Sigh – Don’t Expect Matt Mervis Up Any Time Soon
Matt Mervis homered yesterday, walloping one with such authority that the opposing broadcast was left nearly speechless.
Mervis, who celebrated his 25th birthday this week, is hitting .255/.412/.549/140 wRC+ in the early going at Triple-A Iowa. Arguably the most impressive thing is that Mervis is producing that level of power despite clearly being worked around consistently (dude has a 20.6% walk rate!). He’s getting very little to thump, and he is (1) thumping it when he does, and (2) accepting walks when he doesn’t.
As we discussed earlier this week, Mervis is doing all the things you’d want to see before you say it’s time to give a prospect a look at the big league level. Moreover, the Cubs have hardly gotten any kind of meaningful production so far from their first base or DH spots, so the calls to bring up Mervis have been deafening. It seems like now is the time when Mervis’s arrival could be the most impactful, in a season where the Cubs might wind up needing every incremental win they can get.
Buuuuuuut, it matters not. Apparently.
From Patrick Mooney at The Athletic:
Promoting Mervis from Triple-A Iowa is simply not under consideration while the Cubs are riding the momentum from their strong start to the season (11-7). Giving some level of assurance to Eric Hosmer and Trey Mancini before signing those free agents — and then turning on them in April — is not a good way of doing business.
I won’t completely dump on that explanation there, because I do think it is important, long-term, to give runway to additions whom you recruited on the basis of getting a real shot. You want to be able to do that in the future with complementary pieces, and your reputation – good or bad – can follow you when guys have multiple choices at the same price level.
But that’s why I wasn’t screaming this week that the Cubs should DFA Hosmer or Mancini. Instead, it feels like there has to be a way to incorporate Mervis’s bat without absolutely letting those guys go (yet). Consider how little someone like Edwin Rios is being used. Or Luis Torrens. Would the big league Cubs not be better served with Mervis in one of those spots?
Reading Mooney’s piece, with non-specific quotes from Jed Hoyer, you get the sense that the Cubs simply want to give Hosmer and Mancini much more time to stabilize. That means not just keeping them on the active roster, but it also means regular starts for both.
With Mancini, I don’t really have a beef there. He has a recent track record of offensive success, is three years younger than Hosmer, is on a two-year deal, and is a righty bat who can at least pitch in in the outfield if absolutely necessary.
With Hosmer, however, I can’t help but think the leash has to be much shorter. Over his last 347 plate appearances going back to May of last year, Hosmer has hit just .225/.291/.313/72 wRC+. Worse, he’s got a 58.2% groundball rate over that time, which leaves you concerned that this is not a fluke. The quality contact simply isn’t there.
Still, I’m not even sitting here screaming that the Cubs absolutely must ditch Hosmer right now. I get that the glove at first base is better than Mancini’s and likely better than Mervis’s. I get that Hosmer is viewed as a huge plus in the clubhouse, which absolutely matters. And I get that it’s been only 55 plate appearances in this new environment. You can sell me on giving him more time, combined with not wanting Mervis up until you know he can play every single day.
I guess I’m just getting really, really impatient on Mervis, specifically. It’s less about the other guys, and more just about Mervis.
I don’t really see what else he needs to do at Iowa to show he merits a look with the big league Cubs. And I say that not out of a sense of what is “deserved” – although he does deserve it. I say it out of a sense of how the Cubs could improve themselves immediately. It’s possible Mervis would just keep on producing, even in the big leagues. The Cubs need that! All the guy has done over the past 14 months is get better at every new level, and he’s now over 300 plate appearances of dominance at Triple-A. I want to know how his skills will translate in the big leagues. I want to know if he could be helping this year’s Cubs team win games.
There, Hoyer leaves a dangling carrot.
“At some point, Matt’s going to impact the Cubs,” Hoyer said, per The Athletic. “There’s no question. When that is, I don’t know. But we’re aware that certainly he can have an impact here.”