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BCB After Dark: In the Nick of time

The late-night/early-morning hangout for Cubs fans asks if Nick Madrigal will be on the Opening Day roster.

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images

It’s another evening here at BCB After Dark: the mellow meet-up for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. We’re so glad that you stopped in tonight. The place is always better with you than without you. There’s no cover charge this evening, so come on in. Get in out of the cold. Let us take your coat for you. Grab any available table. Bring your own beverage.

BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.

Last evening, I asked you how many starts you thought Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks would make this season. Most of you were pretty pessimistic about The Professor, with 45 percent of you thinking he will only take the mound between ten and twenty times. Although 29 percent (if you add up the two categories) think he’ll make between 20 and 29 starts, another 24 percent think he’ll make fewer than ten starts in 2023.

Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.

I said tonight we were going to get mellow, so here’s a bit of soulful jazz (or maybe soul/jazz) from vocalist José James. This is from a “quarantine” concert in 2020, when we all needed a bit of music in our lives. [ed—Are you claiming that we don’t need music more than ever now?] This is “Come to My Door” with Big Yuki on piano, Marcus Machado on guitar, Ben Williams on bass, Jharis Yokely on drums and Taali with additional vocals.

Just a reminder that you have until Wednesday evening to vote in the BCB Winter Noir Classic. The current matchup is between two Gloria Grahame films—In A Lonely Place (1950) and The Big Heat (1953). Grahame is opposite Humphrey Bogart in the first film and Glenn Ford in the second one.

I forgot to mention last evening what tomorrow night’s matchup will be. I haven’t figured out a good order to do the second round, so right now I’m just going to pick which one I want to go next. So I think next we will do two first-round winners Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and Kiss Me Deadly (1955). If I recall correctly, both of those films have some really good trailers to show.

Welcome back to everyone who skips the music and movies.

Tonight we’ve got a question that I already asked back in August, but one that I think we can take a fresh look at today. Tonight’s question is “Will Nick Madrigal be on the Cubs Opening Day 26-man roster?”

When I asked this question last August, seventy percent of you thought that yes, Madrigal will return for this year. But some things have changed since then. Primarily the Cubs have signed Dansby Swanson to be their new shortstop and that moves Nico Hoerner over to Madrigal’s position, second base. On top of that, the Cubs have signed Eric Hosmer to play first base, which means that rookie Matt Mervis, should he make the team, will likely need to serve as the DH.

(As an aside, as I was researching this piece, I found some interesting old polls. That includes one, also from last August, where only nine percent of you thought that Dansby Swanson would be the Cubs new shortstop and 56 percent of you thought the Cubs would not sign any free agent shortstop. That’s what you get for doubting Ken Rosenthal.)

If Madrigal can’t play second base or DH, there’s nowhere else for him to play. He doesn’t have the arm strength to play third base and there isn’t another open position on the Cubs that he can play.

Madrigal was hurt most of 2022 and when he did play, he didn’t play well. Madrigal hit a poor .249/.305/.282 in 228 plate appearances. His strength was supposed to be his ability to make contact and put the ball in play. But last season, Madrigal struck out in a career-high 11.8 percent of his plate appearances. Sure, that’s a fantastic number for a slugging outfielder, but not so good for a guy with little power or speed and who doesn’t walk much.

But there are some reasons to be optimistic about Madrigal. For one, he hit .277/.348/.317 from August 4 to September 9, when he played his final game of the season. That’s not great, but it’s not bad for someone playing with a lingering groin injury. And there’s no reason to think that Madrigal won’t be healthy next season. Maybe a healthy Madrigal lives up to the promise he had with the White Sox before he got injured and traded.

At the moment, the Cubs have four options for Madrigal. The first is to do nothing and keep him in the majors for depth on the bench. The biggest issue with that is that Madrigal can really only play second base and DH, and most teams want bench players who are more versatile than that. Certainly the Cubs do and they’ve already got Zach McKinstry and David Bote, both of whom can play more positions than Madrigal.

The second option is to send Madrigal down to Iowa while he and the team sort things out. Madrigal still has an option left, so he could start the season down in Triple-A and the Cubs could keep him in reserve until someone gets injured.

The problem with that, as Brett Taylor points out here, is that it could lead to a very unhappy Nick Madrigal. Maybe Madrigal is willing to take one for the team and ride the busses of the International League for a month or two, but it’s not hard to think that from his point of view, he has nothing left to learn in the minors. I’m not saying there could be a repeat of the Tommy La Stella situation from a few years back, but an unhappy Madrigal could be a bad situation for everyone.

The third option is to trade or release Madrigal. As far as just releasing him goes, I’m pretty confident that no one in the front office wants to do that. They would like to get at least something for a guy who looked like a future solid major league starter just 18 months ago. But as far as trading Madrigal goes, his value could never be lower than it is right now. I think some team would probably give up a minor prospect or maybe a so-so bullpen arm, but the Cubs are unlikely to get anything special for him right now. But if they hang on to him and he starts to hit like people used to think that he would, then he could bring back a lot more. But then the Cubs have to leave him on the bench and try to find at-bats for him here and there. It’s going to be hard for Madrigal to live up to his potential if he doesn’t get regular at-bats.

I guess there is one final, fourth option—the Cubs could stick Madrigal on the injured list. But presumably, Madrigal would have to be injured for that to happen. And he’s not going to increase his trade value on the IL.

So what’s going to happen. Will Nick Madrigal be on the Opening Day 26-man roster?


Will Nick Madrigal be on the 2023 Opening Day roster?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    (90 votes)
  • 69%
    (204 votes)
294 votes total Vote Now

Thank you for stopping by. I hope we’ve brightened your evening as much as you’ve brightened ours. Be sure to recycle any cans or bottles you might have brought. If we checked your coat, let us get that for you now. Please get home safely. Stay warm. And join us again tomorrow night for more BCB After Dark.