Cubs Sign Drew Smyly… for Later

The task of assembling a pitching staff is as much about quantity as quality. With injury rates over 50% for most pitchers in the age of the ten-day DL, you need more than the ten starters you used to need, in order to withstand the assault that is a full season of throwing baseballs hard. So, even though Drew Smyly won’t suit up for the Cubs until late next season at best, it makes sense to put him on the roster, slot him in the Disabled List, and hope he can contribute. Especially since the cost is low.

The Cubs will be on the hook only a little bit more than the Mariners would have owed Smyly had they retained his services through his last year of arbitration. The left-hander, despite being in the midst of rehab for Tommy John surgery, would have gotten around $7m in arbitration. Chicago is giving him a base salary of $10 million, with the potential for more.

Return rates on Tommy John surgery are good enough that this could easily be a good contract for the Cubs. Perhaps Smyly wanted to lock in two years after his extended arm issue took from the World Baseball Classic until June last season to really nail down. Perhaps he understood that, after only topping 150 innings twice in his career, and being pegged as one of the biggest injury risks in baseball in a 2016 study by Bradley Woodrum, he needed to have a healthy 2019 before he would get a longer-term deal anyway.

This way, the lefty with the intriguing stuff — almost nothing he throws cuts towards his glove side, and his extreme over-the-top release point means that everything seems to fade away from righties — gets to take his rehab slowly. A 12-to-15 month timeline has him back mid season at best, though it does seem worth pointing out that pitchers that take longer to come back from Tommy John have better outcomes. Any longer, and he might miss most of the 2018 season.

When he does come back, the Cubs could use him as a lefty out of the pen, since Mike Montgomery is their second lefty behind Justin Wilson, and Montgomery may be headed to the rotation as it stands right now.

Or they can slot him into their 2019 rotation, at a low cost of a $3 million base salary. Sounds like a good way to maybe help the staff now and almost definitely help later on.

With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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John W.member
4 years ago

Thanks Eno-Baby!!!!