When Drew Smyly signed with the Cubs back in March, all the reports had his deal at $4.25 million for one year with a mutual option for 2024 that carried a $1 million buyout. What’s odd is that there was never a report on how much the option was even for, though that had been seen as somewhat irrelevant because mutual options are like phone calls from flagged numbers.
Which is to say they’re never picked up. But what if Smyly’s option isn’t actually mutual? We’ll get to that in a few, but first I want to look at why it makes sense for the Cubs and Smyly to run it back next season.
The lefty has made it very clear that he wants to stick around, telling reporters prior to the deadline that he didn’t want to be traded and praising both the city and organization every chance he gets.
“Summertime in Chicago, Wrigley Field, it’s just more fun, the home games here,” Smyly said earlier in the month. “The fan base, there’s way more positive energy. Some places, it doesn’t matter how good you are, people may hate you. Here, you get ready to pitch a game and I know they care, but it almost feels like win or lose, they’re happy to be at Wrigley watching a baseball game.”
After another excellent performance Friday afternoon in which he shut the Giants out on just one hit over seven innings, Smyly lowered his ERA to 3.57 on the season. That’s exactly the kind of mid-rotation arm the Cubs should be looking for as they try to improve their staff next year. However, the injuries that have dogged Smyly over the last decade haven’t gone away and he’s only at 98.1 innings to this point.
Factor in the wave of pitching coming up through the system with the club’s need to go out and find a bona fide ace and you’ve got a pretty small window for Smyly. Unless, of course, his history and projection lend themselves to a future that will include more piggybacks and an expanded rotation. We saw that with Hayden Wesneski‘s electric debut and the league is creeping that way all the time, so depth will be nearly as important as talent.
Now we circle back to Smyly’s option, which Gordon Wittenmyer reports is in fact a club option for $10 million. Picking that up is a no-brainer for a front office that has been very transparent about the willingness to spend more in AAV provided it’s over a short period. The Cubs picked up Wade Miley‘s $10 million option after claiming him off waivers from the Reds last offseason, and Smyly has been just as good as anyone should have expected his fellow lefty to be.
The matter of who holds the option is key here, since a mutual option would give the 33-year-old Smyly the ability to turn it down and seek multiple years or more money elsewhere. The Cubs can now lock in a little more security at a relatively low cost, allowing them to narrow their focus when it comes to free-agent pitchers. Perhaps they can woo Carlos Rodón, who is clearly familiar with Chicago and makes his offseason home not far away in Covington, IN.
Beyond the apparent facts of the situation, I’m still interested in knowing whether it was a club option all along or whether there were triggers that changed it from mutual. Like if Smyly had to reach 150 innings or something like that. I suppose in that case it would have been a team option that had a trigger point to convert it to mutual, but the result is the same.
Provided Wittenmyer is correct here, it’s almost assured that Smyly will be back with the Cubs next season. Now it’s just a matter of how aggressive the front office will be in making sure he’s working toward the back end of the rotation.