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Two things the Cubs should do somewhat soon, but won't

Among other things, the Cubs should address what to do with Jason Heyward.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Between the time I sent this article to Al and now, Miguel Amaya was optioned to Double-A Tennessee. It both nullifies the concept of Amaya being put on the MLB 60-day Injured List, and amplifies the likelihood that the reason for it was financial.

Now here’s the original article.

Many people look at "an organization," whatever the organization or industry, and make a decision. They will be largely supportive. Or else, they will be largely critical. Then, they will apply a set of blinders, as if to disregard any information counter to their basic premise, and get out the support/criticism. With the Chicago Cubs, a degree of that goes on regarding ownership and the front office. I try to assess things based on whether they make sense or not, logically. The Cubs have two logical decisions they should make, and the sooner the better.

Before I get to the actual decisions, providing context seems applicable. Based on the Cubs’ combined spending and lack thereof (yes, they spent, but not as much as might befit a big market club), they're in a holding pattern. Longer-term additions Marcus Stroman and Seiya Suzuki upgraded the roster enough to be a looming concern to St. Louis and Milwaukee, but not enough to drag back the perception of division dominance. To do that, the executives could have traded prospects or surrendered the costs of acquiring a free agent like Carlos Correa. They didn't do that, instead, settling for Andrelton Simmons and Jonathan Villar. In my view those are C-minus upgrades.

My thought has been, at least since the Yu Darvish trade was executed, that Jed Hoyer is committed to prioritizing player development. Whether that is a good strategy, or a good stand-alone, or not, it seems the plan. Toss in the selloff last July, and preferring Frank Schwindel and Patrick Wisdom to bigger available off-season names, I have had no reason to doubt the premise. The Cubs in 2022 seem in that holding pattern, with their next decisions to be based on how the big club does until this year’s trading deadline.

However, two inconveniences have been tossed into their path. How these are dealt with will go quite a distance toward defining which is the primary goal. Are Hoyer and Carter Hawkins about properly assessing talent? Or are they beholden to Tom Ricketts’ financial... something-or-other?

The first move was hinted at last Friday. Out of camp for a few days on the COVID list due to a positive test and a crowded camp, Tommy Nance was designated for assignment. I'm not bitter that Nance, who was a good story for part of last year, but isn't as established of an arm as some relievers in camp, got the DFA in a vacuum. It wasn't necessary. A far mare logical roster move made sense if accurately assessing talent is the primary goal. If giving every player their final chance to improve, because talent is king? Place Miguel Amaya on the 60-day Injured List.

As Amaya recently underwent Tommy John surgery, he will almost certainly be out until mid-June and far later. If Amaya remains on the 40-man roster as players that might be useful get purged, money ($500,000 or so, in Amaya's case) is more important than fully developing the roster. How many players will be DFA while Amaya is on the 40-man roster? This is very problematic, for me.

Then, there's the elephant in the room. Jason Heyward's contract has been reloaded with the lockout being lifted. His last two years will be paid out, in full. Likely by Ricketts. Realistically, three options exist. None of those options seems desirable.

The first is a bad contract for bad contract exchange. This would possibly pre-suppose trading away a prospect or two, and bringing on a similarly onerous contract. The joy of being a big-market club should be willingness to walk away from a financial mistake. Some trades along these lines could make sense, but I'm disinclined to travel far down this rabbit hole.

Before I get to the final two options, I seek context again. The last truly bad contract the Cubs endured was Edwin Jackson’s. Jackson was left in the rotation until the Cubs had a viable upgrade. Then, he was sent to the bullpen. When the Cubs had a better relief option for the big league club, Jackson was jettisoned. This happened when the Cubs added Rafael Soriano to the roster on July 20, 2015, and Jackson was designated.

As of now, the Cubs’ MLB roster is stuffed to the gills regarding outfielders, even after the Harold Ramirez trade. Seiya Suzuki will be the starter in right field. Rafael Ortega, Clint Frazier, Ian Happ and Michael Hermosillo would all deserve solid looks once games start to matter. But, then, there's Heyward.

The second option with Heyward is to play him as if he belongs on the roster, which he might, if he performs well. The guaranteed money is as much of a sunk cost as a sunk cost could ever be. If Heyward is stealing developmental at-bats from developing players, that's as problematic as Amaya being someplace other than the MLB 60-day Injured List.

The third option is to have an adult conversation with Heyward about a possible DFA/release at some point.

His center field defense has traditionally lagged his right field defense. His right field defense has sagged, recently. His offense has been, generously, spotty.

Thus, the following questions:

  • At what point does the amount due on his contract no longer matter anymore?
  • Is Heyward a better player than Rafael Ortega? Michael Hermosillo?
  • Is fully assessing the talent on-hand what should be happening, if that appears, otherwise, to be the goal?
  • If seriously competing isn't the goal in 2022, should a Heyward exit strategy get underway?
  • If one 40-man roster spot is already being needlessly sacrificed (Amaya), doesn't every DFA made with Heyward around seem to be triply unnecessary?

It isn't that Heyward should be necessarily purged this month, but if any useful player is unloaded while Heyward and Amaya keep 40-man roster spots, I'm not amused.