All offseason, we were told by Cubs President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer that their focus for putting together a 2023 team would be defense, especially up the middle.
They have accomplished this by signing Gold Glove winners Dansby Swanson, Cody Bellinger and Tucker Barnhart. Combining this with Gold Glove candidate Nico Hoerner moving to second base and Yan Gomes also providing good work behind the plate, the Cubs are a much better defensive team than they were last year, and you can tell how much better just by the eye test, especially with Bellinger’s work in center field. He doesn’t so much move as glide out there, always takes good routes to balls and takes charge to the point that Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki are learning to get out of Bellinger’s way when he covers part of left and right field as well as his own position.
So why are the Cubs carrying three players who are really no better than DH types? Yes, the team can still hope that Trey Mancini — who went 0-for-5 Monday while his teammates were pounding 20 hits off a bad A’s staff — might recover his former hitting prowess with Baltimore. Though Mancini can play first base and right field, after a fashion, he’s probably better served as a designated hitter.
Edwin Rios and Luis Torrens, though — why are they on this team? Rios gave Swanson a break Monday by pinch-hitting for him in the ninth inning and then taking over at third base. That was the first time Rios had played in the field — at all — so far this season. Torrens, too, has served primarily as a pinch-hitter and DH in the seven games he’s played so far, playing just five innings in the field behind the plate.
This is, in my view, a waste of two roster spots on guys who apparently mesmerized Hoyer and the brass during Spring Training. Rios put up a .944 OPS in 44 spring at-bats and Torrens 1.021 in 22 spring at-bats with two home runs. To which I say, “So what?” The team apparently didn’t want to expose Torrens to waivers, but again, so what? He’s a marginal MLB talent and clearly David Ross doesn’t want to play him behind the plate, with just a handful of innings there in 15 games.
Rios has options remaining. At the very least, Jed, please send him to Triple-A Iowa and get Christopher Morel back in the big leagues. Morel is hitting .378/.500/.822 (17-for-45) in 12 games for Iowa with six doubles, a triple and four home runs. Plus, Morel can play multiple positions, including center field if the team wants to give Bellinger a break every now and again. Morel isn’t a great center fielder, but the Cubs don’t really have anyone else on the current 26-man roster who can play the position at all.
As for Torrens, there has to be a point at which most other teams will have enough of a roster crunch that the Cubs could DFA him, expose him to waivers and have him clear and send him to Iowa. Or maybe trade him at that point and get a useful prospect. At that point, bring Nelson Velázquez back to Chicago, it’s a waste to have him playing Triple-A ball at this point. Velázquez is hitting .364/.432/.697 (12-for-33) at Iowa with three home runs, and of course that 3-for-4 day with a grand slam at Wrigley against the Mariners last week.
The Cubs are off to a fine start at 9-6 and have won eight of 11, so maybe the current thought is, “Don’t mess with success.” But this roster has clear imbalances and these two moves would be a good way of addressing them.
The Cubs should...
This poll is closed
... keep Edwin Rios and Luis Torrens right where they are
... send Rios to Iowa and bring up Christopher Morel
... waive or DFA Torrens and bring up Nelson Velázquez
... do both of the moves above
... do something else besides the moves noted above (leave in comments)