Cubs must avoid colossal mistake of trading Kyle Hendricks

Eighteen months ago, Jed Hoyer began rebuilding when he traded Yu Darvish, then put the pedal to the metal when he cleaned up the clubhouse seven months late. So far, and the jury hasn’t even been selected yet, these moves could work in the long run. Naturally, with the team struggling and this year’s trade deadline just a month away, more speculation about some longtime Cubs and their future at the Friendly Confines is alive and well.

Kyle Hendricks is the longest-serving Cub, joining the team on July 19, 2014. He’s not flashy or shows emotion. While Joe Maddon described Willson Contreras as playing with his “hair on fire,” Hendricks reminds me of former tennis great Bjorn Borg in that he has a straight face. Mr. Spock would admire him. More importantly, he is quietly productive.

I busted my nerd and spent some time deep diving on Baseball Reference. Although Hendricks is currently 4-6, he has yet to have a losing season in his big league career. He is among the top twenty active pitchers in MLB in several career rankings, including ERA, winning percentage, WAR, strikeouts and walks, and more. He proved to be a quietly effective presence for the Cubs.

Cubs: Kyle Hendricks has found his groove over the past month

The numbers don’t lie, and despite struggling last season, he still went 14-7 and Chicago won 18 of 32 starts. This year he’s struggled here in the first half, but his last two starts have been vintage Hendricks, and he’s only had one bad outing (against defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves) , in his last six starts after a rare thirteen days off between starts. His WAR was only 0.9 last season and already 1.0 this year.

Which brings us back to our original question: should he stay or should he go? I think it would be ridiculous to move it unless the returning player(s) were nonsensical. The statistics are there, consider the intangible assets. When Caleb Killian came over for three starts, I remember saying to my wife Kim, have him sit next to Hendricks in the dugout. I assume he was and would be a great mentor to young pitchers who are both here and on the road.

Second, the man is smart. He has an economics degree from Dartmouth, so he has the distinction of knowing both Ivy League and ivy-covered walls. His nickname is the “Professor”, which may be due to an unusual training for an MLB player. There is some comparison to the great Greg Maddux, who also goes by that nickname. It’s a compliment, the only other man I know with that nickname is Springsteen pianist Roy Bittan.

Hendricks doesn’t turn on the radar gun, which means several things. It throws ‘differently’ than all flamethrowers. His technique is all about “changing” his approach to dating, so after seeing some guys in the 90s, here’s some fine control. Tommy John surgery? He may be the last teacher ever to experience it, as he is a pitcher and not a pitcher.

At the end of the day, this guy is a bargain. I know your lifetime W-2 might not come close to that, mine certainly won’t, but the Cubs have him under contract for this year and next at just $14 million a year. In baseball today, it’s practically a robbery, especially for a team that lost ‘biblical proportions’ in the not too distant past.

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Hoyer’s plan is to bring talented minor leaguers to Wrigley on a regular basis, not nearly all at once like “the core.” Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, Scott Effross and Christopher Morel have all been very effective this year, with other young players contributing. More should be coming soon. I’d love to see Kyle Hendricks be the link between the Cubs’ recent playoff success and the next era on the North Side.

It’s old school thinking, but I’d love to see it retire with blue stripes.

Garland K. Long