Daniel Descalso, I am sure, is a fine human being. He has a reputation as being a good teammate, and I am certain that’s the case in the Cubs clubhouse.
But seriously, he cannot play major-league baseball anymore and the Cubs need to admit they made a mistake signing him and move on.
On April 17, Descalso was hitting .364/.429/.523 with four doubles and a home run. That’s good! But those numbers came with an unsustainable BABIP of .455.
Since that date, Descalso is hitting .108/.227/.167 (11-for-102) with 38 strikeouts. That’s... bad. Like, really, really bad. Like... there are at least half a dozen pitchers I’d send up to pinch hit in his place, including Jon Lester, who currently has a .611 OPS and usually works a pretty good five- or six-pitch at-bat even when he makes an out.
The Cubs are essentially playing with a 24-man roster because Descalso sits on the bench and almost never plays. In the Cubs’ last 24 games, he has started three times and pinch-hit in 14 others. He’s 2-for-17 in those games, though with six walks. He’s 1-for-20 this season as a pinch-hitter, with two walks, for a .179 OBP in those appearances. He has a .624 OPS as a starting player this season. Overall his .560 OPS is ninth-worst in MLB for anyone who has as many PA (140) as he does, and of the others, some have been released, some are injured, and some are in the minor leagues.
All of this has produced a season of -0.9 bWAR and a wRC+ of 53. That latter figure would be second-worst in the majors if he had enough AB to qualify.
Descalso is making $2.5 million this year, so there’s about $1.25 million remaining for 2019. There’s a $3.5 million team option for 2020 on his deal that will almost certainly be declined in favor of a $1 million buyout. So the Cubs owe him about $2.25 million. They should just pay him and thank him and let him go. Other teams have done this, eating a lot more money, when production has been bad — look at the Angels and Cody Allen, for example, and that was significantly more money.
Who to replace him with? Well, many of you have suggested Robel Garcia, who is currently tearing up the Cubs system, hitting .298/.377/.617 with 20 home runs in 235 at-bats split between Double-A and Triple-A. I’ve been hesitant to endorse the idea of Garcia because he has struck out 83 times in 268 PA (31 percent)... and that’s against Double-A and Triple-A pitching.
But I have come to the conclusion that having Garcia on the roster instead of Descalso could not possibly be worse, and it might be an improvement. Garcia is a switch-hitter and can play second base and third base. Sadahev Sharma wrote about Garcia recently in The Athletic and quotes Theo Epstein:
“He’s a really intriguing player,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “It is an incredible story. He hits the ball really, really hard form both sides of the plate. Gets it in the air a lot, especially left-handed, and he can get around on anybody’s fastball. Those are really good ingredients. It’ll be interesting to see how he does as the league adjusts to him a little bit and challenges him with heavier dose of breaking stuff. He’s got a chance to continue to make adjustments and continue to prove himself. He’s got some versatility to his game, certainly got some power to his game. It’s an intriguing fit for the club down the road.”
“Down the road,” I think, ought to be now. Garcia is 26 and played several years in Italy after he married an Italian woman, so 2019 is his first year back in the US minor leagues since 2013. There wouldn’t be an issue with a 40-man roster spot if Descalso is let go. At this point, it’s got to be worth a try.