As people being to speculate on who is out of a spot on the future Cubs’ lineup, Arismendy Alcantara’s name has come up an awful lot as a possible trade piece. If Mike Olt can play an adequate third base, that could push Javier Baez to second base and leave Alcantara without a spot.
Or would it? Over the last two and a half years, Theo Epstein has talked an awful lot about the future state of the Chicago Cubs. One buzzword that has come up in that conversation is redundancy. Here’s what Theo said this winter in a CSN article about their future view of how they’ll approach free agency and the offseason:
"We want to be sitting there going into the winter meetings being like: ‘OK, we’ve got our starting lineup. We’ve got our starting rotation. We’ve got our bullpen.’ We want to be game-planning for: ‘What happens if our starting centerfielder gets injured? What’s our redundancy? What happens if we lose a starting pitcher because of injury? Who’s our seventh starter? Who’s our eighth starter?’"
That’s just one example, but again and again this front office has talked about the importance of not just having good starters, but good players that can fill in in case of injury. And that brings me back to Arismendy Alcantara. Right now, it looks as though Alcantara will be able to play one position adequately (second base) and can slide over to shortstop in a pinch. So let’s dream on a future lineup and think about where he fits.
1B Anthony Rizzo
2B Javier Baez
SS Starlin Castro
3B Mike Olt
RF Kris Bryant
CF Albert Almora
LF Jorge Soler
C Welington Castillo
I know, I know, prospects all never pan out, blah blah blah, but for the purpose of this exercise, pretend either that all these players pan out or a player with a similar skillset is bought to man their position instead. That leaves Alcantara as left out, right?
Not so fast. With a lineup similar to this, Alcantara can provide cover for nearly every offensive position due to the defensive flexibility of this roster. Let’s look at this same list and figure out how the lineup may change if one player is injured:
1B Rizzo: Olt moves to first, Baez moves to third, Alcantara plays second
2B Baez: Alcantara seamlessly comes in to play second
SS Castro: Baez moves to SS, Alcantara moves to second
3B Olt: Baez moves to third, Alcantara moves to second
RF Bryant: Soler moves to RF, Alcantara plays LF
CF Almora: Alcantara plays CF
LF Soler: Alcantara plays LF
C Castillo: No obvious substitute
Now I’m guessing your reaction was silently nodding as I worked my way through the infield before a couple of eyebrow raises when I got to right field. Obviously that’s because I’m taking a leap of faith… that Alcantara can play left field and center field. When you look at his toolset, why not? He has good speed and a good arm that can easily translate to left field and center field. He doesn’t have typical corner outfield power, but given the anticipated power in the Cubs’ infield, they have the luxury of playing a more on-base-oriented guy in left field.
We’ve talked for awhile about the ripple effects if Olt can hold down the third base job and I think those ripples could cause Alcantara to see time in the outfield at Iowa this year. Maybe sporadically at the beginning of the year and then increasingly throughout the year if Olt’s grip on third base begins to tighten. By September call ups, we may even see him get a trial in the big league outfield this year. If he shows himself to be adequate in center field in the minors and continues hitting (and walking), he could be the Cubs’ starting center fielder in 2015. By 2016, Albert Almora might have something to say about that center field job, which may lead to Alcantara becoming the perfect redundancy. And that’s exactly the kind of player this front office will want in their back pocket as the Cubs look to contend.