I tend to be a bit of a status quo type of baseball observer. If things are generally going as desired, the status quo should generally be honored. Some people are prone to wanting to “call up this guy or that” to jump start things. That usually doesn’t describe me. Especially if things are going well. However, with the Pedro Strop injury, the status quo no longer exists. The Cubs are a playoff-bound team, with as many bullpen questions as bullpen spots. Here are a few things to mind with Strop’s health, and playoff likelihood, up in the air.
To specify what I was generally opposed to before, I’ll use a few examples. When the Cubs were a struggling squad, some people were interested in releasing (or designating) players who were struggling, to give whimsical chances in MLB to players who weren’t ready. For instance, in a current example, and Ian Rice might make sense. A bat-first catcher, some might have wanted him to get an MLB baptism by fire. Or, perchance, minor league infielder Zack Short.
Rice and Short may have their chance at MLB action. Short, almost certainly so. However, now-today wouldn’t have been the time, or place, for either. It’s unlikely they are ready to contribute. They’re quality upper-minor types now. It’s good to have reserve depth. However, the likelihood they perform exceptionally well in their first MLB try is remote. Especially if now.
Giving either a chance immediately would take up a roster spot, now, and through the winter. Calling up a player who isn’t ready is drawing to an inside straight. It’s bad math. Times may exist where calling either up now would make sense. 2018 isn’t that time.
I’ve had the same current bearish view on two pitchers I have a long-term bullish outlook on. Trevor Clifton and Dakota Mekkes. Both have pushed their way up through from the lowest levels of the pipeline. Both pitched quite well in Triple-A Iowa this year. Both might have bright futures.
However, it’s been bad math calling them up for the regular season of 2018. The likelihood of either contributing for this regular season or postseason run is remote. Their addition would cause unneeded ripples in a pond that didn’t require a wake. Too much could go wrong, roster-wise, to call either up.
That status quo is now a bit broken. A term that applies more than usual now is “until further notice.” As soon as Strop needed assistance leaving the field Thursday in Washington, revisiting prior opinions becomes legitimate.
The roster deadline has passed. Players traded for now wouldn’t be able to help come October. If talent in the bullpen can be added for the last two weeks, while surrendering a minor future piece, the consideration has to be made, whether the trade is, or not. The game on Thursday created a new season paradigm.
Here are my current thoughts on a few different options.
Duane Underwood Jr. should be in Chicago this weekend. Whether it’s Friday or Saturday, he should be good to go. I don’t foresee a spot where “Underwood should come in now.” However, if his body is physically able to pitch, he should be good to go. Whether it’s for 14th inning duty, or mop-up duty in a 9-2 ninth inning (either way), innings saved for the “leverage guys” seems to be at question, pronto. I would prefer Underwood over Jen-Ho Tseng, who has had a lost season. However, anyone on the 40 makes sense. Those are the two not in Chicago who are healthy.
Regarding any other further decisions, things pivot on Jaime Garcia. I’m not going to trash him over his non-productive start. He wasn’t likely to pitch very long that day anyway, and he was wild in the process. Do I want him to pitch again? No, not really. However, he is occupying a roster spot. His roster spot could otherwise be being used. He should be used (presumably in the Reds series) or released. Which one, I have no concern. Like it or not, the 40-man roster spot is a concern.
If Joe Maddon doesn’t trust him enough to use him, Garcia should be released, which would create space for someone else.
As we speak, a number of players are staying “prepared” in Mesa, just in case. Who they are isn’t usually of that much importance. I’d imagine Chris Coghlan is one. A couple of catchers are keeping a few pitchers ready. Presumably veteran-types that played in the system. Just in case.
With the injury to Strop, another one or two might be there on Friday or Saturday, because that’s what contingency plans are about. Fortunately, the Cubs have fallen below the $197 million mark for 2018. Presumably, they are enough below to hurry another player or two to Wrigley.
As to who I would prefer hurrying to Chicago? Allen Webster would make the most sense. Webster has MLB experience. His MLB numbers might be a mild bit frightening, but he was useful in Iowa, and was rolling with mid-90s velocity. He makes the most sense.
Perhaps, perhaps, Mekkes makes sense, instead. Or, in addition. While I’d still prefer to hold Mekkes until 2019, if Mekkes is looking better than or equal to Webster in Mesa right now, I’m more open to a move now, with everything in flux. Clifton would fall third in line.
However, players who have expiring contracts ought to be a bit under the microscope. I’m not about purging Brian Duensing, still. He’s due money next season, and is a thirty percent shot at being useful in 2019 through June. The same applies (to an extent) with Brandon Kintzler. Dillon Maples or James Norwood should be considered in blowout duty, to see if they can be trusted in September, which is different than June. If they aren’t going to be used, they should be Disabled List options. Because I’m that guy.
It hinges, though, with Garcia. If the veteran left-hander is persona non grata in the bullpen, he should go. If another trip to the mound is required to decide his status, roll with that. The bullpen injury situation could be better on October 1. Or, whenever the Cubs postseason rosters are due. Or, they could be far worse. Welcome to why discussions on a 25-man October roster discussion is largely pointless until September 20.
Get Underwood to Wrigley. Consider the same with Allen Webster, and maaaaaaaaaaaaybe Dakota Mekkes. However, the next step is to justify Garcia’s spot, or give up on that low-risk gamble. And, to complete the status quo discussion, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention “Pictures Of Matchstick Men”. Len and JD wouldn’t approve of that pop reference being left ignored.