Cubs know they can't count on Kyle Hendricks in 2023

Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers / John Fisher/GettyImages

For the better part of a decade, Kyle Hendricks was a consistent, steadying presence for the Chicago Cubs. As soon as he made his big league debut back in 2014, the right-hander carved up opposing lineups on a regular basis, tapping into a very Greg Maddux-esque plan of attack, utilizing pinpoint accuracy to keep hitters off balance.

But in recent years, that hasn't been the case. After a stellar shortened 2020 season (2.88 ERA in 12 starts, including a narrowly-missed no-hitter on Opening Day), Hendricks has fallen on hard times the last two years. The veteran has made 48 starts since the start of the 2021 campaign, limping to a 4.87 FIP, 1.6 HR/9 and 1.330 WHIP - a far cry from the 3.53 FIP, 0.9 HR/9 and 1.105 WHIP from 2014 to 2020.

Hendricks' 2022 season was cut short by injury - and, according to the latest reports, his recovery has fallen behind, too - although not to the extent his spring training seems to be in jeopardy.

"At this point, everything is pointing in the right direction. We have to assume he’s going to have a good offseason and be ready to go,” he added. “I don’t think that keeps us away from doing what we feel like we need to do."

Tommy Hottovy

We know Chicago is going to be active on every angle of the starting pitching market this winter - ranging from free agency to the trade front. Given Hendricks' injury and performance concerns, that makes sense - but is also makes the right-hander a critically important piece of the puzzle heading into 2023. If he can stay healthy and keep the ball in the yard next season, he adds some badly-needed depth to the mix.

Marcus Stroman returns after finishing his first season on a high note, posting a 2.71 ERA in 14 second-half starts. Left-hander Justin Steele will look to build on his breakout 2022 season, but what his workload will look like next year remains to be seen. After all, he tossed 119 innings this season - a career-high.

From there, at least prior to the anticipated offseason additions, the Cubs boast the likes of Caleb Kilian, Adrian Sampson, Hayden Wesneski and Javier Assad - all of whom showed promise in 2022, but come with at least some concern as to whether or not they can replicate their success again next year.

"I have all the confidence in the world that he’ll do everything he can to be the pitcher he has been for us since 2014,” he added, “but obviously there is a level of uncertainty with anyone that misses the second half of the season. "

Jed Hoyer

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We'll have to wait and see how things proceed when Hendricks is back to throwing this winter. Keep in mind the Cubs' plans to keep him healthy center around some mechanical changes, so even if he's back on the bump early next year, adjusting to new mechanics is always a delicate balancing act. A healthy Kyle Hendricks could be a huge boost for Chicago - another year of him being ineffective will likely spell the end of his stint on the North Side.