I still can't really believe I nearly saw Drew Smyly etch his name into baseball history last April. His near-perfect game against the Dodgers set some pretty unrealistic expectations for the veteran journeyman in 2023 - and after pitching both out of the bullpen and as a starter last year, he's hard at work, preparing for whatever his new manager asks of him in 2024.
Smyly is working out this winter at Driveline, looking to find more consistency on the mound. As a starter last year, he really struggled, posting a 5.62 ERA in 113 2/3 innings of work. But, as a reliever, the 34-year-old was lights-out, with a 2.51 ERA in a limited 28.2 innings sample size.
As you can see in the video above, Smyly is working on some pitch shaping - and might be adding a splitter to his repertoire? We also see a sweeper, which could be a putaway pitch against lefties, who put up a .981 OPS against him in 2023.
Cubs need Drew Smyly on point, but need impactful additions even more
Looking at the bigger picture, I think in an ideal world, Smyly is your swing man in the bullpen. The rotation very clearly needs at least one solid addition, if not two, because you're looking at Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon, Kyle Hendricks and then some sort of combination of Jordan Wicks, Javier Assad, Hayden Wesneski and maybe Smyly. While there's potential in this group, there aren't a lot of sure things there.
Throw in the complete lack of left-handed relief options (at least proven ones) and it's easy to see why Smyly might be ticketed for the left field bullpen at Wrigley Field next spring. Regardless of the role he plays, though, it's great to see him hard at work this winter because he's largely gone overlooked when folks dissect the pitching equation for this team and, as he's shown in the past, he can be very impactful when he's right.