Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

kris bryant iowa watchingIf the Chicago Cubs are going to carry Welington Castillo for much longer, they’re going to need to add a positional player to the roster. After Tommy La Stella hit the disabled list, the entirety of the Cubs’ bench consists of Jonathan Herrera (unless you’re counting him the starter at third, which he essentially has been since Mike Olt’s injury … in which case, list Olt here, and note that he’s hurt), David Ross, Welington Castillo, and Matt Szczur.

Seriously. That’s it. You already knew that, but perhaps you hadn’t really looked at it quite that plainly. It can’t last. Chris Coghlan has had to play in the infield two nights in a row, late in close games.

That said, I think yesterday’s decision to promote reliever Zac Rosscup when La Stella went down was not only a brilliant maneuver, it was also the right one. The bullpen had been heavily taxed in the early going (something about which I’d written earlier in the day yesterday), and a supplemental arm was needed. The Cubs were playing without La Stella anyway at that point, so why not put him on the DL and get that arm? Rosscup, by the way, went 1.1 innings last night, allowing no runs or hits, walking one, and striking out two. His presence, both as relief for the relievers and as a second lefty, was necessary.

The “brilliant maneuver” part, of course, ties in to that other third baseman in the picture: Kris Bryant. As soon as Mike Olt was hurt, and the extent of Tommy La Stella’s issue was revealed, the calls for Bryant began. But the timing was a problem – the Cubs could probably have used Bryant as early as a few days ago, but they won’t have secured an extra years of team control until Friday.* It was possible that the injuries would see Bryant called up a little earlier than planned, but not before Friday. Until then, we all figured, the Cubs would simply have to play shorthand, and look a little awkward in the process if/when they called up Bryant to replace a guy who was placed on the DL only after sitting on the bench and not playing for a week.

As I said, the Rosscup call-up and La Stella DL move makes complete sense even if there was no Bryant stuff to consider. The bullpen needed an arm, and La Stella’s injury was inhibiting the Cubs’ roster. It’s just that, because of the way it played out, in conjunction with the speculated Bryant timing, it’s now looking like an extra wise move.

So, the door is open for Bryant to come up as soon as Friday or Saturday, and for it to look like completely legitimate timing: (1) there’s an injury or two at third base, (2) the bullpen will have been well spelled and rested, and (3) the Cubs can’t keep playing with such a crazy short bench.

Will Bryant actually come to Wrigley Field on Friday or Saturday? Theo Epstein isn’t going to say, and you can read his comments here, here, and here. It depends on the roster, and it depends on Bryant’s development.

The guess here is that the preference is still to wait for that road trip that starts on Monday to call up Bryant, and maybe the injuries have accelerated the call-up from late in that trip to the very beginning. If Olt is healthy enough to start by today, I think the Cubs end up waiting for that road trip, and might bring up another positional player to help the bench through the Padres series this weekend.

If Olt cannot start today, however, then there’s a real chance that he, too, sees the DL come Friday, and, in that specific scenario, I think you would see Bryant called up on Friday. Just to be clear: I am completely speculating, based on nothing more than the roster configuration.

*(As we discussed yesterday, there is some debate about whether a tiebreaker game 163 would extend the year for service time purposes, meaning that calling Bryant up on Friday would be a risk. From a reading of the CBA, and from asking around, my understanding is that a game 163 does not extend the season for service time purposes. But, because there is a credible report out there to the contrary, I’m just going to leave the issue alone for now. We’ll cross that bridge again only if Bryant is actually called up on Friday, which, as I’ve said, I’m not necessarily anticipating.)

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