Drew Smyly Talk: Next Start Bumped Back, He and the Cubs Have Not Yet Discussed an Extension, Future Fit

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Drew Smyly Talk: Next Start Bumped Back, He and the Cubs Have Not Yet Discussed an Extension, Future Fit

Chicago Cubs

The newsy bit up front: Drew Smyly will not start tonight, as previously expected, against the Miami Marlins. Marcus Stroman will take the start. The stated reason is “shoulder fatigue” for Smyly, but the tentative plan is to have him start this weekend or after Monday’s off-day (i.e., skipping a start). There is not currently a high level of concern, and the Cubs do have “extra” starters available right now, if necessary. Nobody is going to be pushed in these final two weeks.

Assuming there is no major injury for Smyly, and assuming he does return for a final start or two, the conversation around that performance will be about how well he’s pitched this year when healthy, and about how he and the Cubs may try to re-up before free agency arrives.

Smyly, 33, has made 21 starts for the Cubs this year, spanning 103.1 innings, with a 3.48 ERA (14% better than league average) and 4.30 FIP (8% below league average). The oblique injury took him out for a large chunk of the year, and much of his success has come from contact management – each of those things are notable, but overall, he’s been a very successful back-end starter for the Cubs.

Our general philosophy on Smyly and the Chicago Cubs is something simple like: if he really wants to come back, then the Cubs should explore a reasonable extension. The mutual option is not likely to be the perfectly correct number for both sides, but maybe a different one or two-year contract would work for both sides.

Signing the versatile lefty to a one or two-year deal would not have any impact on the Cubs’ desire or willingness or ability to sign (or trade for) a true, front-of-the-rotation impact type. They are different tiers of commitment, and different tiers of projected impact. The Cubs need both.

Moreover, with virtually all of the Cubs’ quality young starting pitching depth either optionable or bullpen-able, you cannot be worried about Smyly “blocking” anyone. You’re going to need lots of arms to cover lots of starts anyway, and the Cubs are in a position to have the kind of flexibility they’ve rarely had. Accommodating Smyly would be plenty easy, especially given the fact that he, himself, could serve as a swing man.

As of a few days ago, conversations between the team and his agent about an extension have not yet taken place (Cubs.com). That’s not necessarily surprising or worrisome, given that the Cubs will have a lengthy exclusive negotiating period available after the regular season ends, and before free agency officially arrives after the World Series.

But it sure sounds like Smyly would be open to having those conversations (The Athletic):

Smyly doesn’t have a crazy strikeout rate, whiffing guys at slightly above a 20 percent rate, but his walk rate is at just 6 percent, he’s in the 90th percentile in exit velocity and generally avoids hard contact. Perhaps most importantly, Smyly loves being in Chicago. Despite the fact that this team is headed for 90-plus losses, Smyly has done nothing but sing the praises of this team and city, repeatedly mentioning how he’d love to come back for 2023 and beyond.

“If they reach out, I’d love to have the conversation,” Smyly said about potentially signing back with the team. “The Cubs are on the right path and they’re going to be very competitive in the near future.”

“He’s a great teammate, great in the clubhouse,” Ross said. “He takes the ball and knows how to win, that type of guy. I love having him here.”

Hopefully Drew Smyly returns to make his next start or two, winds down the year strong, and then those conversations take place. It’s the kind of signing that doesn’t get anyone jumping out of their seats, but that makes sense – without negatively impacting anything else the Cubs would want to do.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.