When you begin to tally up the Cubs 25-man roster, you’ll find it easy to reach 23 players before some tougher decisions have to be made.
Although the Cubs have a series of interesting options, populating those final two spots is more than just finding the best player, it’s finding the right one. Experience, fit, leadership, and, most importantly, a complementary skill set are among the the most important factors.
To date, general consensus has had one of Tommy La Stella or Matt Szczur taking the final bench spot, with Neil Ramirez (or another bullpen option) becoming the eighth man in the pen.
Victorino, 35, agreed to a minor league deal with the Cubs back in February, which would have guaranteed $1 million, plus another $1 million in incentives. Unfortunately, he’s been dealing with a right calf injury that’s been keeping him out of games, after a season where injuries limited him to just 71 games.
It’s a bummer for Victorino and, of course, for the Cubs, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road on this relationship.
Actually, the Cubs have extended an offer to Victorino to keep him in the organization, and Victorino is reportedly weighing his options. The deal, as reported by Carrie Muskat (Cubs.com) and Patrick Mooney (CSN) would provide Victorino with the opportunity to continue rehabbing in Arizona, before ultimately making his way to AAA Iowa, once he was ready to start his season. There, he would presumably serve as Major League depth, and would likely be one of the early season replacements in the outfield, should the need arise.While it’s possible that this is a new, unique-to-Victorino contract, there is an entirely different possibility to keep in mind. Veterans on minor league deals receive a $100,000 retention bonus at the end of Spring Training, if the team keeps them (or if they decide not to exercise a right to opt out of a contract, if such an opt out has been included). Then, the player also receives a June 1 opt out for the same year. This gives them the chance to make it back to MLB with the team they signed with, but preserves the flexibility to go elsewhere for a better shot.
So, while Victorino’s situation could be unique, it’s at least possible that this is just your run of the mill, veteran on a minor league deal, deal.
From the reports, it sounds like the Cubs hope to keep Victorino – as well, they should – because he can be an integral part of the Cubs success in 2016. However, he still has some time to decide before the Spring is over. As a 35-year-old outfielder that made much of his career on the strength of his defense, Victorino’s time in baseball may soon come to an end. For his sake, hopefully he’s still got some time left, and it may yet come with the Cubs.