Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Leaving the bench players alone

I've been contemplating writing this post for a couple weeks now, and I have finally gathered my thoughts enough to post about it.

Since the season began, there has been this clamoring for bringing Brett Jackson, Anthony Rizzo, Tony Campana and a number of other players up from the minor leagues to take over roster spots on the Major League team.  

This is a perfectly fine desire.  We know that Jackson and Rizzo are pretty much guaranteed to be the starting center fielder and 1st baseman, respectively, some time in the near future.  

But then I hear this sort of thing, "We should get rid of DeWitt, Baker and Johnson so we can get some of those young guys up here." 

Um....what exactly is that going to accomplish?  

Now this is often said in the same breath as "Trade Byrd and Soriano" which are much more logical, yet difficult things to do.  Amazingly, the Cubs have been able to dump Byrd, which pretty much sets the stage for Brett Jackson to make his Cubs debut.  

But let's get back to the issue of Baker, DeWitt and Johnson.  I'm not quite sure why everyone is so anxious to dump these players.  They really aren't blocking any big minor league prospects from playing.  You want to get rid of Reed Johnson so Dave Sappelt can play?  If you really think Sappelt is an overall better player than Reed Johnson right now, than you should just stop reading this post now.  

Is Jeff Baker blocking Adrian Cardenas from becoming our next Hall-of-Fame 2nd baseman?  No.  Is Blake DeWitt keeping Luis Valbuena from being the perennial All-Star we all know he is?  No.  Johnson, Baker and DeWitt are not blocking anyone that really matters.  

We are talking about bench players here.  If you think any of these minor league players I've mentioned are worth anything, the last thing you actually want is for them to be sitting on the bench.  If you want Sappelt to play, then you better start screaming for the Cubs to get rid of David DeJesus.  If you want Cardenas to play, then Darwin Barney needs to take a hike.  If you Valbuena to play, Starlin Castro should probably be traded.  

If you want any value from minor leaguers, let them play at Iowa for the year and have them put up some bloated numbers and than use them as part of a trade.  

At this point, there is only one player left on this team that is truly blocking anyone of significance from playing, and that is Alfonso Soriano.  With Byrd out of the way, (and ignoring the fact that Tony Campana is on the team) it is now just a matter of time before Brett Jackson is brought up.  (My estimate right now is mid-May, once the Cubs are able to get that extra year of service time.)  Anthony Rizzo is really the only other prospect that we should be concerned about this season, and he is being blocked by Alfonso Soriano and/or Bryan LaHair. 

Why Soriano?  Well, it is my belief that the Cubs management actually believes Bryan LaHair has some value, and with his low amount of service time, they may be looking for him to have a good season or two before trying to trade him for some prospects.  Soriano has no value to anyone and right now blocking Bryan LaHair from moving to a position where he might be a better fit, left field.  Once Soriano is gone, LaHair can move to left, which then opens up a spot for Anthony Rizzo.  

It's very possible the Cubs could try to move LaHair this year too.  He probably isn't considered a guy that is "part of the solution" here in Chicago which means, like Ian Stewart and David DeJesus, he is just a place holder until the Cubs have the possibility of being competitive again and they can fill the position with better talent.  

Baker, DeWitt and Johnson are just bench players...and the truth is, they are better than Sappelt, Cardenas and Valbuena who are nothing more than bench players as well.  You need this team to at least win a few games...you know like 60 of them or so.  The other member of the bench, Joe Mather, showed yesterday that a decent bench can provide a few wins during a season, and as weird as it sounds, that Cubs bench right now is not too horrible.  

Baker, DeWitt and Johnson are not part of this team's future, obviously.  Neither are Sappelt, Cardenas and Valbuena (or drop in the name of just about any of the other scrappy players currently playing for Iowa).  

Focus your energy on Soriano right now.  He's really the one person that is blocking anyone of significance.  If you like the idea of cutting Reed Johnson so Brett Jackson can be promoted, what is that going to accomplish?  All that means is Brett Jackson will sit on the bench.  The same goes for cutting Jeff Baker in favor of Anthony Rizzo.  

Rizzo and Jackson are not going to be promoted to sit on the bench.  The Cubs expect these guys to be every day players and they should be every day players.  While I think Castro was rushed to the big leagues, when he got here, he was immediately given the starting job at shortstop, and the Cubs were immediately able to find out if this kid was everything he was advertised to be.  

The Cubs will need to do the same with Jackson and Rizzo.  When they come up, they are going to be given the chance to prove they can do everything that the Cubs hope they could.  If not, within a year, GM Jed Hoyer will know that the Cubs will have a hole on their team that they will need to fill in the future.  They won't be able to find that out with those two guys sitting on the bench.  

We just need to be a little patient here.  As I stated earlier, I think Brett Jackson will be playing at Wrigley by mid-May...and Anthony Rizzo will probably be up by the trade deadline.  


Really, this post leaves open two things, though...

1. What about the catcher position?


2.  Are we placing too much faith in Rizzo and Jackson to succeed?  

As far as catcher, I think it is a bit too early for us to be calling for Soto to be traded or benched or whatever.  But I will say that Soto's play so far this year, both offensively and defensively, are a bit concerning.  With this being a lost season anyway, it's best off to be patient and see if Soto can turn things around a bit.

And number two?  Well, that is something to talk about another day.