The Cubs have long been targeting July 22 for a Matt Duffy return, both because that was the first day he was eligible to return from the 60-day IL (back), and also because that was the timeline by which he would have had plenty of time to test things out at Triple-A Iowa.
That testing took place, all must’ve gone well, and Duffy is back with the Cubs in anticipation of an activation tomorrow:
Matt Duffy is expected to be activated tomorrow, as long as he still feels good coming out of today. He’s with the team in St. Louis. #Cubs
— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) July 21, 2021
The obvious questions upon Duffy’s return: whose spot on the roster does he take, and whose job in the lineup does he take?
To the first question, my answer would be an Eric Sogard DFA – that gives you basically the entire window up to the Trade Deadline to move him in a deal if there were a team that thought he still had something left – though I’m not so sure the Cubs will do it. Despite his dreadful performance at the plate, the Cubs have previously opted to send down, for example, Sergio Alcantara when there was a crunch. So that might happen again for Duffy.
As for Duffy’s job, it’s a little trickier to say definitively that he slots back into the everyday lineup. On the one hand, before his injury, you loved the look he was bringing – high-contact, line-drive, handles fastballs, etc. On the other hand, that was over two months ago. In the interim, a guy like Patrick Wisdom has come up and I’m not so sure I want him sitting every day right now, either, since he could just as easily factor into the Cubs’ 2022+ future as Duffy (who is a free agent at the end of the year).
The Trade Deadline figures to sort some of this out, too, as the movement out of certain other players could more clearly open up a spot for Duffy every day. Of course, the rub there? Well, it’s two-fold: (1) what if you want to showcase Duffy now JUST IN CASE a team out there loved what they were seeing early and might want to make a run at him? and (2) David Bote is going to be back very soon, too, and you’re presumably going to want him starting, too, for all the same 2022+ reasons as Wisdom and Duffy.
That is all to say, I kinda don’t know how this is gonna shake out. Gut says Duffy starts almost every day, and Wisdom is probably the guy who sits – until the Trade Deadline – because of it. But I’m not proclaiming it boldly.