Cubs pick up options on 2 key veterans

November 6th, 2023

CHICAGO -- has spent the past decade in a Cubs uniform, growing from prospect to World Series champion to veteran leader in that time period. The right-hander will have at least one more season with the only team he has known as a big leaguer.

On Sunday, the Cubs picked up Hendricks’ $16.5 million club option for 2024, as well as the $6 million club option for ‘24 to retain veteran catcher

Both players are key not only on the field but behind the scenes as leaders for a Cubs group trying to get back to the postseason.

“He's been one of my favorite Cubs players to be around since we got here,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said of Hendricks after this past season. “It's hard to imagine a better teammate. He redefines low-maintenance. He just does whatever the team needs, and it's just a joy to have him around.”

A year ago, it was hard to know what the future held for Hendricks and the Cubs.

Hendricks’ 2022 season ended on July 5, when a capsular tear in his right shoulder led to a long rehab. Once Hendricks was through the healing phase, he reworked his delivery and adopted new routines in his workouts to address velocity and strength training. He did not log his first bullpen session until late February.

“Truly, I didn't have a great sense of what we were going to get out of him,” Hoyer said. “He was confident going into Spring Training and throughout the winter that he was going to get back and be the old Kyle Hendricks, and he did. It was really impressive to watch.”

Hendricks was back for the Cubs by late May and went on to log 24 starts, posting a 3.74 ERA with 93 strikeouts and 27 walks in 137 innings. In his fourth start back from the injury, the righty flirted with a no-hitter in San Francisco. Hendricks has never been known for his velocity, but he was up about 1 mph on average compared to 2022, and topped 90 mph on occasion (and for the first time since '20).

Over 10 seasons with the Cubs, Hendricks has gone 93-69 with a 3.48 ERA in 247 games (246 starts). The righty, who is the last active player on the roster from the 2016 World Series champions, will turn 34 on Dec. 7.

Cubs manager David Ross quipped at times last season about how much stronger Hendricks looked after his revamped workout regimen. The righty also began calling his own pitches via PitchCom to great results. The veteran was a willing mentor for the wave of younger arms who have started reaching the Majors.

“You can always talk to him. You can ask him questions about anything,” Cubs rookie Jordan Wicks said in September. “You can talk to him about whatever -- he's been really clear about that. Anything on the field or off the field, anything I need, he said, 'Just feel free to come ask,' which has really made me feel welcome.”

At the end of the season, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts called Hendricks’ return and success “one of the great stories of the summer” for the ballclub.

The 36-year-old Gomes will return for his third season with the Cubs after slashing .267/.315/.408 with 10 homers, 20 doubles and 63 RBIs in 116 games last season. He threw runners out at a 29% clip (compared to MLB’s 19% average), posted an .824 OPS against lefty pitching and hit .359 (.900 OPS) in high-leverage situations.

As things stand, Gomes looks to be the Cubs’ No. 1 catcher heading into 2024, with lined up to be the backup.

“I really liked that pairing at the end of the year,” Hoyer said last month. “Yan had a phenomenal year for us behind the plate, I thought the number of big hits he got for us in big at-bats was remarkable, and then just the presence he provides with the pitchers in the clubhouse.”