Cubs claim Miley, pick up 2022 option

Lefty, who tossed no-no for Reds in '21, brings ability to work deep into games

November 7th, 2021

CHICAGO -- At the end of this past season, Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer noted that adding rotation help would be the team's top offseason priority. Chicago is not wasting time on that front.

On Friday, the Cubs claimed veteran left-hander off waivers from the Reds, and then Chicago made the official step of picking up the pitcher's $10 million team option for 2022 prior to Sunday's deadline.

"We need to dramatically improve our pitching," Hoyer said last month. "I don't think there's any question about that. Our starting rotation simply wasn't good enough this year to compete."

As things currently stand, Miley joins a rotation that has veteran Kyle Hendricks at the top and righty Alec Mills as a front-runner for a spot. Chicago also has the younger trio of Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson in line to compete for jobs in the spring.

Hendricks and Alzolay are the only leftovers from the '21 Opening Day rotation. The reunion with Jake Arrieta went awry and ended in August, Trevor Williams was traded to the Mets at the July 30 Deadline and Zach Davies is now a free agent.

From there, the Cubs will continue to be in the market for starting help both for the Major League staff and in the way of depth. Chicago picked up Miley ahead of the free-agent season, which officially gets underway Sunday.

"Nothing but good things I've heard on the person and competitor," said pitching coach Tommy Hottovy. "We need starters and this is basically like signing him to a one-year deal. He definitely adds depth to what we want to do this year and being left-handed adds more diversity to the group. Pumped we got him."

Hoyer has emphasized that the Cubs will be active in free agency -- given the multiple needs -- but he has also emphasized the need to be "intelligent" with the types of deals the club pursues. That could mean more value-driven pacts than blockbuster signings to address some of the roster's holes.

Last season, the Cubs cycled through 12 starting pitchers, ending with a 5.27 rotation ERA that ranked 14th in the National League and 27th in MLB. Chicago's 781 2/3 innings from its starters marked the fewest in club history in a 162-game season. The 2.6 WAR (via Fangraphs) produced by the rotation ranked last in the NL and 29th in MLB.

"That'll be the No. 1 priority," Hoyer said. "Because that -- said simply -- was the downfall of this season, that our rotation was short and we weren't effective enough in terms of run prevention."

Miley does not address the need for a "power arm," but the lefty does offer consistency and the ability to work deep into games. Last season with the Reds, Miley logged at least six frames 16 times, working at least seven innings in 10 of those outings.

Overall in '21, Miley went 12-7 with a 3.37 ERA in 28 starts, with his signature moment being his no-hitter on May 7 in Cleveland. The lefty spun a 2.74 ERA in his first 24 appearances before hitting a snag in a September (8.35 ERA in his final four turns) that ended with him battling a neck strain.

Across his career spent with seven teams, Miley has gone 97-92 with a 4.15 ERA in 283 games (277 starts). The lefty struggled in the abbreviated 2020 season (5.65 ERA in six games), but dealt with groin and shoulder issues. Even with that showing, he has gone 31-18 with a 3.53 ERA in 83 games over the '18-21 seasons.