Trading this specific player makes too much sense for the Cubs not to do it

Unfortunately for Drew Smyly, his area of expertise is simply not valuable enough to match his contract value

John Fisher/GettyImages
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The Chicago Cubs finally gave in to fan sentiment and signed Cody Bellinger. OK, it probably had nothing to do with the fans begging for it, even if the Cubs’ social media team had a little bit of fun with the announcement.

While that move was great, it created two problems that the organization had to deal with:

  1. It forced the team to remove a player from their 40-man roster. 
  2. It put the team precariously close to the first level of the competitive balance tax that team ownership has already spoken out about wanting to avoid.

To solve the first problem, the team decided to trade left-handed reliever Bailey Horn to the White Sox earlier this week and it solved their roster crunch problem while seemingly creating an additional problem that is a lack of lefty relief options on the 40-man roster.

In an ideal world, a different move would have been made that would have solved the two problems listed above as well as several other issues facing the current construction of this team.

A Drew Smyly trade feels like a necessity for a number of reasons

Going into 2024 Drew Smyly could be the fifth starter (or sixth at certain points in the season) and that would be bad for the Cubs. Last season as a starter Smyly posted a 5.62 ERA across 113.2 innings to go along with 8.1 K/9. As a reliever he had an ERA of 2.51 across 28.2 innings and 12.2 K/9.

Based on that data it appears obvious that Smyly would be better utilized out of the bullpen rather than the rotation and his two-pitch arsenal has always suggested as much. Beyond his lack of results as a starter in 2023, if he were to begin in the rotation it prevents the Cubs from seeing what they have in Javier Assad, Hayden Wesneski, Jordan Wicks, and even Cade Horton or Caleb Kilian. 

So let’s move on to the idea of having Drew Smyly as a reliever where, based on the stats outlined above, he is objectively a weapon. In that scenario Smyly’s $10.5 million dollar salary in 2024 becomes untenable based on his role. He’s currently the eighth-highest paid player on this roster and he’d be making more than any reliever on the team at that number. 

Beyond the salary concerns, the Cubs have been vocal about maintaining flexibility in the bullpen with the ability to option players to the Majors and back to Iowa with regularity and that’s not a luxury that Smyly affords the team. With a bullpen that already includes players like Julian Merryweather, Mark Leiter Jr., Hector Neris and Yency Almonte - who can’t be optioned - and Adbert Alzolay, who is extremely unlikely to be optioned, the team may end up in a precarious position with roster flexibility without a move. 

In a perfect world the Cubs would look to trade Drew Smyly and at least a portion of his $10.5 million dollars in salary for a lefty reliever with options.

One target in a deal like that could be Erik Miller of the San Francisco Giants who was their 29th-best prospect in 2023. The Giants appear to have an injury in their rotation with Tristan Beck and Smyly could come in as a veteran option on a team that is looking to contend now, while the Cubs would be getting a big lefty that misses bats to pair with Luke Little moving forward. 

Regardless of the team he’s dealt to, it seems almost a foregone conclusion that Drew Smyly will not end the 2024 season in the Cubs organization.

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