Relatively early in the offseason, when teams were eschewing perfectly good and capable starting pitchers in free agency because REASONS, the Chicago Cubs were out there signing guys they didn’t even expect to pitch for them in 2018!
Although I kid in tone there, I am not kidding that the Cubs picked up lefty Drew Smyly on a two-year deal early in the offseason, even as he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The Cubs’ plan for the 28-year-old lefty was to let him take his time getting back to the mound this year, *maybe* get some competitive innings from him after August out of the bullpen, and mostly have him available as a guy to compete for a rotation spot in 2019.
For now, the plan is proceeding accordingly.
Smyly tells Cubs.com that he’s “trucking” along in his recovery, with an eye toward pitching off the mound again at the end of March. For his part, getting back this year is a key goal: “If I don’t [pitch for the Cubs this year], I’d be disappointed. I definitely plan on playing. I don’t know when it will be – definitely at the end of the year. That’s one of my goals is to pitch this year, and the team knows where I’m at. We’re all on the same page.”
When Smyly does get healthy, it could be an interesting time for the Cubs’ rotation. It’ll be hard to know, come Spring 2019, whether Smyly is going to be effective enough to bounce one of the five current members of the rotation – all under control for next year – or even to supplant guys like Mike Montgomery, Adbert Alzolay, and Jen-Ho Tseng as the next man up. Heck, in a perfect world, they’d all be looking like good back-end options, and the Cubs can have a trade bonanza in addition to plenty of starting/swing depth.
But that’s a question for many months from now. Right now, the thing to keep an eye on is Smyly’s continued recovery, when he gets on the mound, how quickly he starts facing batters in competition, and whether he’s in a position, physically, to contribute to the Cubs out of the bullpen later this year (probably when rosters expand in September).