After a bit of a raucous Friday, with a rumored Brennen Davis sighting (that turned out not to be true) and a looming roster move (that became a Jason Heyward injury placement), Saturday's pregame was somewhat tame. With a lefty on the hill in Carlos Rodon, Rafael Ortega continued as the leadoff hitter, and Greg Deichmann sat, along with Johneshwy Fargas. As I noted on Twitter, it was a bit of a data sort. The rest of the 2021 season will be, at least partially, about assessing talent and similar decisions more than getting upset over losses. Which decisions and developments will intrigue you the most?
For me, the optional players will be of added importance. While I'm sold on Deichmann as a longer term piece, Fargas is emblematic of the pending decisions. The Cubs can keep him well into the future, if they wish to do so. Or, they can non-tender him in November. If you expect a spending splurge this winter, Fargas is an easy pass, likely. As I'm not sold on a spending binge, assessing Fargas is a legitimate decision the last two months.
Toss Frank Schwindel in the same column. He has power, and little else. Triple-A first baseman Alfonso Rivas has less thump, but is better at getting on base, running once there, and defending in the other half of the inning. Rivas is a likely 40-man roster add at some point. Rivas and Schwindel could co-exist on the roster, if Schwindel is worth keeping. Is he? Why or why not?
I was recently reminded the Cubs had Liam Hendriks on their roster for 10 days in December 2013, during the rebuild. Off-season moves like this are occasionally done to try to stealth players through waivers. For the time being, though, the Cubs have a string of relievers to assess in real time. Manuel Rodriguez has been both fantastic and rather bad. Until and unless he figures out locating pitches, that's who he will be. The Cubs have time to deliberate. Similarly, Dillon Maples might be back soon.
Getting it right on as many of the relief coin-flips as possible seems a wise place to start. Is Jake Jewell worth keeping? Codi Heuer figures to stick, but what about Michael Rucker and Trevor Megill? Yeah, we know they aren't high-leverage guys in 2021, but 2021 is incidental, for now. If there's a there there for the future, you push on with them. If you're confident they're not the next Liam Hendriks, you pass on them and try who's next.
Andrew Romine is a nice feel-good story, but he’s 35 and likely not back in 2022. Properly assessing the other infielders is future-important. Patrick Wisdom has earned a future gig, tied in with his league-minimum rate for 2022 and beyond, but how about Sergio Alcántara? I doubt much of anyone is looking to brag about Alcántara being the opening-day shortstop in 2022 (with Nico Hoerner and Nick Madrigal around), but is he a useful reserve? Is he worth a 40-man roster spot?
As far as the outfield, is Ian Happ veering toward, or veering back from, a November non-tender? He could still go either way, in my opinion. I still hope he figures things out, and plate appearances are rather cheap this August and September. Ortega seems a reasonable cost-controlled option with the ability to lead off a clear bonus.
Assessing reserves for the 2022 roster wasn't supposed to be what the last two months of this season were about. Once that became reality, doing it effectively seems a non-useless way of getting a degree of value from a seemingly lost season.