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2023 Cubs player profiles: Kyle Hendricks

24th in a series. Kyle Hendricks hasn’t been the same pitcher he was earlier in his career, for the past couple of years. A lot of weak contact has been barreled. He’s just back from a year on the IL.

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Kyle Hendricks has been on the injured list forever... really, just about a year (since July 5, 2022), but he’s been missed. Since approximately 2020, he’s been missed. He had a decent record in 2021, but he sustained a WHIP of 1.348, MUCH higher than his accustomed line, and he allowed 200 hits in 181 innings. The year before, Kyle’s record hadn’t been fantastic, but he was ninth in Cy Young voting with 81 innings under his belt.

Hendricks is now 33 years old and might just not have it any more. We don’t know. He sure didn’t have it in his 2023 debut, which just ended. But that’s just so small-sample of a take.

“Anybody can pitch when things are going well,” Tommy Hottovy said. “I want to see him, if he gets out of whack mechanically on a pitch or he loses a couple, how quick he can make those adjustments. When he’s at his best, he’ll miss one and then lock it right back in right away....”

At his best, Hendricks is unflappable. He gets in trouble, he throws low strikes until enough ground balls result that he’s out of trouble. He throws low, real low, and lower than low, the locations that Derek Lowe featured in his heyday.

That’s more or less what Marcus Stroman does, and the Cubs’ interior defense is eminently able to gobble up those ground balls. Hendricks should be okay in this setting — if he’s not, well, the Cubs hold a 2024 club option unless Kyle Hendricks is a top three Cy Young candidate this season. The buyout is a million and a half. Pocket money.

The business of baseball is cold. And the Cubs have a cadre of shiny new starting pitchers populating the minor leagues.

Make no mistake — Kyle Hendricks is pitching for his future. I can easily imagine that he’d get picked up by another team as a free agent or that he might attract some young talent in midsummer. It would be great if he’s effective, and remains with the team, but that possibility grows more indistinct with the passing of time. His future is likely elsewhere.

Let’s enjoy him, for now. He showed enough flashes of Cyle in his comeback game Thursday and the latter part of his rehab stint that he might just make it back all the way, and regain consistency of effect.

That’ll make the front office’s decisions more interesting. It’ll make the pennant race more interesting, because with a healthy and productive Hendricks, the club is better. They can win more games. If he’s really good, they could well decide to keep him.

I’m all for that. I bet you are, too. Go Kyle. Go Cubs go.