It had previously been reported that the Cubs were reuniting with Drew Smyly on a new deal, but now we have the details of that pact. After turning down the $10 million option for 2023, the lefty agreed to a two-year, $19 million pact that includes another $10 million option for 2025 that probably won’t be exercised. According to Robert Murray of Fansided, Smyly will earn $8 million next season and $8.5 million in ’24 with another $2.5 million guaranteed by a buyout in ’25.
Free-agent pitcher Drew Smyly and the Chicago Cubs are in agreement on a two-year, $19 million contract that includes a $10 million mutual option ($2.5 million buyout) for 2025, according to a source familiar with the deal. Smyly gets $8 million in 2023 and $8.5 million in 2024.
— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) December 23, 2022
The Cubs have been structuring all of their recent deals in a similar fashion, backloading money to lessen the impact on actual payroll next season. Only $12.5 million of Cody Bellinger‘s $17 million deal is due in ’23 and Dansby Swanson is carrying a base of just $13 million in his first season, with $7 million spread out in the form of a signing bonus*. Tucker Barnhart‘s deal is for much less, but the $6.5 million guarantee is split between a guarantee next year and a player option in ’24.
That isn’t a matter of avoiding luxury tax penalties since those are calculated on AAV, so you have to wonder whether the business side is concerned about sluggish ticket sales and Marquee ratings. While there’s certainly no guarantee those things will rebound after next season, having $70-90 million falling off the books will provide financial flexibility either way.
Smyly’s deal is for more than I had thought he’d get and seems to indicate the Cubs plan on having him in the rotation on at least a somewhat regular basis. That hints at something we’ve been mentioning for a while now, which is an expanded starting group with the potential to have piggyback starters and even openers as a way to keep veteran starters fresh and bring young pitchers along.
Once finalized, the Smyly and Barnhart deals will put the Cubs in a serious roster crunch that will require a little maneuvering to alleviate. They still have a little while, however, because neither figures to complete a physical until after the holidays.
*Spotrac has the signing bonus spread evenly in $1 million increments over each year of the deal, but even putting all of it in the first year means Swanson is only earning $20 million despite an AAV of $25.3 million.