Betting on getting anything of importance from Kyle Hendricks in 2023 would have been malpractice on the part of the Cubs front office. To the pleasant surprise of everyone, though, the veteran has rediscovered the form that made him one of the league's most effective, yet underrated starting pitchers for so many years.
After back-to-back years filled with struggles, the odds that Chicago would pick up his $16 million club option for 2024 seemed slim, at best. But given how well he's performed since returning to the rotation in late May, that option seems like a no-brainer looking forward.
Of course, for the next week, it's all about the Aug. 1 trade deadline. Contenders always need starting pitching and if the Cubs wind up selling, you can bet Jed Hoyer's phone will ring on Hendricks. But with Marcus Stroman either on the move in the coming days or at season's end via free agency and the uncertainty you have following Justin Steele in the rotation, bringing Hendricks back for next season makes a ton of sense.
Kyle Hendricks is the perfect insurance policy for the 2024 rotation
Steele seems likely to headline the Cubs' 2024 rotation, with the likes of Jameson Taillon and, assuming he's not traded, Drew Smyly slotted in behind him. Hayden Wesneski is the next man up depth-wise after that trio and Ben Brown seems likely to crack the big league roster next year, if not later this summer.
This winter's free agent class will feature a number of quality arms, as well, including Stroman, Aaron Nola, Jack Flaherty, Lucas Giolito, Sonny Gray, Julio Urias and, of course, Shohei Ohtani, although he belongs in a group of his own given his abilities.
The Cubs will be able to add to their rotation mix via the open market, but bringing Hendricks back for an 11th season on the North Side would go a long way toward building in a higher floor for the staff in 2024. Let guys like Wesneski and Brown get a fair shake in camp, but know that Hendricks is your safety net, a guy who's going to bring consistency and quality every time he takes the ball, just as he has for much of his career.
You could trade him this week, sure. Maybe Tuesday's start against the White Sox is his last in a Cubs uniform. But I think the value in holding onto him and bringing him back next season, when the team should be legitimate contenders in the NL Central, far exceeds what you might get back in a trade.