Joe Maddon was quick to dismiss any greater significance to Kris Bryant’s start in left on Tuesday night, saying “I just chose to do this. Purely, that’s it.” And while I won’t go so far as to question the veracity of the skipper’s statement in terms of that one game, recent news has me thinking that there might be other methods to the Maddon-ness.
With Jorge Soler dealing with a tender ankle a less-than-ideal matchup of Chris Coghlan facing lefty Brad Hand, Bryant played LF so that Junior Lake could man the other corner. That meant Jon Herrera patrolling the hot corner and making up one-third of a very weak bottom of the order with David Ross and Kyle Hendricks.
Soler being sidelined for an extended period of time would really hamper the Cubs’ ability to carry a strong lineup into their seven AL-based interleague games over the next three weeks, even with the DH. Sure, Bryant could move back to 3B with Cogs playing LF, but I still get the feeling that’s not the endgame the Cubs want.
If only there was a guy they could call up who could provide an upgrade over Herrera both offensively and defensively (admittedly, not an extraordinary feat) and who could allow Bryant to move out to left, at least on an interim basis. Man, wouldn’t that be nice.
— Tommy Birch (@TommyBirch) June 3, 2015
Huh, whaddya know? The Cubs have five games with the Marlins and Nationals before heading to Detroit for a short series, so is it possible that moving Baez to a new position was done in order to prime him for a return engagement with the big club? I have to think that’s what’s at the root of this decision.
Even if Soler’s injury isn’t serious enough to keep him out long, it’s reasonable to believe that Baez will be coming up again soon to serve as a DH. Once you get past the core lineup, there really isn’t anyone you can count on to provide much in the way of offense, particularly now that Welington Castillo is gone. Maybe Jason Hammel, but the options are slim after that.
Javy has been tearing up AAA pitching and has been controlling the strikeouts to a greater extent than in the past. And with guys like Bryant, Soler, and Anthony Rizzo holding down the heart of the order, the free-swinging Baez could bat in a lower-leverage position with a little more protection.
Much of the recent talk of Baez’s potential call-up had centered around him filling the DH role in sort of a rental capacity, but news of his playing 3B could signal a bigger series of organizational dominoes. The Cubs aren’t going to bring him up to be a bench bat; he’s got too much potential for that. But in order for him to play, someone’s got to move.
Ideally — and this is assuming no trades in the immediate future — Herrera would be DFA’d and Baez would take over full-time 3B duties while Bryant moves to left permanently. Of course, such a scenario means that we’ll probably have a wait a while longer to see Kyle Schwarber, who likely wouldn’t be brought until September when rosters expand.
Until such time as the Cubs actually make a move though, this is all just a fun bit of speculation. But as I’ve said many times in the past — and I’m not alone — Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer don’t make positional changes like this just for the heck of it. I believe Javy Baez shifting over is an indication that they do indeed plan to call him up sooner rather than later.
This is heady stuff, folks. Having Bryant, Soler, Russell, and Baez all on the field at the same time, not to mention the potential addition of Schwarber in the fall, is almost too good to be true.
So what do you think? Am I reading too much into this or are we going to see some big moves here soon?
Update: The Cubs have placed Jorge Soler on the DL with a left ankle sprain and have recalled Mike Baxter. I have to think this makes a Baez call-up even more likely, if not wholly necessary, as interleague play ramps up next week.