Kyle Hendricks hasn’t pitched since early July due to a strain in his right shoulder, and it appears as though his 2022 season is over. The Cubs right-hander told reporters (including MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian) that he is trying to get healthy in order to have a normal offseason and ramp-up period for the 2023 season, and to that end, Hendricks plans to restart a throwing program at the Cubs’ training complex in Arizona this week.
Hendricks underwent an MRI earlier this month that didn’t reveal any structural damage, according to Chicago manager David Ross. However, it seemed even at the time that Hendricks’ 2022 campaign was probably over, as Ross said that getting Hendricks back this season wasn’t “a top priority” compared to the bigger-picture desire to make sure the veteran is healthy.
As such, it looks like Hendricks will wrap up his ninth MLB season with a 4.80 ERA over 84 1/3 innings. This marks two underwhelming seasons in a row for Hendricks, who has a 4.78 ERA/4.62 SIERA in 265 1/3 frames since the start of the 2021 campaign. His once-elite walk rate fell to a still-decent 6.7% this year, but combined with a big increase in hard-hit ball rate, Hendricks’ low-velocity, contact-heavy arsenal wasn’t fooling many batters.
While the 2020 season was only 60 games long, Hendricks was still a capable front-of-the-rotation starter as recently as two years ago, when he finished ninth in NL Cy Young Award voting. Sometimes underrated as a key piece of the Cubs’ success over the last decade, Hendricks was a very solid member of the rotation from 2014-20, with a 3.12 ERA over 1047 1/3 innings of an old-school approach that relied more on command and soft contact rather than missed bats. The 2016 season was a peak for Hendricks, both due to his league-best 2.13 ERA and his big role in the Cubs’ World Series triumph.
With the Cubs now in a rebuild, it’s safe to guess that if Hendricks hadn’t been struggling with both performance and injury over the last two seasons, he might very well have joined the long list of veterans traded away. Hendricks’ salary was also a big factor — 2023 is the final season of the four-year, $55.5MM extension he signed in March 2019, and he is owed $14MM for the 2023 season.
The Cubs also have a $16MM club option on the right-hander’s services for 2024, but at this point, it would seem like Chicago will buy that option out for $1.5MM unless Hendricks can turn things around next year. Or, if a bounce-back year is in the cards, that option decision could be in the hands of another team, if the Cubs looked to finally trade Hendricks after all. Since it doesn’t seem like Hendricks has much trade value at the present, he’ll need to return healthy and pitch well in the first half of 2023 before we get more clarity on his future either in Chicago or as a potential trade chip.