[UPDATE: The moves are now official. The rest of the original post follows.]
Wow. So there’s the big trade/option-pick-up combo that was rumored last night:
— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 2, 2018
Now the rumors of the Cubs wanting to move payroll in conjunction with picking up the Hamels option seem a whole lot less about “tightness,” and a whole lot more about using financial leverage against the Rangers to clear out the roster a bit. The Cubs likely told the Rangers, “Hey, we’re declining this option if we can’t make a trade, so you’re on the hook for $6 million.” And the discussions went from there, specifically with the Rangers.
The Cubs signed Drew Smyly as a Tommy John bounceback candidate last offseason, and he got a two-year, $10 million deal. He also had $6 million in potential bonuses for 2019, and a $7 million actual salary.
So the Rangers get an upside arm almost for free since they were on the hook for $6 million anyway, and the Cubs get to shave $5 million off their luxury tax number while retaining Hamels, and also moving out a lot of potential bonus risk and “actual” salary. Of the two, Hamels is very clearly the better bet for 2019, so that’s good, too (though Smyly could be good again after recovering from Tommy John surgery, and is much younger than Hamels).
More to come on this as I’m still digesting, but I like it, mostly (for now) because it means Hamels sticks around for another year. I’d like to see if he can remain a solid 3/4/5 now that he’s with a new club.
We’ll see what the return is for Smyly besides salary relief, if anything.
Right now, the Cubs’ projected rotation for 2019 would be Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Jose Quintana, and Cole Hamels, with Tyler Chatwood and Mike Montgomery behind them. That’s a nice, albeit very veteran, group. It would have been awesome to have Smyly around, too, since he could theoretically swing between the rotation and the bullpen, but keep in mind that the Cubs are almost completely full up on guys without minor league options – not everyone could make the team.