With a small glimpse at the future already with the big league Chicago Cubs in the form of Arismendy Alcantara, it’s natural to wonder whether the front office will bring up some of his buddies from the minors to join him as well. Alcantara had already been on the 40-man roster anyway, so his call-up was much easier to deal with. Of course, there are more powerful forces lurking in the minors that have some of us Cubs fans very excited…
@dabynsky I’m at this point as well. Disappointed and surprised if he doesn’t get a call at some point this year.
— John Arguello (@CubsDen) August 4, 2014
Yes, it would be great to see if the Cubs, in additional to their expected promotion of Jorge Soler in September (made possible by him being already on the roster and his unique contract situation), also call up a couple other top prospects. For example, as John and Dab are discussing above, why not Javier Baez? Well, Baez unfortunately isn’t on the 40-man yet, and once he’s there, he’s staying there. Currently, the roster is at 39 with Kyuji Fujikawa expected to be activated off the 60-day disabled list to fill up all the spots again. There are many other factors at work for the players on the 40-man that The Cub Reporter discusses at this very informative page.
The arguments against bringing up Baez and Bryant (and other interesting names like Armando Rivero, the reliever who is lights out in Iowa right now) are almost all financial and transactional in nature. You guys pretty much know the drill…the Cubs really want that seventh year of control, they don’t want to burn option years until they have to, they have to keep room on the roster for claims and Rule 5 grab-and-stash moves, etc. For Kris Bryant, that day is probably sometime in late-April/early-May next year, because while he is going bonkers against any baseball that has the misfortune of encountering him, it is almost a guarantee that the Cubs would prefer to have him become a free agent one year later. The late-April call-up would guarantee that, assuming the Cubs don’t care about Super Two (and they shouldn’t, since if Bryant is all he’s cracked up to be, he’s gonna get paid anyway).
For Baez, though, that’s a bit trickier. I think the Cubs may have thought of him as a late-June call-up this season, except for the incredible prolonged slump Javy had to start his season in Iowa. The Cubs kept him at shortstop as long as possible before shifting him to second base pretty much full-time after Alcantara was promoted. Since then, Javy has pulled his OPS over .800 despite the early-season hiccups and he’s played splendid defense at second base…almost as if it makes sense to have a shortstop at every position, but I digress.
Starlin Castro, the incumbent shortstop, fanned the flames a little bit by saying that Baez could probably handle the majors, and also wondered about when Javy would come up. If the Cubs do call Baez up this August/September rather than next spring, then they’re saying they do not care that he becomes a free agent after 2020 instead of 2021. If they do bring Baez up for an audition and the seventh year turns out to be important, then the Cubs would have to option him back to the minors to start 2015, and not call him up until the point when the seventh year is guaranteed, which seems counterproductive. The same is true for Bryant and other guys that could be called up. Once they’re up, they’re on the 40-man forever and while they might get optioned down as some prospects do when slumping, that’s not as likely. When they get to Wrigley, they’re staying.
The other issue is…who’s getting bumped from the roster to make room for Baez? My guess is that Chris Valaika might be the unlucky victim here, even though he was just barely called up before the Dodgers series. I thought that Logan Watkins would have been the obvious guy to call up since Watkins already had a roster spot, but maybe they were doing Valaika a solid by having him play in his hometown. In a pinch, the Cubs can probably cut ties with the expendable outfielders such as Nate Schierholtz, Ryan Sweeney, or even Ryan Kalish who is slumping in Iowa at the moment. This assumes that the Cubs won’t leave a couple spots open to make a few claims here or there, so the actual number that are DFA may be greater than one.
At this point, I don’t really care one way or the other. I think Baez is good enough defensively that he can handle second base, pushing Alcantara to center field or even to a utility role. The bat will probably still make loud noises at Wrigley and elsewhere. Whether he is called up before Iowa’s season is up, or after the Triple-A playoffs, or even makes the team out of spring training, is entirely up to the front office’s assessment of his ability to handle the Show. Right now, signs point to yes. So don’t be surprised to see Javier Baez join Jorge Soler in September, or even earlier. Just don’t be too disappointed if you have to wait until next May, either.