Veteran Todd Andrew Smyly is at present the Cubs’ fourth starter, slotted in after Jameson Taillon, with Justin Steele having assumed the second position behind staff ‘ace’ Marcus Stroman. He has pitched well this season, notably flirting with a perfect game, and so far his efforts have resulted in a 3-1 record as of this writing, with a 3.05 ERA, 34 strikeouts in 34 innings, and a WHIP of 0.991. Pretty good stuff for the southpaw, who is notably on an even keel and is eight games over .500 for his MLB career at 56-48.
Drew Smyly came back to the Cubs after spending a couple of seasons rehabbing on their dime, which culminated in a stint with the World Champion Atlanta Braves of 2021 after a cuppa in San Francisco. He loves the Cubs and Wrigley Field, and hasn’t been at all shy about saying so:
And there is good reason for him to feel that way. He has had success in the Friendly Confines of late.
Drew Smyly has a 1.11 ERA in his last 9 starts at Wrigley Field.— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) May 6, 2023
Cubs-Marlins: https://t.co/kWUzzUkVyY pic.twitter.com/dFjbSshsKY
The 33-year-old Little Rock, Arkansas native now lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife and young daughter, convenient to the Cubs’ facilities, and is now working on a two-year, $19 million contract with an opt-out clause after the 2023 season and a mutual option for the 2025 season.
He has the typical four-plus-pitch arsenal, with a four-seam fastball that tops out at about 91 mph, a curve, a cutter, and a change, and has been known to throw a slider on occasion. Smyly has amassed 11.7 WAR in his career and seems likely to add another two or more to his total this year, as he already has 0.8 WAR in 2023.
Smyly will generally keep his team in the game, averaging around a strikeout per inning, a hard-hit percentage in the low-to-mid-thirties, and generating a lot of ground balls, which are gobbled up by the Cubs’ excellent infield. He does have a relatively high FB% and is occasionally victimized by the home run, but that hasn’t been as evident this year as in some others in his career, as he has only been touched for 4 long balls so far.
Barring a trade or injury, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for Smyly not to be in the rotation next year as well, and the expected diminishing returns as he ages and the vagaries of his deal mean he may well retire as a Cub, and a successful one if the rebuild goes as planned.
There are worse fates. The expected return of Kyle Hendricks to the team is unlikely to affect Smyly as long as he is effective, and he will continue to take the ball every fifth day. Smyly and/or Hendricks are the most likely to be supplanted by one of the Cub’s emerging phenoms, but that’s speculative only at this point.
Next up: Hayden Wesneski.