It's no secret that the Cubs have been reworking the organization from the ground up, nor that the result of said overhaul has been a Major League roster full of has-beens and never-will-bes. And while several reclamation projects have come and gone, leaving a bevy of new prospects in their wake, other players have come and stayed past their welcome.
One such player was Darwin Barney, a great clubhouse guy who simply didn't have the bat to stick with an offensively-challenged team. After designating him, however, the Cubs were able to move him for a prospect and Darwin might just be better for it.
But when it comes to players feeling like Cousin Eddie from Christmas Vacation, Nate Schierholtz is at the top of the list. After a breakout 2013, during which he established career highs in homers (21) and RBI (68), many were calling for the Cubs to sell high.
Alas, when Spring Training rolled around, so did Schierholtz (referred to derogatorily as Sureoutz) in his tenement on wheels. It almost looked at times as though he was actively trying to prove that last season was a fluke, as his offensive numbers dropped to career low nadirs: .192/.240/.300.
In a final act of poetic justice, Schierholtz came into last night's game as a pinch hitter in the 9th inning and promptly grounded into a double play.
While the activation of Kyuji Fujikawa from the 60-day DL necessitated Nate's designation, one can't help but wonder whether another move or two might be right around the bend. In keeping with my favored home-building analogy, I liken this to clearing out the weeds and brush in order to put in some landscaping.
Schierholtz was serving as little more than ground cover, preventing the erosion of valuable topsoil. In other words, his role was temporary and highly expendable, particularly when the Cubs have other young players making noise in the minors, one of whom just happens to play the same position as Schierholtz.
I am not saying that this move was made specifically to clear a path for Jorge Soler, but it certainly sets up a convenient set of circumstances. Prior to the big news of Javier Baez's promotion on Monday, Soler was odds-on favorite to join the Cubs first.
The emerging leadership qualities of players like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, not to mention the presence of other hyped prospects already up in Chicago, serve to ease the pressure on each new kid who comes up. And Soler figures to be the next of those new kids, which would be a welcome sight in the rightfield corner.
So vaya con Dios, Nate Schierholtz. It's been real. And here's to hoping we get to say "hola" to a replacement sooner than later. Besides, if the Cubs plan on installing new lighting as part of the renovation, they'd do well to utilize Soler power.
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