On Tuesday the Chicago Cubs added another pitcher to provide some depth in the organization, signing left-hander Drew Smyly to a 2-year, $10 million deal. That money is all guaranteed and is split 30-70 over those two years ($3 million in 2018, $7 million in 2019). The contract also includes performance-based bonuses that could earn him another $6 million based on if he is a starter, and the other bonuses apply if he comes out of the bullpen instead. Unlike the signing of Tyler Chatwood last week, Smyly is more of a future investment rather than an immediate impact.
Smyly underwent Tommy John surgery last June, and will likely miss most – if not all – of the 2018 season while rehabbing his pitching elbow. This is not the first time that Smyly has dealt with a major injury either, missing most of the 2015 season with a torn labrum in his shoulder. While addressing Smyly’s signing, General Manager Jed Hoyer said, “This is a move that’s focused on 2019. He’s a really good, high-quality starting pitcher, and we’re excited to get him on this deal and rehab him and hopefully get him back to where he was.”
Where he was, was a 2nd-round draft pick by the Detroit Tigers back in 2010, and ranked as a top-100 prospect (#82) before the 2012 season. He pitched extremely well in his first professional season, putting up a combined 2.07 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and a 3.61 K/BB rate across High-A Lakeland and Double-A Erie. That lead to a 2012 season where he was shuttled between the big league club and Triple-A Toledo a handful of times, and finally got called up to stay at the major league level in August of 2012. He also spent time in Tampa Bay with Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey on the coaching staff, and the opportunity to reunite with them was said to be “an attractive option.”
Over the course of his 5-year big league career Smyly has appeared in 156 total games. Most of that work has come as a starting pitcher (85 starts, with 4 seasons primarily as a starter), but he did spend his 2013 campaign pitching exclusively out of relief, posting a 2.37 ERA, 2.31 FIP, and 1.03 WHIP in that impressive season. His career totals include a 3.74 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and a solid 3.43 K/BB rate (which comes with an 8.7 K/9 rate as well).
The overall peripheral numbers are there, but the only truly concerning thing about his career totals are his batted ball splits. Smyly has allowed 44.5% of contact against him in the air, which could work against him on days where the wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field. If he can keep the ball on the ground more often than his current 36.3% rate, then he should be able to at least maintain his career averages.
Smyly is a very good future addition to this Cubs team, and I’m personally glad that they locked him up for a relatively inexpensive cost. He has shown great potential over his short career thus far, and at 28-years old there is still plenty of time for him to come back and make an impact on this starting rotation. GM Jed Hoyer said that the team is not done with their search for starting pitching is not done for this off-season, so it will be really interesting to see who else will get added to the mix.
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