Fresh off of a five game winning streak, the Chicago Cubs have now lost two games in a row. They have gone back to looking like the team they have been all season before taking advantage of the New York Mets and the Miami Marlins. Optimistic hopes that were flying high, are now starting their descent back to the reality that this is another lost year in which there are few reasons for fans to come spend their money at the ballpark to watch utter rubbish.
The Cubs need to do something to entice the fans to come out to Wrigley Field. They need to give the fans something to be excited about, even though their team is on pace to lose 100 games. There are players on this roster who probably do not belong in Chicago while there are young players tearing up the league down in the minors. While I have been on board with the rebuild from day one, and continue to be on board, the Cubs may very well be taking things too slowly.
Kris Bryant is tearing up Double A, having hit his 22 home run last night. He now leads the minors in home runs. Not just the Cubs minor league system, and not just the Double A level, but the entire minor league baseball system. Bryant has very little to prove where he is at, and should be promoted very soon. If I had my way, a promotion to the Iowa Cubs is not good enough for him, as he should be with the big league club.
While a stop in Iowa is likely before he makes an appearance with the big league club, outside of possibly learning to play the outfield, I do not think he has anything left to learn in the minors. He has already proven that he can destroy baseballs, and though the pitching talent at Triple A is better than that in Double A, I have little doubt that he will continue his dominate play there.
If he were to go to Triple A, he would have to move to right field as Christian Villanueva is currently playing third base, and the outfield is the predicted position for Bryant anyway once he reaches the big leagues. Learning a new position at the Major League level is not advisable, but I would support a move like this because I feel he is ready to destroy baseballs at the Major League level.
If the Cubs are desperate (and they are) they can just slide him in at third base. That means Mike Olt would need to go, unless the Cubs do decide to throw Bryant immediately into right field. While not advisable, I would be fine with that. However, if the Cubs do decide to play Bryant at third, the Cubs should then send Olt down to Double A because he needs to play every day, and that is something he cannot do at Triple A with Villanueva there. That would be a massive demotion though for Olt, and might not be the best for his career if the Cubs still felt that he had a place on this team in the future. I would personally keep Olt here and play him every day at third.
That means another player has to go. The Cubs have a number of outfielders who are expendable, but with Bryant moving to right field, the main target would be Nate Schierholtz. Trade him for whatever you can get, which will not be much. But that does not matter because Bryant would be getting all the starts anyway. Better a trade than a designation for assignment, but a spot is needed. They could remove Chris Coghlan or Justin Ruggiano from the roster and make Schierholtz a bench player for now as well. Personally, I am not picky which of them go as long as a spot opens for Bryant.
If the Cubs wanted to temporarily avoid removing one of the current outfielders, thy have the option to remove a pitcher. While Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel are both likely to be traded in a matter of time, an immediate fix would be to send Justin Grimm to the minors. Nothing against him, but I would rather keep Brian Schlitter. Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez and Hector Rondon. His demotion would only be temporary though, and would immediately return as soon as either Samardzija or Hammel are traded. I still hold out hope though that the Cubs will keep them as I feel both have tremendous talent and can help the team beyond this year.
Sending down Grimm, however, would only spare the extra outfielder briefly as Ryan Sweeney is due to return shortly as well. That would surely spell doom for one of the extra outfielders or bullpen arms. Whichever order that happens really does not matter. Just get Bryant up here now.
Another player who the Cubs should elevate to the majors is Javier Baez. While he is currently having a rough go in Triple A, I think he belongs in the majors and should start his Major League career immediately. This would also require a roster move; one that would see the Cubs say goodbye their gold glove second baseman Darwin Barney.
If you are a fan of Barney, I am sorry but I do not believe he has a future in Chicago; at least not with the Cubs. As good as he is defensively, he is as bad with he bat. In the Cubs current lineup, he is a liability, one that the Cubs do not have enough offensive fire power to support what is almost an automatic out. Even if the Cubs ad Bryant, I do not believe they still have enough to cover for Barney’s ineptness with the bat. The Cubs would be best suited to replace him as soon as possible, moving him for whatever they can get and sliding Baez into his spot at second base.
While Olt could also be seen as an automatic out at the moment, he offers something that Barney does not. He offers something this Cubs lineup desperately needs, and that is power. Even though Olt and Barney both struggle to make consistent contact, when Olt does, he has a far better chance to send the ball into the stands because of his raw power. Add in that he has a far better chance of being a part of the Cubs future than Barney, and the choice is even more obvious. Olt deserves a spot on this roster going forward far more than Barney does at this point in time.
Much like with Bryant, Baez will be learning to play his new position in the majors which is usually not a good idea. However, in the Cubs current position that may not be a bad thing. Unfortunately, 2014 is a lost year, so why not let your players grow and learn at the Major League level if they have shown that they are ready to contribute, and deserve to be there? The downside to a move like this is minimal and might actually have much more upside.
If these two moves are made, imagine the Cubs lineup? With Anthony Rizzo at first, you would have Baez at second, Starlin Castro at short, Olt in at third with an outfield of Bryant, Emilio Bonifacio and Junior Lake. I am not sure about you, but that would get me excited and have me desiring a trip to Wrigley Field to watch this team play. Win or lose, the games would be fun and I would be watching the future grow right before my eyes!
If the Cubs feel that because of his struggles, that Baez should remain in the minors a little while longer that is fine. They have someone who they can call up to play second base for Barney, who does not have to learn a new position.
Arismendy Alcantara is playing very well in Iowa right now, and could also be worthy of a promotion to the big leagues. As a natural second baseman, he would not need to learn a new position, and could slide right in with out the Cubs missing a step. He would also be a big upgrade over Barney.
While there is not room or both Baez and Alcantara on the roster, there is definitely room for one of them and I would be more than happy to see either one replace the all glove- no bat player we currently have in Barney. Both of them would be able to give the Cubs a better chance to win, and give their fan something to get excited about.
Of course, this is likely all fantasy as I am not sure the Cubs are willing to do something as drastic and visionary as this. Not even when the “Super Two” date passes, I am not sure the Cubs would be willing to bring any of these kids up to the big league roster. That is a shame in my eyes, because I am not sure any of them (especially Bryant) have anything left to prove in the minors.
I understand service time is very important, but so is experience. I would rather have the kids who are knocking on and knocking down the door to the majors finish their training at the big league level in a year that is pretty much over rather than in a fresh year where there is still actual hope to be a contender. Let them get through their growing pains when the season does not matter instead of when the season is still on the line.