It would’ve been understandable to shut Drew Smyly down after his shoulder soreness issue kept him out for over two weeks. The Cubs have some young arms they can give innings to, Wade Miley was not actually injured it turned out, and it’s easy to indicate that you don’t want a guy to get hurt right before the offseason.
That is to say, the Cubs could’ve gone some route other than lining things up to squeeze in one more short start for Drew Smyly, who went 3.0 innings, allowing one earned run on four hits and no walks.
But the Cubs knew Smyly wanted to start again before the offseason, and they wanted to do right by him to honor that … even though it cost them a little bit more in incentives, per the Sun-Times. Smyly’s one-year, $5.25 million deal with the Cubs (including the $1 million buyout of the mutual option) came with up to $2.5 million in incentives based on appearances, and yesterday’s start apparently pushed his earned bonuses up over $1 million. Good for Smyly – he deserves it – and good on the Cubs for not playing games with his appearances to try to save a little money.
Keeping in mind that doing so wouldn’t be a reason for Smyly to push to re-sign with the Cubs, of course, but it might be the kind of thing that speaks to the very positive relationship the two sides have developed this year.
For his part, Smyly is not being shy about where he stands in relation to the Cubs and his future.
“I mean, I hope so,” Smyly said of whether he thinks he’ll be back with the Cubs in 2023, per NBC Sports Chicago. “It’s up in the air. It’s what the Cubs want to do. I hope they see me in their plans. I would love to come back. Like I said all season, playing games here and putting on this uniform is really special. And whether I come back or not, it’s just going to be a season that I’ll remember and I’m really proud to put on this uniform …. From April to all the way till the end of September, you look forward to showing up every day and being around those guys …. I feel good about the season I had, and I know I can help this team win in the future, so we’ll see. But it’s doesn’t matter what I think. It’s up to them.”
The Cubs are going to have an organic opportunity to discuss a new deal with Smyly when making an official decision on his mutual option after the World Series ends. Normally, you never, ever, ever see a mutual option exercised by both sides – if one side sees it as a value, the other side usually does not, for obvious reasons. It requires you having GUESSED exactly the sweet spot months or years in advance.
In this particular case, I mean, it’s probably kinda close. Smyly could decide he would rather have a one-year, $10 million deal than a $1 million buyout and free agency. The Cubs could decide they would rather pay an extra $9 million to keep Smyly on a one-year deal. I still think Smyly could and would seek a multi-year deal in free agency – two years and $16 to $18 million? is that achievable with his injuries? – and the Cubs might have to offer up a two-year deal to get him to stay.
To that end, I’ve gotta think there’s a two-year deal that could make sense for both sides. It’s possible, though, that the Cubs would prefer to wait to officially re-sign Smyly until after the Rule 5 rostering deadline in late November (and/or the Rule 5 Draft, itself, in early December) to afford them a little more roster flexibility as the offseason plays out. Not that they could necessarily expect Smyly to just wait on them.
On the season, Smyly threw 106.1 innings across 22 starts, posting a 3.47 ERA and 4.23 FIP. The peripherals suggest there was some good luck baked into that ERA, but his performance was probably still a good bit better than league average. When healthy, he had the look of a very good back-of-the-rotation starter, or a guy who could swing in and out of the bullpen if needed. Not a bad guy to have around for future seasons – at 33, Smyly isn’t young, but he’s thrown relatively few innings in his career and the velocity this year seemed to indicate his arm isn’t at an immediate risk for physical decline.
The sides re-upping, then, sure sounds like a great idea to me. Smyly’s presence would be more of that quality depth that doesn’t preclude the Cubs from doing anything else – signing or trading for a big-time arm, letting a youngster take over if they break out – and instead would simply provide the Cubs more options for 2023 and 2024.
Anyway, the point here is: Smyly clearly wants to return to the Cubs. The Cubs could clearly get some value there for season(s) ahead. I hope there are talks eventually.