September has arrived, with it meaningful games for the Cubs, and they will have five additional players on the roster for Tuesday night's game against the Reds (including the just-acquired Austin Jackson):
Wada, Baez, Cahill and Berry up Tuesday.— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) September 1, 2015
Tsuyoshi Wada made seven starts earlier this year for the Cubs and though the numbers don't look too bad (3.73 ERA, 1.277 WHIP, 4.37 FIP), Wada never seemed to have any game under control. He allowed five home runs in 31⅓ innings and made it past the sixth inning only once: June 17 in Cleveland. I assume he'll be used as a LOOGY, or perhaps long reliever.
Before I get to Javier Baez, let's talk about two recent additions to the Cubs organization.
Trevor Cahill was once a pretty good pitcher. In 2010 at age 22, he was 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA, made the American League All-Star team and finished ninth in Cy Young voting. His career since then has been a litany of arm problems and two trades. The Braves, his team at the start of this year, gave him 15 appearances (three starts), which are better not mentioned in polite company. They released him in June; the Dodgers signed him to a minor-league deal in July and he wasn't any good in their system.
He was signed by the Cubs August 18 and made five relief appearances covering 7⅔ innings. He allowed five hits, three walks and no runs and struck out seven. That's encouraging. Perhaps Cahill, who is only 27, can get back to where he was with the Athletics. I'd assume he'll be in the mix for the fifth-starter spot next spring. In the meantime maybe he can help take some of the pressure off the rest of the pen.
Quintin Berry can run really fast. In 117 major-league games he has 25 stolen bases and has never been caught stealing. He appeared in two postseasons, in 2012 (Tigers) and 2013 (Red Sox) and stole five bases (again, no CS) in 14 games. In Triple-A this year combined between the Red Sox and Cubs organizations he stole 35 bases in 111 games with six CS.
It's pretty obvious: he's a pinch-runner. That could be quite useful down the stretch.
Javier Baez, we have discussed at length here for several seasons. He seems to have weathered tough times this year (the unexpected death of his sister and a hand injury) and hit very well at Triple-A Iowa, .324/.385/.527 with 13 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 74 games, with a reduced strikeout rate, 76 in 293 at-bats. (OK, that's still a lot of K's, but the BA and OBP are his highest in any of his minor-league seasons.
I'd like to see him installed at second base. He's a good defensive infielder and the Cubs could use the bat.
Regarding Austin Jackson, acquired Monday from the Mariners, I assume the reason he wasn't activated for Monday's game is that the Cubs would have had to option Matt Szczur back to Iowa to make room for Jackson and that would have meant Szczur couldn't return until the end of the minor-league season. By keeping Szczur Monday, the Cubs can now have both of them, and Jackson, since he was added to the 40-man roster Monday, is eligible for the postseason.
Jackson is 28 and will be a free agent at the end of this season. This isn't one of his better offensive seasons; he's hitting just .272/.312/.387 with eight home runs and 15 stolen bases in 107 games. He's had better years both with the bat (hit 16 homers in 2012) and running the bases (led the A.L. in triples in both 2011 and 2012). He had a good August: .314/.339/.438 in 105 at-bats, though with 33 strikeouts. He's hit .294/.327/.441 against LHP this year and I'd assume this will be where he'll be used, as a platoon starter in either left or right field.
Finally, neither Berry nor Cahill is currently on the Cubs' 40-man roster, so two players will have to be dropped before tonight's game to make room. If the Cubs don't think Neil Ramirez will be back this year, they could clear one spot by placing him on the 60-day DL; the other spot is tougher. Perhaps it's time to bid farewell to Christian Villanueva, who at 24 doesn't appear to have a future with this team.