In reading the latest from Jon Heyman, I primarily wanted to focus on the Michael Conforto part. Had a whole big thing written. And then when I was ready to publish this morning, news broke that he was signing with the Giants. So much for that. Just deleted six paragraphs.
But that’s only the first part of what I wanted to say on the report from Heyman, because I know that if you scroll the whole thing, this part is what’s going to jump out at you most: “Coincidental that Hendricks (Kyle) and Hendriks (Liam) are available Chicagoans.”
That’s all Heyman says on the matter, but his point is clear. Heyman is reporting that Kyle Hendricks is “available” in trade. That is … odd.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Kyle Hendricks *IS* available in trade, as the Cubs have shown that they will move anyone, no matter how much they like the player personally or how associated he is with the 2016 World Series “core.”
But Hendricks, 33, is coming off back-to-back well-below-average seasons (16% worse than league average by ERA-), and his 2022 season ended with a capsular tear in his shoulder. I question whether it’s even remotely realistic to think about a team out there that would want to acquire Hendricks right now, without at least seeing if he’s off the mound and throwing all his pitches in Spring Training.
Hendricks is in the final guaranteed year of his deal with the Cubs, making $14 million for 2023. If healthy, that’s not even a bad rate in the current market for back-of-the-rotation starters. He also has a team option for 2024 at $16 million, with a $1.5 million buyout. You could argue that having that option available, in case he bounces back in 2023, is a valuable thing, and maybe some team out there would want to acquire him for that reason. So maybe you could squint and argue there’s a team out there that would make a trade right now for Hendricks, for a modest return, if the Cubs ate some salary.
I’m not sure I see a good reason for the Cubs to make that kind of trade, though, if the return was not meaningful. Yes, Hendricks is occupying a 40-man spot right now, but at the end of Spring Training, if he’s not ready to go, the Cubs could shift him to the 60-day IL and then he doesn’t count against the 40-man until he’s actually ready.
Moreover, given the Cubs’ appreciation for Hendricks’ leadership, thoughtfulness, and work in the clubhouse, he might have more value to the Cubs than any other team right now. So shouldn’t THEY be content to take the $14 million chance on him?
As it stands, the Cubs have plenty of starting depth to cover Hendricks if he’s not able to go early on, and/or if he starts the season out and is still struggling badly. But in the rare case where his struggles – last year, at least – were based on the shoulder injury, and that has now been remedied? And he does bounce back into being a solid 4/5 starter for 2023? I want that guy! That’s a useful guy to have.
So, long story long: I really don’t see a Kyle Hendricks trade as particularly likely or even plausible this offseason. Even if it were, the return would be exceedingly small. And even in that case, I’d probably just rather see the Cubs keep Hendricks.