It’s a headline question that might’ve seemed meatball-y or clickbait-y just a couple months ago. But, after dominating at AA offensively in a way that suggests he’s a truly special hitter, and, after considering the way the Cubs’ roster shakes out, I don’t think it’s at all crazy to wonder whether we could see Kyle Schwarber up this week (Cubs play in Detroit tomorrow and Wednesday) or next week (Cubs play in Cleveland and Minnesota next Wednesday through Sunday) as the Cubs’ designated hitter for their upcoming AL games.
Let me be quite clear about something up front: if you’re asking me for my expectations here, I would not expect to see Schwarber up when the Cubs head to Detroit tomorrow, or even next week when the Cubs head to Cleveland and then Minnesota.
But, given the roster’s lack of an obvious high-upside DH option, and now with Javier Baez injured, I do think this is a meritorious conversation, rather than a mere intriguing headline.
Even Joe Maddon conceded that Schwarber should be in the conversation for the Cubs’ DH over the next two weeks (CSN). Even though he hasn’t played above AA yet, it’s entirely possible that Schwarber could out-perform – offensively – the Cubs’ other options on the bench.
So, let’s consider some logistical points:
- The 40-man roster stands at just 39, so there’s already an open spot if the Cubs wanted to add Schwarber.
- It’s possible that Schwarber was going to come up at some point later this year, so that addition to the 40-man was going to be necessary anyway. (Further, that would make 2015 Schwarber’s first option year – and I doubt option years wind up mattering for a guy like Schwarber anyway.)
- Although the focus right now remains on developing Schwarber as a catcher, would coming up for a short stint in the big leagues as a DH really inhibit his catching development?
- With eight pitchers in the bullpen right now, it sure seems like the Cubs could drop a pitcher in favor of a bat right now if they were so inclined. That pitcher could come back after the AL games next week if the Cubs felt like things were tight on the pitching side.
- If the Cubs added Schwarber for tomorrow’s game, they would either have to carry him all the way through the Cleveland/Minnesota series from June 17 to 21, or would have to option him down after Wednesday’s game in Detroit, and then not be able to recall him until the final game against the Twins (players optioned cannot be recalled for 10 days unless there’s an injury and they are replacing the injured player on the roster). In other words, the Cubs would realistically have to decide between carrying Schwarber for 13 games, only 7 of which will involve a DH, or waiting to call up Schwarber on June 17 for the five AL park games that follow. The latter seems slightly more realistic than the former, but it’s not like the Cubs couldn’t find a way to use Schwarber’s bat off the bench in those middle six games.
- A promotion to AAA Iowa figures to be coming very soon for Schwarber. I don’t see a lot of harm in promoting him to the bigs right now so the Cubs can use his bat – and he can get a little taste of big league pitching – and then, when optioning him back down, just sending him straight to Iowa. He then continues catching for another month or two, and then the Cubs evaluate whether it’s best for him to come up and help down the stretch. They’d have more data at that point about whether he’s ready for the challenge of big league pitching and whether he can contribute meaningfully.