August 15, 2022

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No stranger to trade season, Smyly ready for anything

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SAN FRANCISCO — Plenty of veterans inside the Cubs’ clubhouse have been around long enough to know the drill by now. They have either been traded in their careers or seen teammates come and go. None of what is happening this week is new.

So when Cubs lefty Drew Smyly was texting Saturday morning with Chris Martin — a teammate of his with three teams in their careers now — and learned he had been dealt to the Dodgers, it was not a surprise. They said their goodbyes and Smyly moved on with his day, taking the mound for Chicago in a 5-4 loss to the Giants.

“Me and Chris are pretty close,” Smyly said. “I feel like you knew he was going to get traded. Some of those relievers, you kind of just, you feel it. Maybe I’m a little more iffy here. I don’t know, really, what they’re trying to do. But it’s just part of the business.”

As Tuesday’s 5 p.m. CT Trade Deadline looms, the Cubs’ top chips are All-Stars Willson Contreras and Ian Happ. Like Martin, veteran relievers David Robertson and Mychal Givens could also be on the move. As Smyly accurately assessed, he is in the next “iffy” category of trade possibilities.

The Cubs added the 33-year-old Smyly on a one-year contract with a base salary of $5.25 million, making him a cost-effective addition for teams in need of rotation depth. That said, Smyly also missed roughly six weeks with a right oblique strain earlier this season.

Smyly is four starts into his return from the injured list and has delivered mixed results as he has built back to a normal workload.

“I think Drew’s done a really nice job since he’s been back,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Him and [Marcus Stroman], I feel like they’ve been on a really good pace for us. Tonight wasn’t his night, but the more consistent starts we can get from those guys, like they’ve done up until today, I think we’re going to be OK.”

Smyly allowed just two earned runs in 10 1/3 innings in his previous two turns prior to Saturday, but then he yielded five runs (three via back-to-back homers by Luis González and Joey Bart in the fourth) in four innings at Oracle Park.

“He made some good pitches. Those guys took good swings,” Cubs catcher Yan Gomes said. “Coming back from the IL, he kind of hit the ground running. I think he’s probably back to full strength right now, so I’m excited to see what the second half brings.”

The only question is whether Smyly’s last two months will be with Chicago. The lefty pointed out that he has been traded a few times already in his career, so he understands the landscape.

“Once by the Cubs,” Smyly said with a smirk.

Smyly was traded by Chicago ahead of the 2019 season in a cost-cutting decision by the ballclub. The lefty was also traded by the Rays in January 2017 and was involved in a three-team blockbuster between the Tigers, Rays and Mariners at the Deadline in ’14.

“It’s completely out of all of our control,” Smyly said. “There’s nothing we can say or do. I’ve made it pretty clear that I love showing up to work everyday and being a Cub. It’s a really fun team to be a part of, even though we’re not getting the wins we necessarily want. It’s a really good group of guys, and it’s enjoyable in that clubhouse.”

In 13 starts this season, Smyly has turned in a 4.42 ERA with 48 strikeouts against 14 walks in 59 innings. Going into his latest outing, he had allowed an average exit velocity of only 85.1 mph. Per Statcast, that put him in the 97th percentile in the Majors.

As Smyly looks forward, he is viewing things as a kind of win-win.

If Smyly stays put, he can make the most of the remainder of the season in a place he enjoys (while trying to set himself up nicely for free agency again). On the other side of the coin, a trade would mean he would wind up with a team hoping to make a push to the World Series — an experience he had a year ago with Atlanta.

“It’d be fun competing for another championship,” he said. “It is what it is. I don’t really think this performance would dictate that one way or the other. I thought my stuff was really good tonight. It just didn’t really show up on paper.”

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