was good enough to earn himself another shot in a Cub uniform when they signed him to another one-year deal for $5.25 million. With early injuries to Wade Miley and Adbert Alzolay, the Cubs rotation needs some depth and Smyly was brought in to provide just that.
Through his first few starts, Smyly has shown he can be a difference-maker for this team. In two starts, he’s gone 9 2/3 innings, given up seven hits, zero runs with just one walked batter. He’s held things down to say the least and has gotten Cubs fans excited about the options this starting rotation will have when fully healthy.
Smyly has been in the league for nine years – with his best coming back in 2014 where he posted a 3.24 ERA in 25 starts for the Rays and Tigers. He owns a career K/9 rate of 8.9 and shows he has great potential when fully healthy.
The best part about having another left-hander in the rotation like Smyly is that any contributions we get from him is really an added bonus. With a career ERA of 4.13, he could easily be a middle-to-back end of the rotation guy. Even when Miley and Alzolay return, Smyly has proven he can work out of the bullpen as well, going 6-0 with a 2.37 ERA in 63 games out of the pen for the Tigers in 2013.
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Overall, this is hopefully one of the many underrated signings of the winter made by Jed Hoyer and his team. While missing out on Carlos Correa and other big names seemed to be the focus of the fans, a lot of signings were overlooked like Smyly, Jonathan Villar and David Robertson. Cubs fans should be pleasantly surprised with a lot of the new roster additions and Smyly is set to headline that group.