After coming within four outs of Major League Baseball's first no-hitter of 2023, Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks has to be feeling better than he has in a very, very long time.
In both 2021 and 2022, the veteran looked like a shell of his former self, allowing a league-worst 200 hits in 2021 and following it up with an injury shortened campaign in which he mustered just a 4.80 ERA before hitting the shelf in July with a season-ending shoulder injury.
Hendricks made his long-awaited return to the Cubs in late May and in his fourth start back on Saturday in San Francisco, flirted with history in a dominant start against the Giants, allowing just one hit over eight shutout innings in a 4-0 Chicago victory.
Earlier in the day, Marcus Stroman himself broke the news the front office hasn't responded to multiple extension overtures from his camp, only adding fuel to the fire that the Cy Young candidate could be dealt by the end of July. But after watching Hendricks turn back the clock, I couldn't help but wonder: could he also wind up on the block if the Cubs don't turn things around before the trade deadline?
Is the clock ticking on Kyle Hendricks in a Chicago Cubs uniform?
In the final guaranteed year of the extension he signed back in 2019, the soft-tossing artist would bring a valuable postseason pedigree to a team looking to bolster its starting rotation ahead of October. The next month or so may very well serve as a final audition for Hendricks to prove he's 100 percent healthy and, even if not what he once was, back ot being an effective middle-of-the-rotation presence.
If Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins decide to fold on the 2023 campaign, the Cubs' rotation could wind up decimated: Stroman, Hendricks and Drew Smyly could all be moved, which could leave us with a starting staff pieced together with the likes of Javier Assad, Caleb Kilian and Hayden Wesneski joining Justin Steele and Jameson Taillon.
Hendricks, of course, is the last man standing from that 2016 World Series championship team. Hoyer has demonstrated he's not clinging to sentiment when it comes to his quest of building the 'next great Cubs team' - but while it's been all eyes on Stroman and Smyly when it comes to deadline speculation, Hendricks is as viable a trade candidate as either of them - whether we like to admit it or not.