There’s no such thing as too much pitching, a reality postseason teams are being reminded of all too loudly as the divisional round starts up. Former Cub David Robertson is out for the Phillies’ matchup with the Braves because he strained his calf celebrating a Bryce Harper homer. Astros reliever Phil Maton broke his hand punching a locker — hi, Kevin Brown — so he’s done for the rest of the playoffs.
After telling Aroldis Chapman to stay home, which may have actually made them better, the Yankees announced that Scott Effross needs Tommy John surgery and will be out for an extended period. That brings us back around to the Cubs because Effross was traded to the Yankees in a pretty shocking deal that brought Hayden Wesneski to Chicago.
Wesneski looked like the real deal in two relief appearances and four starts at the end of the season, adding a little more credibility to a development pipeline that is finally showing promise with lots of homegrown talent. Even so, the Cubs are expected to pursue at least one starting pitcher who can anchor their rotation. Ideally, they’d find another to either round out the starting staff or provide necessary depth for a team that expects to compete.
Enter Drew Smyly, the lefty who has a $10 million mutual(ish?) option for 2023 and who has repeatedly expressed a desire to stick around with the Cubs. Jed Hoyer noted in his Monday press conference that the team would welcome back either Smyly or Wade Miley “in the right setup,” and Maddie Lee of the Sun-Times wrote that the Cubs are expected to meet with Smyly’s camp later this month.
The goal of those talks will be to work on a new contract, presumably one that spreads a little more pay over more than just one year. Maybe that’s a two-year, $12 million deal with incentives that offers Smyly a little more security without locking the Cubs down to anything too far into the future. The lefty logged just over 106 innings this season and has only gone over 153 innings once in the last 11 seasons, so he won’t be counted on as a workhorse.
That fits with what appears to be a trend toward either a six-man rotation or perhaps a piggyback setup in which younger would-be starters are brought along in multi-inning relief roles. That’s how Wesneski was initially used in tandem with Miley and it’s easy to see the Cubs doing more of that in ’23 and beyond with other prospects like Ben Brown, Jordan Wicks, DJ Herz, or Caleb Kilian.
Being able to solidify something with Smyly also narrows the front office’s focus for the remainder of the offseason and frees up a little payroll for them to more aggressively pursue bigger targets. Though it may not seem like an extra $4 million would make a big difference, that surplus could be integral as the Cubs prioritize deals that pump higher AAV into shorter durations. That’s exactly the kind of “intelligent spending” Hoyer has talked about.