The Chicago Cubs (26-22) made a few significant moves this past offseason, most of which have produced fruitful early returns, but the team is still chasing the young Milwaukee Brewers. This organization signed manager Craig Counsell to a record-breaking contract for the purpose of vaulting it back to the top of the National League Central. Anything short of a wild card berth would be a disappointment, especially after last season's collapse.

Thus, the Cubs might have to proactively make some big changes in order to prevent a similar combustion from occurring again. Apparently, that includes a particularly tough decision. Starting pitcher and longtime fan favorite Kyle Hendricks is being sent to the bullpen, according to the Chicago Tribune's Meghan Montemurro.

The veteran right-hander has plummeted to the nadir of his 11-year MLB career, posting an 0-4 record with a 10.54 ERA in seven starts. Batters are hitting a mind-blowing .362 and slugging .638 against Hendricks in 2024. Simply put, he is an extreme liability right now, leaving management no choice but to make this shake-up.

This is obviously gut-wrenching for a former ERA leader who was one of the most important pieces on a championship-winning ballclub (had a 1.00 ERA in two World Series starts in 2016). It is also painful for the Wrigley faithful who witnessed Hendricks help end a century-plus title drought and give them many more memories since his debut 2014 campaign.

This move does not necessarily have to signify the beginning of the end, however. He enjoyed an unexpected and overlooked resurgence in 2023, recording a 3.74 ERA in 137 innings pitched. Maybe he can recapture that spark and avoid a miserable final chapter of what has been an impressive tenure with the Cubbies and in the big leagues.

Management is holding out hope, anyway.

Cubs' Kyle Hendricks could be critically important, regardless of his role

Chicago Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks (28) throws the ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the first inning at Wrigley Field.
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

“The goal still is to get Kyle on track and get him back in the rotation,” Craig Counsell said on Tuesday, per Montemurro. This is the first time Hendricks will work out of the pen since July of 2016, which is the only relief outing of his career to this point.

Getting bombarded by the Pittsburgh Pirates last Friday proved to be the last straw for the Cubs brass. Kyle Hendricks surrendered seven earned runs (already third time this year) on 11 hits in just 4 2/3 innings. Astonishingly, he did not walk a single batter. It is important to look on the bright side regarding his 2024 woes.

Unfortunately, there are not many. Nor are they easy to see. The 34-year-old has allowed 10 home runs, which is only three less than he coughed up in all of last season. Hendricks must use this transfer as an opportunity to reclaim his groove. Otherwise, his days in Chicago could be numbered.

The Ivy Leaguer is in the final year of his contract, so he has every incentive to turn things around before the offseason. But does Hendricks have it in him? The answer to that question should come in the next few months.

Hopefully, a different role can enable the last remaining member of the 2016 World Series squad to turn back the clock a bit.