As we talk about which player or players will be the last one or two to make the Chicago Cubs’ Opening Day 25-man roster, we don’t always say it explicitly, so let me say it here: injuries could change everything.
You know that to be true, of course, but we don’t talk about it that much since we can’t know who might get injured in the future, throwing everything into chaos. Still, it does happen to some teams every year, and an injury at the margins could dramatically change how we think about who will get the final spot on the Cubs.
With Tommy La Stella, Matt Szczur, and Munenori Kawasaki fighting for a final spot (or two, if the Cubs go with only seven relievers) on the big league bench, Baez heading to the DL to start the year could open up an additional spot. Given that Baez is the primary backup at shortstop, it’s possible that Kawasaki would be the preferred option in that case. As we’ve discussed, he’s not only a fun guy to have around, but he’s also a very capable 25th man type player.
Baez’s DL stint can be backdated to his last Cactus League game, so, if he is held out for this whole final week, he can be put on the 15-day DL, and brought back very soon after the season begins. So, then, there wouldn’t be a lot of lost time either way, and the Cubs would have had just a little extra time to figure out what they want to do with their extra players. You never know what could happen in those few days – maybe someone else gets hurt, and the Cubs were fortunate to be able to keep whoever it is they kept because of the Baez situation.
Hopefully Baez is fine within a day or two, and this all becomes moot. As much as you might like to see the Cubs hang onto everyone, a healthy Baez is far more important to the team in 2016.
*You may recall that Baez broke a finger last year at AAA Iowa on a headfirst slide, a mere day or two before he was set to be called back up to the big league club. I will now hold my breath for a week every time I see him slide headfirst.