Cubs Working on Kyle Hendricks Extension, Targeting Japanese LHP Yuki Matsui

Despite all the other longtime Cubs we’ve seen traded, non-tendered, or allowed to leave sans extension, it’s always felt like Kyle Hendricks would stick around and end his career in Chicago. And though that belief might have been shaken a bit by the notion that Marcus Stroman is likely to return, both Tom Ricketts and Jed Hoyer have spoken publicly about wanting Hendricks back.

Hoyer hinted at something different than just picking up the righty’s club option, indicating that negotiations might have already been in the works on an extension that would keep Hendricks around beyond 2023. That indeed appears to be the case as Bruce Levine reported on 670 The Score’s Inside the Clubhouse Saturday morning (10:15:45 mark).

“According to league sources, the Cubs are working on an extension,” Levine told cohost Mike Esposito. “Not only just picking up the $16 million option on Hendricks’ contract, but working on an extension. That makes sense. He pitched so well when he came back, he’s a constant for them, he’s one guy that can pitch under 90 miles an hour and consistently throw five, six innings.”

If I had to guess, I’d say it’s something like $24 million for two years with some performance bonuses and a vesting option for a third year. And then when his playing career ends, he’ll transition to a spot in the front office.

This seems like something both sides want, so I would think it’ll be done relatively quickly as Hoyer goes about crossing off items from his winter checklist. One of those items should include a power pitcher to upgrade a rotation that simply isn’t very dynamic, but such a move might also be tied to trading Stroman. I don’t necessarily think Stroman would be included in part of a deal to acquire that big arm, just that Hoyer might look to move him in order to free up both salary and a roster spot.

However the Cubs go about improving the rotation, they’ve also got plenty of work to do on the bullpen. We recently looked at a report that they were scouting Japan’s all-time saves leader as a way to bolster their relief corps, and Levine spoke to that as well.

“So they’re working on an extension for Hendricks,” Levine noted. “The other name that you’re hearing for the Chicago Cubs: Japanese pitcher Yuki Matsui, a left-handed bullpen pitcher (with) 200 saves in Japan.”

As a point of clarification for those who listened to the conversation, Matsui is not subject to NPB’s posting system. He is a 10-year veteran and has thus achieved full free agency, which Levine believes will net him multiple years at $10-12 million AAV in the States. That’s not chump change, but the Cubs need more big-time relievers and they’ve been short on lefties for a while.

It’s interesting to note that even getting the high end of the above estimate would not make Matsui the Cubs’ highest-paid southpaw in the ‘pen. That honor will likely go to Drew Smyly, who earned a $2 million bump on his 2024 guarantee of $10.5 million by reaching escalators at 110, 120, 130, and 140 innings pitched this past season. The Cubs could get really wild and add an even more expensive lefty by signing Josh Hader, though that doesn’t really fit their MO.

Getting the Hendricks deal done will provide some positive PR and get the offseason started on a good note, but Hoyer still has a ton of work to do if the Cubs are going to be legit next season.

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