With a few series against American League teams in their parks on the horizon, it’s fair to start wondering: who’s going to be the Cubs’ designated hitter?
As presently-constructed, the Cubs’ bench has a platoon bat or two, but not much in the way of a guy you can slot right in and count on getting much production (such is the problem for most NL teams, frankly). Is it possible, then, that the Cubs could look to dip into the upper minors when the time comes?
Might the Cubs soon be wanting to bring back a guy like Javier Baez anyway?
We’ve spoken a fair bit recently on just how hot Baez has been lately at AAA Iowa, and he keeps improving – his strikeout rate is just 22.7% since May 13, during which time he’s hitting .333/.400/.530. The plan, for now, has been to let Baez continue working on his approach and pitch recognition issues, get into a groove, and then the Cubs would figure out how he fits into the equation when the time was right. With an extra bat needed soon, it’s conceivable that the “right” time could be within the next week or two.
Each of ESPN, the Tribune, and CSN has a piece on the question of Baez at DH when the Cubs play at the Tigers, Indians, Twins for seven games between June 9 and June 21 (there’s also a little discussion of Kyle Schwarber playing that role, and, while I think he could have some success, I doubt the Cubs would be ready to pull the trigger on that just yet – would be a pretty nice limited engagement/cup-of-tea for him, though, eh?). Joe Maddon doesn’t rule anything out, but he also didn’t show his hand as for what the Cubs plan to do at DH in those series.
Setting aside the time boundaries of the DH decision for a moment, there’s the broader question of when the right time is to bring up Baez and where he’ll play. While he’s got the skill set to be a utility type – not only can he play both middle infield positions, but Baez is athletic enough to probably play just about anywhere, and runs the bases extremely well – you’ve got to figure that the preference would be to have Baez starting every day. If that’s going to happen, something fairly significant would have to happen at the big league level to open up a regular spot, be it by way of a trade or moving Kris Bryant to the outfield. I’m not sure either of those things is going to happen imminently, so it’s possible that we might not see Baez back in the big leagues for a little while yet.
At just 22 years old, and with only 31 games played this year, it’s not like he’s languishing at AAA. There’s time.
But, if you’re asking me, I sure wouldn’t mind seeing him up for at least some of that AL action – even if he has to go right back down thereafter.
(While I don’t think service time issues are going to govern the promotion decision on Baez, I know you will ask me, so here’s the back-of-the-napkin calculations: To achieve a full year’s service time between last season and this one, Baez will have to reach 172 days on the big league roster. He currently stands at 55 days, so he’d need 117 days in the big leagues this year to reach his first full year of service time before this season ends. As of today, there are 125 days left in the 2015 season, so, if Baez comes up – and stays up – any time before June 11, he’ll reach a full service year before 2015 is over, and he’ll be under club control through 2020. If, however, he comes up June 11 or later, the Cubs would control Baez through 2021. The Cubs play the Tigers June 9 and 10, then play the Reds and Indians at home before going to Cleveland on June 17.)