David Ross told reporters prior to Wednesday’s game in Queens that Drew Smyly would be working out of the bullpen “for probably a small amount of time.” The lefty has been pitching poorly for over two months and has worked behind an opener twice in that time, but the Cubs have three days off over the next eight days and can be very judicious with his usage moving forward.
Most of that is about Smyly’s performance over his last 13 appearances, but the Cubs have a little financial motivation to limit his innings over the rest of the season as well. His contract calls for $250,000 bonuses at 110 and 120 innings pitched, $750,000 for 130 and 140 innings, and $1 million for 150 innings. Smyly’s guaranteed salary for 2024 will increase by those same amounts, as will the value of his mutual option for 2025, plus the bonuses remain in play moving forward.
He has already triggered the first of those incentives and is just seven outs away from the next, so it’s pretty much guaranteed that the Cubs will pay him at least $1 million more than his minimum guaranteed deal. And even if this little scheduling wrinkle ends up serving as a pseudo-IL, Smyly could still end up making seven or eight more starts and racking up another 30+ innings to approach that 150-inning mark.
That would mean at least a $6 million bump on the two-year, $19.5 million guarantee he inked prior to this season before accounting for the possibility of earning more performance bonuses in ’24. That’s fine if he’s pitching like he was earlier this season but it’s a nightmare for Jed Hoyer if Smyly remains unpitchable in the meantime. It would be best for everyone if he’s able to use this brief timeout to figure some things out.