Next Cubs call-up could be Adrian Cardenas

Next Cubs call-up could be Adrian Cardenas

I mentioned this in my minor league recap, but I'm beginning to wonder if Adrian Cardenas might be the next Cubs call up.  He's raking at Iowa .338/.391/.584.

Anthony Rizzo has called him the best hitter on the team.  That's high praise.  Not only is Rizzo a good hitter himself, but the AAA team is stacked with good offensive players.

With Cubs fans growing impatient for some kind of change, the Cubs have their hands tied with some of their players.  Rizzo is hitting the ball well, but calling him up a couple of  months early makes a big difference in his service time.  If the Cubs wait until July with Rizzo (and Brett Jackson, for that matter), they'll save themselves a lot of money down the road.  When it comes to re-signing these players once they're in their prime and the Cubs are actually (hopefully) contending, they'll have bought themselves an extra year when it matters.

I don't think the Cubs have similar concerns with Cardenas.  He's a good hitter but he's probably not going to be a star player.  He doesn't play great defense or possess great speed or have 20 HR power.  His only above average tool is his bat and while he can be an offensive upgrade over Darwin Barney, and certainly Blake DeWitt, it's not likely he's going to command a huge salary in the future, even if he does end up a starter.  And in the small chance he does end up being that kind of player, then I'm sure the Cubs won't be disappointed anyway.

Cardenas is zeroing in on 1000 ABs in AAA.  There isn't much more he can prove down there.  There isn't any more minor league development needed.  He's also on the 40 man roster, so the Cubs wouldn't have to bump someone off  to make room.

The Cubs could use another lefty bat off the bench and Cardenas can play multiple positions.  The Cubs recently lost a reliable lefty bat for an indefinite period of time in Steve Clevenger and Blake DeWitt is hitting  just .120 so far this season with one extra base hit.  Add in his mediocre defense, average speed, and limited on-base skills and he has little value to the team if he isn't hitting.

The Cubs got this right the first time when they waived DeWitt in order to pick up Cardenas before spring training.  Manager Dale Sveum seemed to favor the veteran from the start, however, and when DeWitt got off to a hot start while Cardenas slumped early on, the Cubs ultimately decided to keep DeWitt after all.

It's only April but DeWitt hasn't shown at any point in his career that he can be a starting caliber player or even a valuable hitter off the bench.  The Cubs have had multiple opportunities to trade him.  Toronto and Philadelphia were looking for a 2nd baseman earlier in the year and now Tampa Bay has lost an infielder, but the sad truth is that even those teams aren't willing to give up anything for DeWitt.

While it's too early to bring up the top prospects in Iowa, it's not too early to start bringing in some of the smaller pieces.  Every little bit helps and while we don't know if Cardenas can be a useful player off the bench or perhaps even become a starter somewhere down the line, we can be pretty certain that Blake DeWitt won't.  It's time to give Cardenas his shot.



Filed under: Roster decisions


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  • fb_avatar

    Barney hasn't been terrible this season. Can Cardenas play a halfway decent 3rd base? I seem to remember that there have been questions about his defense, but Stewart is just killing the Cubs offensively.

  • In reply to Sandy Johnston:

    He can play 3rd, but it's not time to give up on Stewart yet. Just bring him up for now and give him some ABs at 2B, 3B, LF and let him see if he can earn some playing time from there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Bring him up at what price, DeWitt. Do it, NOW!

  • In reply to Sandy Johnston:

    I also think that ideally you'd like more power from 3B. Cardenas has extra base power, but I think his bat profiles better at 2B.

  • Since there both around the same age this not a matter of youth.
    I think Adrian should be given a chance as soon as a taker can
    be found for Dewitt

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Not sure there's a taker out there for him. Not much value there right now. If DeWitt were 3 years older, he'd be gone already. Only thing keeping him here is his youth.

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    I'm sold. Good article John!

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:


  • Now we're talking! Notice that DeWitt is in the starting line up tonight? I guess Theo/Jed are trying to get DeWitt to get going so that they can get something for him...

  • In reply to pkm613:

    They'll need a lot of luck with that. I think if he'd been hitting well, there would have been a chance they could have dealt him to a needy team.

  • Two points/questions:
    John, do you think Cardenas might profile as a Todd Walker-like performer at 2B or is that too high of an expectation?
    Secondly, do you see Ian Stewart & Volstad as two guys whose numbers don't accurately reflect how they've performed? I know Volstad's FIP & xFIP have been much lower than his ERA. In Stewart's case, without checking his BABIP, it seems like he's hit into some tough luck.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    I don't think that's too high an expectation. Both lefties with a good approach and extra base power. I think that's what you'd hope he'd become.

    I feel more certain with Volstad, but I do think Stewart has made some nice contact. His BABIP has been right around .200, which is very low and it's certain to get better, but I'm not sure that'll be enough to bail him out. We'll have to see.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    With regards to Stewart, I think we have to assume he has a pretty long leash , due to his defensive skills, if nothing else.
    If he sticks around the .200 BA area without massive power, how long will management stick it out? If they bail, what are the realistic alternatives, in the near term?

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    In the near term, they'd probably use Baker. Maybe Cardenas or DeWitt get some time there. Not a whole lot, which is another reason Stewart gets a long leash.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Please,please not Baker or Dewitt in for Stewart. If thats the best we have to play 3rd base, then maybe we need to get somebody. 3B is a Most Important position..,and hard to find by my accounts. Stick with Stewart, especially into the warmer weather.

  • Mather and Clevenger?

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I don't think the Cubs consider them major league starters to begin with, and both would be playing out of position.

  • fb_avatar

    Yes I too would like to see Mather get a chance after the spring he had. It is really amazing how bad Soto and Stewart have been. I like Stewart's defense but I hope we don't have to watch them another month not add any offense to this Cubs team.

  • John,

    As always your right on top of things, or more accurately, one step ahead of things. Darwin Barney's OPS as of right now is 668, two points off of what he posted last year. Do you think it's possible that they could bring up Cardenas and START (or platoon) him? It seems likely that Cardenas would be an improvement over Barney, especially offensively, and Barney would make a nice bench player.

    Another thing: About a week ago, Baker and Mather were both in the lineup and Baker was playing 1B, Mather 3B--that seemed a little odd to me, since 3B is Baker's natural position and Mather hasn't played more than 5 games in a season there since short-season ball. Then, a few days after that, Sveum commented that he was trying to avoid playing Baker regularly at 3B.

    Mather has looked surprisingly good at 3B and CF. Is it inconceivable that he could play 3B on a regular basis, should Stewart still be sub-Mendoza at the All-Star Break? (with Barney or someone else playing 3B on days when Maholm is pitching) I have no delusions about Mather being Babe Ruth, but it seems possible that he could put up enough offense to play regularly. (Some guys' careers get stalled out because of a few untimely slumps plus the difficulty playing off the bench.) The Cubs are going to need to have some RH bats with pop, and there aren't a whole lot of good candidates.

    If Mather could bring glove at 3B to hang there, we might be able to have something like this in August:

    Campana, CF
    Cardenas, 2B
    Castro, SS
    LaHair, LF
    Rizzo, 1B
    Mather, 3B
    Dejesus, RF (or Jackson, CF--move LaHair to RF and Campana to LF)
    Castillo, C (or Soto if he's still there)

    As another commenter pointed out a week or so ago, Soriano has a sub-700 OPS over the last calendar year and his days seem to be numbered.

    I don't think Stewart will survive past the ASB unless he shows some improvement on offense.

    They really ought to bring up Cardenas or Vilbuena, as well as Rizzo, asap, and replace Barney and Sori in the every day lineup--two guys who haven't hit anything over the last calendar year.

  • Lahair is a late bloomer, who has been given a chance, why not Mather? Both may yet struggle, but niether have the of feel of being lucky hitters. Rather, both have the look of major players who know that they belong.

  • There is no viable reason that Mather has not been given more playing time. He is an interesting player if you look behind the numbers.
    He played tremendous for the Cardinals in AA and AAA in 2007 and 2008. He was a versatile legit prospect. In 08 he had an OPS over 1.000, got called up to the bigs, and was holding his own until he shredded his wrist. Since that time he has had 4 surgeries over a 3 year period trying to fix it, and he attempted to play through it. He now says he is 100% pain free, and you can tell by the rips he is taking at the plate.
    To me, this shows the problem you have when you wind up playing guys like Byrd, Soriano, Soto, DeWitt and Baker, because we have to try and keep their value so we can get something for them in a trade.
    You might just be losing value you didn't know you had in a player like Mather, because you never give him a shot, because we might miss Soriano's 3 week hot streak. Same can be said for Cardenas down on the farm. Look at LaHair. I find it a nasty catch 22 the Cubs are in right now.

  • One strategic issue that management could run into with some of the lineup changes that people are proposing( Cardenas to 2B, Rizzo to 1B with LaHair to LF) is that the defense might suffer a bit. Jed & Theo made a big deal about touting an improved defense but the sheer nightmare that is this offense might force their hands a bit.

  • In reply to Carl9730:

    That may be true but I also think they're just giving veterans more than a month to perform.

  • Mather hasn't been a good player except for this spring and it shouldn't be that one good spring and bad April month by veterans means they lose their job.

    These veterans deserve a chance to try and get themselves straightened out. Can't have free agents coming here and thinking if some 29 year old career minor leaguer has a great spring and I get off to a slow start I'm getting benched.

    We're dealing with very small sample sizes here. I guarantee you this front office isn't going to make decisions based on someone's good March and someone else's bad April. They don't work that way. Nor should they.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    There you go being reasonable again. I have a little Harry in me "oohh he popped it up!" I would find more playing time for Mather until he shows me he that cannot produce.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Haha! I do want to see some of these guys play, but I understand sticking to the long term plan. I"m also okay with him getting in an extra game here and there more than originally planned. He can sub for Stewart on some days and in any of the 3 OF positions. If he starts showing he should be in there more they can gradually increase his PT, especially if veterans continue their slumps through May and June.

    But really I see Baker getting first crack before Mather. He's been a vet in this league and he's bided his time as a decent bat off the bench. He's probably still the better player right now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Absolutely agree with you about not Cubs not giving up on Stewart yet. I don't think they would make a change prior to the end of June or so, and he'd have to be below the Mendoza line at that point. But, it's not inconceivable that that could happen. Stewart has never been that consistent and his career numbers couldn't be considered good. He's not going to pay off unless he takes a step forward. We need to give him a chance to do that, but at some point if he continues like this they'll have to pull the plug, too.

    What about a guy like Vilbuena at 3B? What do we know about his glove? He's failed a few MLB trials but has really tore up AAA over the last 3 years or so, and is still pretty young. Looks like he might be capable of a 360+ OBP and 12-14 HR, which would be okay if he could handle the position defensively.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Even at the end of ST, I though Mather was a waste of a spot on the 40-man, let alone the active roster, but he's made a believer out of me.

    The fact is, he's struggled with injuries over the last several seasons and has still hit enough at AAA to make you think he has a shot at being okay as a regular.

    Plus, the WAY he plays, and the way he dominated in ST make me think he's put things together more than in the past. There are occasionally guys like him who pan out, and I like his chances.

  • fb_avatar

    john, do you think vitters may be on theo and jeds mind yet, i know he may struggle a bit if called up but i would think he would hit better then 200 like stewart is,,,, dont get me wrong i like stewart i just think he needs pushed or maybe more pt for mather

  • In reply to Bryan Bell:

    I don't have a lot of faith in Vitters right now. He's not hitting for power and he's not getting on base in a hitters league. And he's not tearing it up as far as batting average either. I think he'll get eaten alive by more advanced pitchers who will exploit his aggressiveness right now. He needs to master AAA first. And I'm not even going to mention the drop in defense.

    I don't think it's fair to yank veterans after a month. We see vets have bad Aprils and turn it around all the time. If they give Mather some ABs here and there, that's one thing. I don't mind that. I just don't think he should be given someone's job based on one month.

  • A trade of Dewitt for Cardenas on the roster is just nipping around the edges as far as roster construction goes.

    I get the point about improving the offense some, but the real benefit to making this change, if the Cubs have the guts to pull the string, is that it creates competition in an effort to get Barney to step up his game.

    Right now, he is a singles hitter, with no power, no speed, who is adverse to taking a walk.

    I think a guy like Crdenas could get Barney to improve, or if not, take ABs away in an effort to improve run production from the 2B slot.

    In the long run, I do not believe that either player figures into the Cubs plans, so this is a secondary topic since we have yet to reach the point of moving onto the next step of this regimes master plan.

  • In reply to JK1969:

    Barney plays hard, I don't think he can play any harder than he already does. There's just a limit as to how good he can be.

    Cardenas is just a more realistic call up, since calling up guys like Jackson or Rizzo really isn't worth talking about for a couple of months. It's not going to happen. Patience is the key to this rebuild. The Cubs need to do it right, not the way Hendry would call up players to placate fans when they would get restless out the team (i.e. Castro).

  • Do not know if there is one right way to build a winner.

    I get that you are telegraphing what Theo is intending to do, but from my vantage point, if there is someone at AA or AAA that is better than the guy at the ML level, I would make the move right now.

    I get teh economics pay intot hese kinds of decisions, but the Cubs are not the Oakland 's, so start a players clock one yr later is just a data point as the Cubs have plenty of payroll room.

    I have never liked or embraced how economics have changed the game (in fact it is still a point of consternation), but since americans have no problem paying the prices they do to enjoy the game that I still love so much, I think it affords the Cubs some room to make decisions sooner than a smaller budget franchise has the latitidue to make.

  • In reply to JK1969:

    I understand the argument, and yes, the Cubs are a big market team that kind afford a high payroll. But isn't it better to spend the money when it makes sense instead of because you can? In six years, when the Cubs are winning division title after division title, won't you be happier knowing that Rizzo and BJax have an extra year of club control than worrying whether we can resign them?

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    When do you know when it makes sense?

    We are always operating from a point of less than perfect information, so when it makes sense depends on who is in charge, wouldn't you agree?

    I like your optimism, but do not share it. this game is very difficullt to effect a sustainable model that leads to winning year after year. The number of unexpected/unplanned changes in player performance will always make sustained winning an elusive outcome.

  • In reply to JK1969:

    Well, one only knows when it makes sense in hindsight, but then it's too late.

    So, I am guessing you believe that Theo's goal of "consistent contention" is somewhat of a pipe dream. Yes, it is difficult to achieve - it's baseball - but Atlanta managed to win division title after division title for a good decade.

    Waiting on Rizzo and BJax is IMHO the most flexible option. They will still be under cost control when the Cubs are a better club, allowing TJ to spend money to fill the necessary holes, instead of money to avoid the holes caused by Rizzo and BJax potentially leaving "early" as FAs.

  • In reply to JK1969:

    I'm not a big fan of the economics either, but I also doesn't think it makes a whole lot of sense to spend millions of dollars later and have your player become a free agent one year sooner-- just to call him up 2 months early in a season where you're almost certainly going nowhere anyway.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    when I was a younger man, I subscribed to your thought process. I am no long that man, and I have become a believer of being assertive and subscribing to riskier approach.

    think of Dallas Green and u will understand how I would operate a franchise.

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