Cubs: Drew Smyly has all the makings of a midseason trade candidate

(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Woo, boy. These last few weeks have been a doozy. Lots of work trips, now we’re working through getting some renovations done on our house. Thankfully, my lone respite from the chaos has been a surprisingly decent Cubs team that’s won three straight series of late.

Chicago saw its modest winning streak snapped on Wednesday, though, despite another solid effort from veteran left-hander Drew Smyly. The 32-year-old fell to 1-5 on the year, but that hardly paints the full picture as to what he’s meant to this rotation early on in 2022.

Smyly, like pretty much every other pitcher in the league, hasn’t gone deep into many games. In fact, he’s gone past the fifth just one time this season. But he’s kept the Cubs in every game he’s started, allowing three or fewer runs in all but one start (when he allowed four). He’s avoided those lopsided blowout losses that cripple a team’s bullpen plans – and that’s contributed to the relievers’ success.

He’s not going out there and mowing down opposing hitters or making a late-career run at a Cy Young, but that shouldn’t take away what he could mean to a team looking for rotation reinforcements heading into the summer months.

Smyly has been masterful when it comes to limiting hard contact. He ranks in the 97th percentile in average exit velocity and the top quarter of the league in hard-hit rate, according to Baseball Savant. He doesn’t walk many guys and is great at getting hitters to chase out of the zone – all things you want in a veteran hurler.

Cubs: Drew Smyly unquestionably is more valuable as a trade chip

Even if the Cubs somehow pulled a rabbit out of their hat and got hot, Smyly 100 percent has more value to them as a trade chip than as a member of this starting rotation. This isn’t a World Series contender no matter how you slice it and it makes zero sense to hold onto a guy who turns 33 next month.

Factor in the continued dominance of Caleb Kilian at Triple-A Iowa, the looming returns of Marcus Stroman and Alec Mills and the still far-off comeback of Adbert Alzolay and it’s clear there are plenty of guys who have higher odds of being long-term assets than Smyly.

There are a number of contenders who could use some pitching help. The Guardians, Braves, Giants, Phillies and Cardinals all rank in the bottom half of the league in starter ERA. Smyly is a veteran on a one-year, $5.25 million deal – so he won’t, by any means, break the bank.

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As the early August trade deadline approaches, it’ll be all eyes on Willson Contreras. But don’t overlook guys like Smyly, who are certainties to be traded, and could net some young pieces for a Cubs farm system on the rise.