As the meme goes, “Why not both?”
The Cubs today decided between outfielder Matt Szczur and infielder Tommy La Stella for the final spot on the Opening Day roster by placing pitcher Brian Duensing on the disabled list with a back problem and keeping both position players on the roster. This means that the Cubs will start the season with 13 position players and 12 pitchers.
Szczur, of course, was out of options and could not be sent down to the minors without exposing him to waivers, and he would certainly be claimed by another team. The Cubs love Szczur for his ability to pinch-hit, be a defensive replacement for Kyle Schwarber in left field, and his general positive influence in the clubhouse.
La Stella, on the other hand, provides a needed left-handed bat off the bench and the ability to back up at both second and third base. La Stella still has options and could be sent down to Triple-A Iowa, however last season La Stella famously refused to report to Iowa when he was sent down. But La Stella did say that he would report to Iowa this season if he did not make the Opening Day roster.
This is just a temporary solution, and one assumes that Duensing will return to the roster sometime in April. However, if you recall, the Cubs were in the same situation with Szczur last season. They put off the decision because Javier Baez started the season on the disabled list and it was a good thing they did. Schwarber was injured in the third game of the season and missed the rest of the regular season (you know what happened in the World Series) and that meant there was a spot for Szczur all year. Obviously we don’t hope for anything similar to happen this year, but keeping Szczur and La Stella gives the Cubs options should disaster strike again.
The Cubs Opening Day roster should be as follows:
Tommy La Stella
Albert Almora Jr.
Carl Edwards Jr.