On Friday afternoon, the Cubs made an interesting transaction. They claimed left handed hitter Julio Borbon off of waivers from the Rangers team they just hosted. Borbon had cleared the American League side of the waivers of which Texas is the member of and the Cubs had dibs on him once the Astros passed.
To avoid making a corresponding move on their 25 man roster, Theo Epstein and Company could have gambled by placing Borbon right back on waivers to see if the rest of the National League would have passed on the lefty outfielder. Instead the Cubs front office made the surprise move of designating for assignment Alberto Gonzalez.
Apr 19, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers shortstop Jean Segura (9) waits for the call after tagging out Chicago Cubs pinch runner Julio Borbon trying to steal 2nd base to end the game at Miller Park. The Brewetrs beat the Cubs 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
The decision is a bit of a head scratcher because the Cubs are thin in the infield compared to the outfield depth. While Gonzalez is far from being an All Star, he was certainly more productive than the recently waived Brent Lillibridge and the newly acquired Cody Ransom so far in 2013. It was assumed once Gonzalez survived the return of Darwin Barney, his task would have been to survive the return of Ian Stewart in approximately a week.
Instead the move has been made now and the Cubs are left with the 0 for 11 Ransom, to be known as Lillibridge 2.0 until further offensive production notice. Ransom would be the lone back up infielder until the return of Stewart and the Cubs technically do not have a back up at first base with Steve Clevenger on the 60 day DL.
Borbon actually made an appearance in Friday night’s game against the Brewers, coming in as a pinch runner for Dioner Navarro in the top of the ninth. He proceeded to attempt to steal second, but was caught. Currently Borbon would project as a Tony Campana type; a left handed hitter with some speed without much of a power stroke. Borbon may not beat Campana in a foot race, but he figures to hit for a higher average than the former Cub speedster if Borbon can reach his potential.
In terms of the minor league outfield depth, Borbon joins Brian Bogusevic, Ryan Sweeney, and Brett Jackson as the lefty sticks. He of course brings a different type of skill set compared to those three, but it would allow the Cubs the luxury of not having to rush Jackson back.
It remains to be seen how the front office will handle the new found gluttony in the outfield. With Stewart due to return in a week or so, the odd man out may be Dave Sappelt. The right handed platoon member in center field has struggled as the lead off man against left handed starting pitchers, which is suppose to be his forte. The Cubs might as well take their chances with David DeJesus leading off against lefties as well at this rate. Sappelt also has two options remaining, which would mean the Cubs could send him down to the minors without exposing him to waivers.
Otherwise, barring a trade, the Cubs would have to drop Ransom when Stewart returns. A trade for Alfonso Soriano, DeJesus, or Nate Schierholtz figures unlikely this early in the season, as trade value would be best leveraged as contending teams try to reload on the run in July.
Even if the Cubs performance on the field has not been piquing your interest, how the roster moves play out for the good of the team’s future goals is certainly something to keep track of.