Rookie Arismendy Alcantara, who hit his first home run Sunday, will remain with the Cubs through the first series after the All-Star break against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
This is the second time that Alcantara’s stay in the big league has been extended a series. I honestly cannot think of a time where a position player has been strung along like this with his status in the major leagues extended on a per series basis.
— Mauricio Rubio Jr. (@MRubio52) July 14, 2014
If it isn’t funny, it is at least interesting to note how the Cubs ended up at this point. Arismendy Alcantara first came up to fill in for Darwin Barney‘s paternity leave. Calling up Arismendy Alcantara was met with some surprise in the first place. The Cubs had options to cover the spots for two days without calling up a top prospect. Luis Valbuena is more than capable of playing 2B and Mike Olt could play 3B for two days without any major effect on the roster. The Cubs had the versatile Logan Watkins on the 40 man roster already and have not shown issue in having Watkins sit at the end of a major league bench. Instead they called up Alcantara and started him two days.
And then Alcantara had a big game right before he was supposed to be sent down. The Cubs delayed his eventual option due to some roster machinations with the All-Star break approaching. The Cubs carried between three or four starting pitchers to accommodate their nine and ten-man bullpens while keeping Alcantara up in the big leagues. Then with Alcantara continuing to hit, he was granted a reprieve through the next series due to the team not needing to add a fourth starter until after the off day following the Arizona series.
Now none of these moves have been terribly surprising. The only move that was started by something outside of the Cubs control was Barney going on paternity leave, but the Cubs always had the option to cleverly send down various starters after their go in Cincinnati. So why has the message been that Alcantara is only guaranteed staying through the next series?
The Cubs clearly have viewed Arismendy Alcantara as a top prospect longer than outside observers. The club has put him in positions to succeed, and basically gave away a legitimate prospect in Ronald Torreyes to clear his path around Javier Baez. The confusion comes when comparing the message the front office has delivered about other top prospects’ promotion to the big leagues. The message has always been carefully crafted about calling prospects up once they are most ready and most likely to stick in the big leagues. The message about players stay in the big league has even been clear with less than top prospects. Dallas Beeler was told ahead of time that he was going to be sent down right after his start.
The outward message might be to other teams as they desperately try to find teams willing to take Darwin Barney or Nate Schierholtz off the roster, but even if that was the case, why the cloak and dagger about Alcantara? The Cubs could easily make room for the impending arrival of a fourth and fifth starter by sending down Zac Rosscup and Brian Schlitter. Both are nice relief pitchers, but the Cubs could easily make do without those arms for ten days. And if the Cubs want to carry nine relief pitchers they can manage that without any other roster moves for a while. The Cubs won’t need a fifth starter until July 27th due to the off day on July 21.
I am at a bit of loss for the confusing end date to Alcantara’s time in the big leagues. There does not seem to be any incentive to be less than clear about whether Alcantara is up for the rest of the year or not. The Cubs will not lose any leverage in dealing spare parts like Barney or Schierholtz with Alcantara on the roster. There is an argument to be made for sending Junior Lake or Mike Olt down if there is question of finding playing time. There really is no explanation for the Cubs continuing Alcantara’s stay three games at a time.