With the starting rotation now set, only one real question remained when it comes to the Cubs’ Opening Day roster: Tommy La Stella or Matt Szczur? Speaking to the media Saturday, Joe Maddon may have let slip a clue as to which way he’s leaning.
FWIW as #Cubs shape roster, Maddon raved about Szczur during media session and indicated La Stella would report to minors if necessary.
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) March 25, 2017
Did you catch it?
As you may recall, Ken Rosenthal had reported that the Cubs were expected to keep Szczur despite trade rumors. But that would mean optioning La Stella, and we all know how well that worked out last season.
Walking out on the team was one thing, but TLS went on record as saying that he’d retire if traded. Though I can’t imagine the Cubs parting with Szczur just to placate their lefty infielder, it’s a bit of nuance that has to be taken into consideration. After all, even the most incremental value provided by a bench bat with a mediocre arm is better than zero value from a dude who ups and retires.
Maddon’s indication that La Stella would actually be okay with accepting a minor league assignment provides a great deal of clarity. Even though it’s great to have a lefty-hitting reserve, Szczur likely offers the Cubs more as a sub than a trade chip. For now.
Besides, you have to figure at least one of Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, and Miguel Montero will be available to pinch-hit in any given game. This is where that whole “good problem to have” thing comes into play.
Of course, this is all assuming the Cubs opt for 13 pitchers, which I’m willing to bet will be the case. As for what it means for La Stella long-term, I’ll leave that to you to piece together. For now, though, it’s looking more and more as though Matt Szczur grabs that last spot.