Javier Baez has been out for more than a week after suffering a jammed left thumb on a headfirst slide at first base, and it’s still not known if he’s going to be available for the start of the season.
Although Baez is able to play catch, the concern at this point is whether he’ll have enough time to get in more at bats and more time in the outfield to be ready to contribute right out of the gate (CSN, ESPN, Tribune). It’s an unfortunate injury for a key reserve player, as Baez is set to be the Cubs’ super utility man, as well as the top back-up at several positions.
That said, the reality is that, if Baez has to start the season on the disabled list, it’s really not a horrible thing.
Secondly, Baez on the DL to start the year buys the Cubs a little more time to make other roster-related decisions, since it frees up a spot on the 25-man roster.
Speaking of which, let’s lay out the scenarios right now with the roster, because it’s all intertwined.
If Baez is healthy, then the Cubs will have just one spot left for the bench, choosing among Matt Szczur (out of minor league options, must pass through waivers before he could be sent to Iowa), Tommy La Stella (best bat of the group, but does have minor league options), and Munenori Kawasaki (on a minor league deal, only one of the trio who can play shortstop).
And if Baez is not healthy/ready enough to start the season on the big league roster, another from that trio can make the team, meaning two or three of that group will be on the bench, depending on whether the Cubs keep that eight reliever.
The best guess here at this point is that Baez starts the season on the DL, even if only for his own protection and preparation, and the Cubs do keep Ramirez on the big league roster. From there, the two bench spots go to Kawasaki (late-inning glove man, pinch runner, etc.) and La Stella (the bat is just so good off the bench), with Szczur being exposed to waivers, and probably being claimed.
We’ll know more on this soon, as the Cubs’ Cactus League slate winds down, and decisions will be made. As more information becomes available, I reserve the right to modify my best guess up there. Also, as always: other injuries can completely change this equation.
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