Listen, I know what Jed Hoyer just said. And I know that my colleague/Twitter nemesis Gunther Dabynsky would curse me for even thinking what I'm thinking here, let alone committing it to print. But since I reside somewhere between nostalgic Cubs honk and uninformed meatball, I'm going to go ahead and risk those slings and arrows.
So here goes: Why not call Baez up now or at least prior to September?
In talking with Kap and Haugh the other day, Hoyer reiterated the statements he made after the deadline-day win over the Rockies, the one in which we saw Emilio Bonifacio hug it out after receiving news that he was headed to Atlanta. In case you didn't click the link, here's what Hoyer had to say:
We’re not going to change our timetable on any of the prospects based on a move we’ve made at the big-league level. When we feel like those guys are ready, and they can contribute, we’ll do that.
Certainly, a deal like this doesn’t speed that along.
Okay, that's pretty clear. Or is it? He's not saying the Cubs won't be bringing Baez up soon, just that the move itself won't result in a knee-jerk reaction. Of course, Boni wasn't the only middle infielder the Cubs jettisoned either. Darwin Barney was DFA'ed and then given a soft landing in Los Angeles.
In case you're counting, that's two guys who can play second base, the position at which Baez has been getting a lot of time lately. Just as Arismendy Alcantara's move to CF precipitated a call-up earlier in the season, Baez's shift is certainly an indicator that the Cubs are tracking him that way.
Bonifacio had also been getting some time at 3B, but with the trade and Mike Olt's demotion, it would appear that Luis Valbuena has got the hot corner on lock for the most part. And with Junior Lake struggling mightily, both at the plate and in the field, one would think that Alcantara would see a bulk of the starts in center.
So that leaves second open for Baez, right? Well, not really. The Cubs recalled utilityman Chris Valaika from AAA Iowa to fill the roster spot vacated by Bonifacio and he will be with the team in Los Angeles. Valaika has played every infield spot for Iowa (with 52 games at 1B) and has even logged a couple games in the outfield.
This move appears to be essentially an audition for a spot on next year's team as a jack-of-all-trades. Valaika's pretty handy with the bat, slashing 278/.344/.423 with 21 doubles and 10 home runs in 352 at-bats in AAA. He's had stints with the Marlins and Reds as well, though the 127 AB's don't provide an adequate sample to truly judge his .244/.281/.362 and two home runs.
So Hoyer says they'll promote Baez when they feel he's ready and can contribute. I'm no scout, clearly, and the only reports I receive on Baez are through the interwebs. But from what I can gather, he's been pretty darn good every since Tommy Cook wrote this prescient post a few months ago.
But beyond Javier Baez's ability to contribute now, I'm looking at his ability to be a cornerstone in the future. It's well known that the guy struggles with each new promotion through the system; that was actually the crux of Tommy's piece. If we assume that the same will be true of his promotion to Chicago, why not get it over with now?
Rather than wait for next year, when the Cubs could conceivably field a team that isn't an abject disaster, they could call Javy up and give him a couple months to adjust to the Bigs. It took him into May, several weeks into the season, to regain his form at AAA. It's oversimplifying things, but I'll say that it could well take the same amount of time to find his footing with the Cubs.
And what if he's called up in September and slumps, but doesn't find his way back out by season's end. Do those struggles stick with him and affect him psychologically? By all accounts, Baez's prodigious confidence rivals his prolific skill, but the human psyche is a fragile thing.
At the end of the day, I will defer to the Cubs' braintrust; mostly because I have to until they give me control of the team. But they know the development plan for these kids at a level that I can only imagine, and they're not going to put Javy's career at risk.
So while I'm glad that Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein are kowtowing to the business logic for calling Baez up, the meatball in me is still screaming out for them to do so. I love what Anthony Rizzo has done for this team and I love what 'Mendy is doing, both on the field and in the community.
I have been told not to fall in love with Jake Arrieta, but he's quickly earning himself a spot in my fan's heart. But with all the talk about the future and the young guys, I can't help but feel that it's time we all get the chance to see what all the hype is about. And I Javy funny feeling that we might see Baez before too long.
What do you think? Should Baez come up now or should the Cubs keep him down at Iowa? Should he come up in September or at the start of the season? We'd love to hear from you, so fill up those comment boxes.
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