javier baez cubs gloveJavier 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.



First and foremost, because his 15-day stint can be backdated into Spring Training, he would be required to spend only a few games on the disabled list before he could be activated again – and maybe that wouldn’t be the worst thing for him at this point, as he’d be able to get in a full week of game action at extended Spring Training to gear up for a return.

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).



I should say, one spot on the bench left … if the Cubs carry eight relievers. The last two guys in that fight are Neil Ramirez (out of minor league options) and Manny Parra (minor league deal, retention bonus to keep). The guess here is still that the Cubs will keep one of the two and open the season with eight relievers (probably Ramirez), but, if they go instead with just seven, then another from that Szczur/La Stella/Kawasaki trio can make the team.

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.

Got it?

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.



It’s certainly possible that the Cubs decide they can’t afford to lose Szczur right now (perhaps if Dexter Fowler’s side starts yelping more seriously), in which case they could option La Stella to Iowa for the time being, or could send Kawasaki there, assuming they feel comfortable with Ben Zobrist as the back-up shortstop.

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.

UPDATE: Baez will indeed head to the DL, and Szczur, Ramirez, and La Stella make the team.




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