This week will potentially be a big one for the positional side of the Chicago Cubs roster if you’re looking for some changes. The team will have upwards of three position players returning from injury within the first few days of this week, and that means the squeeze is on (for worse … or for better?).
One return about which we know the contours very well, since David Ross said it was happening, is that Jonathan Villar is coming off the IL tomorrow in Baltimore. Villar suffered a freak accident with an exercise band that messed up his mouth pretty good – eight hours worth of oral surgery – but he said he’s been able to work throughout the last ten days, so he is apparently good to go tomorrow.
One return that is expected over the next few days is Seiya Suzuki, whose finger is well enough that he’s traveling with the team to Baltimore and will resume full baseball activities tomorrow (that’s the expectation, anyway). David Ross said that if Suzuki feels good, feels on time, and feels ready to go, he won’t have a rehab assignment, so that would mean he could also return by, what, Wednesday? Thursday?
And finally, there’s David Bote, who has been playing at Triple-A Iowa after his offseason shoulder surgery. This has pretty much been his Spring Training, and unless he has suffered a new injury or a setback, he has to be activated or optioned or DFA’d this week (position players have a 20-day limit on a rehab assignment). The Cubs could always send him to Arizona to continue ramping up in a non-rehab-assignment way, but we have been given no indication that the plan is anything other than a return to big league action when his rehab stint was up.
So, then, it’s possible the Cubs will be bringing back three different position players this week, including one who needs a 40-man roster spot (Bote).
What happens if/when they all return?
Well, if all three are definitely considered “on the big leaguer roster” guys, then it may finally be time to say goodbye to some other players.
It’s pretty hard to imagine the Cubs optioning Christopher Morel back to the minors at this point, so I’d rule him out. Alfonso Rivas has really been struggling, and with Frank Schwindel now hitting, I tend to think Rivas is going to head to Iowa to make one of those spots.
Will the Cubs option Nick Madrigal at this point, so that he can actually get in some longer-term timing work at Triple-A (where, again, it’s not like he’s spent a lot of time in his young career)? Will the Cubs cut bait on Andrelton Simmons, who still has the great glove, but appears to continuing his trendline on offense down to being completely un-battable? Will the Cubs option Clint Frazier so he can start every day? Will the Cubs find a surprising trade partner for Rafael Ortega?
… or the biggy: will the Cubs finally decide that it’s time to move on from Jason Heyward, who has another year and a half left on his contract, but who simply cannot keep taking up starts, at bats, and roster space from guys whom the Cubs need to develop and evaluate for 2023 and beyond?
Unless there is a surprise injury coming, and unless Bote is optioned to Iowa, then some big decisions are coming this week. To me, I don’t think it should be too terribly complicated to accommodate the players, though. The Cubs just need to make the hard choices. It’s time.
A related factor here? The Cubs could also be getting back upwards of three pitchers this week – Wade Miley, Alec Mills, and Chris Martin – and there will be some coordination with the position player returns (in terms of who swaps out for whom and when). It’s easier to figure out one-to-ones on the pitching side (maybe Anderson Espinoza, Michael Rucker, and Matt Swarmer (or Brandon Hughes?) simply get optioned out to make room), so I’ll leave it as a side conversation for now. But the roster moves on that side of things could certainly bleed over to the positional side, especially when considering the 40-man roster moves.