The Chicago Cubs had a deja vu over the weekend. On Sunday, starting pitcher Matt Garza was still battling the flu and Travis Wood was up from Iowa to start in place of Garza. To make room for Wood on the Major League roster, the Cubs designated utility infielder Blake DeWitt for assignment. This is not the first time in the past three months that DeWitt has designated for assignment. In March, when the Cubs claimed infielder Adrian Cardenas off waivers from the Oakland Athletics, DeWitt was waived to make room for Cardenas on the Major League roster. As it turned out, DeWittt went unclaimed and returned to the Cubs’ organization on a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training. DeWitt outperformed Cardenas during Spring Training, and because of that reason, the former Dodger broke camp with the Major League team while Cardenas began the season with the Iowa Cubs.
The Cubs were faced with a similar roster decision on Monday. With DeWitt being designated for assignment on Sunday, the team would have to call up an infielder on Monday after Wood’s start on Sunday. In a move that is another step towards the long-term picture for the Cubs’ organization, the Cubs opted to call up 24 year old Cardenas. With DeWitt’s future with the organization looking bleak, it would appear that Cardenas is here to stay.
The question now becomes does Cardenas serve as a utility player for the Cubs, or does he have a chance to unseat Darwin Barney as the team’s starting second baseman?
With the Iowa Cubs this season, Cardenas hit .319/.376/.521/.897 to go along with 18 RBIs in 94 at bats. Cardenas is listed as second baseman and that is where he spent the bulk of his playing time with the Iowa Cubs this season. However, Cardenas is capable of playing all infield positions with the exception of first base. One thing has remained consistent with Cardenas throughout his professional career, and that is the utility infielder has hit at every level he has been on. Most scouts are comfortable in projecting Cardenas as a Major League hitter. The difficult task for scouts is determining what Cardenas is as a defensive player. The reason Cardenas has shifted all through the infield is because he has failed to develop at any position. However, members in the Cubs’ front office are hoping–and have seen signs–that Cardenas could improve defensively. Especially during Spring Training, Cardenas flashed signs of being able to hold his own at the second base position.
Should Darwin Barney be worried? Potentially. Barney has yet to establish any offensive consistency this season as the second baseman is hitting .245/.288/.347/.635 in 98 at bats. In addition, Barney is in the midst of a 2 for 19 slump (.158) over the past seven days. Needless to say, Barney has yet to prove that he can be the long-term solution for the Cubs at second base. Barney is two years older than Cardenas. Cardenas projects as the better hitter while Barney may project as the better overall baseball player. But, if Cardenas is able to improve his defensive skills, the 24 year old may eventually be named the Cubs’ starting second baseman. For now at least, Cardenas will serve as an utility player for the Cubs.