Cubs Are "Deep in Discussions" with Free Agent Pitcher Drew Smyly (UPDATE: They Signed Him)

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Cubs Are “Deep in Discussions” with Free Agent Pitcher Drew Smyly (UPDATE: They Signed Him)

Chicago Cubs


When the Cubs signed Drew Smyly to a two-year deal back before the 2017 season, they had the right idea. Smyly was recovering from Tommy John surgery, so he wasn’t likely to contribute at all that first season, but by getting him in the door, they could monitor his recovery and have the first crack at his return. Unfortunately, Smyly never made it to that second year in Chicago, as the Cubs traded him (and the rest of his salary) to the Rangers in order to clear roster space, save money, and keep Cole Hamels.

Smyly didn’t pitch in 2018, but did finally come back in 2019 to very terrible results (6.24 ERA, 10.7 BB%, tons of fly balls, and tons of hard contact). But his velocity returned to him a bit in 2020 (93.8 MPH average on his heater), when he managed to strike out a staggering 37.8% of hitters over 26.1 innings for the Giants (mostly as a starter). The Braves then took a chance on Smyly last year, signing him to a one-year, $11M deal and the results weren’t quite as good, but they were certainly a step above his first year back: 4.48 ERA over 23 starts, six relief appearances, and 126.2 total innings. The strikeout rate came back down to earth, but so did the walk rate and he was an altogether more useful pitcher.

Well, after all that, it seems as though the Cubs would like another bite at the apple, and it may be coming soon:

If the Cubs are re-acquiring Smyly (whom they obviously love for some reason), there’s some important things to note about his potential fit.

First, the top three spots of the Cubs rotation are already set: Kyle Hendricks, Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley. They’re locked in place no matter what at this point. After that, Alec Mills does seem to have the inside track on the fourth spot, but I wouldn’t quite call that a lock just yet. Beyond that, there will be a competition for the final spot between Keegan Thompson, Justin Steele, and maybe newly signed starter Steven Brault. If the Cubs do end up signing Smyly, I think the Cubs would throw him into that competition, perhaps with Mills included, and see which two pitchers come out on top.

If you’ve been keeping up lately, your head is probably spinning with how many pitchers the Cubs have brought in from outside the organization, but it’s important to remember that they lost three sure-fire contributors right off the bat: Codi Heuer, Brad Wieck, and Adbert Alzolay. And none of them are returning soon. 

So given that reality and the short spring training ramp up for pitchers, I’m not surprised to see the Cubs over load themselves with new arms. There’s also the fact that all of Thompson, Steele, and Mills could be valuable multi-inning relievers this year (a strategy that should be even more available to the Cubs with the universal DH in place) if they don’t make the rotation. Ditto Smyly, I guess.

Now, this deal isn’t done yet, but the wording there is quite strong from Levine. So stay tuned and we’ll see what else shakes out.

UPDATE: The Cubs have reportedly agreed to terms with Drew Smyly, though no details are out yet.

UPDATE II: Although Smyly is going to be merely in the battle for one of the last two spots in the rotation (and possibly a swing starter if he loses), that’s not an insignificant deal.

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami