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Chicago Cubs: The value in protecting the roster

Aug 10, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Los Angeles Angels third baseman Yunel Escobar (right) beats out an infield single as Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Pedro Strop (center) fields the ball and third baseman Javier Baez (right) stands behind him during the eighth inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 10, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Los Angeles Angels third baseman Yunel Escobar (right) beats out an infield single as Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Pedro Strop (center) fields the ball and third baseman Javier Baez (right) stands behind him during the eighth inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /
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During this season, the Chicago Cubs have mad moves that at times left people scratching their heads. But it’s all been part of a structured plan to keep the depth they have in place.

The Chicago Cubs have developed a hell of a farm system over the past five years, and now they are seeing the fruits of that work. That work can be defined as a rebuild, tanking, etc. It doesn’t matter. But while teams are rewarded for losing, baseball doesn’t like to see you hoard all that talent. It’s the reason players have a max amount of options, why the Rule 5 Draft exists, and it’s why the Cubs have made transactions that, on the surface, seemed odd.

We’ve watched the Cubs all season, and if you have you know who some of those headscratchers were. Clayton Richard. Chris Coghlan. Justin Grimm being shipped back and forth from Chicago to Iowa. Each time, it seemed like there was a more obvious choice for demotion than who the Cubs chose. But each time on this site and in Cubs social circles I tried to be a voice of reason–there’s a bigger picture. And that picture may be coming into focus with Pedro Strop leaving with a leg injury and Hector Rondon pushing through triceps tightness.

It’s all about having the capable bodies left in case of injury. And the fact that Albert Almora and Willson Contreras came up early in the season wasn’t by chance. The Cubs wanted them to get their feet wet and be prepared for what they would see come the playoff push. Contreras pulled a Kyle Schwarber and we can’t get rid of him, but Almora will be ready when he’s called upon again in September.

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When the team “reloaded” the bullpen at the deadline, many people were excited the Cubs would be able to “trim the fat” of the bullpen. But for the sake of being corny, fat is flavor. Cut the fat off and you’re lean. See where I’m going with this? The Cubs need everyone. Finding players after the non-waiver deadline is never easy. You get cast-offs that might work out, but that’s a gamble. Anybody worth a damn isn’t hanging out, waiting for a call to come pitch for a contender down the stretch.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have needed to be creative with a majority of their moves this season. It started out of Spring Training with Neil Ramirez who was out of options. Instead of exposing him to waivers, they added him to the roster and took a chance. It didn’t work out, but they didn’t make that move until they had to. Chris Coghlan is another–compounded by the Tommy La Stella drama. A key reserve last year, Coghlan has played a strong left field but isn’t producing at the plate. But in his career, he’s been a solid lefty bat against right-handed pitching, like La Stella.

Jorge Soler looks to be coming back strong, but an injury may only be a day away from this kid. And don’t read much into that, I love Soler–but he’s been bitten often by the injury bug. And with La Stella doing whatever it is he’s doing–Coghlan is that left-handed bat for the time being. Add to all of that Matt Szczur, who has been fantastic this year–but is out of options. And there’s no way he sneaks through waivers.

Next: Will Chapman stay with the Cubs?

Personally, I’ve been quite impressed with the front office’s ability to maneuver through these transactions, while on the field Joe Maddon has made it all work. And everyone seems to contribute to the wins, regardless of how little time they see on the field.

So we always go back to what this all started with almost five years ago when Theo Epstein came to Chicago. Trust the plan. If nine wins in a row and the best record in baseball isn’t enough reason to–I just don’t know what else I can say. But there’s a reason for every move that you see.

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