Chicago Cubs: Roster should stay as is heading into the playoffs
With just a few days left for the Chicago Cubs to make any moves, is it necessary? The roster may be as good as it needs to be for the stretch run.
The Chicago Cubs are already built as a championship-ready team, but their depth has also become their greatest clubhouse weakness. MLB teams have until next Wednesday to add players to their roster and have those players eligible for postseason play. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s strategy of patiently wading the free agent pool and loading the farm system with valuable draftees is certainly the foundational aspect of the club’s success. This strategy, however, has the team in a very precarious position with their roster.
Tommy La Stella recently voiced his displeasure with being the one optioned to make room for outfielder Chris Coghlan by taking extended personal time off before reporting to his assignment.
After only throwing 40 pitches in Saturday’s loss to the Dodgers, Jason Hammel seemed to harbor some similar concerns once Joe Maddon lifted him in the third inning.
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When the Washington Nationals released closer
(4.31 ERA, 19 SV) after acquiring
(1.18 ERA, 36 SV) from Pittsburgh via trade, signing rumors began to swirl around in the media. With an endorsement from
, some Cubs fans seemed eager to see Papelbon in the north-side of Chicago.
"“Knowing Papelbon, I’ve always had good things to say about him as a teammate, how he respects the game and how he goes about his business.” Lester said to reporters shortly after Papelbon’s release."
The Papelbon quandary
The question never was if Papelbon is good enough to help the Cubs—or any contender for that matter—win important games in the playoffs. That answer is an obvious yes, even though his stats are unfavorable to that argument.
He earned his feared reputation in the most important games. With a career ERA of 1.00 in 27 innings through 18 appearances, recording seven saves, he’ was a trusted, lockdown reliever. He saved three of the four games the Boston Red Sox swept from the Colorado Rockies in 2007 World Series and only allowed two hits in the entire series.
The Papelbon of the past has been missing in action this season. He’s recorded his second-highest WHIP in his career, and a career low in SO/9. Also, he’s only recorded 19 saves in 21 tries and has just one hold.
As Lester said, “how he goes about his business” is what a young team like the Cubs would benefit from the most. Especially in the postseason.
Signing another player like Papelbon would be damaging to the Cubs clubhouse and championship dreams, though. That’s exactly what the front office addressed in the 2015-16 offseason. Making a move like this would send a message that the veterans aren’t the teachers as the front office initially thought they were getting. This would also shake up the rotational duties in the bullpen. Something that has already cost the team a few games in 2016.
The right people are already in place
The Cubs brought in big-name veterans John Lackey and Jason Heyward to address their positional deficiencies in Chicago. They also acquired players such as Jean Machi, Shane Victorino, and Joe Nathan on minor league deals. Essentially contracting a professorship to teach the farm-club talent. They also solidified the bullpen in Chicago by trading for veterans Aroldis Chapman and Joe Smith. Adding another veteran to the mix would complicate some of the most critical decisions Maddon will be making in the playoffs.
Who can I turn to at this moment? That’s the question the Cubs need to answer by focusing on the players already on the roster. They have a talent base that is envied by General Managers and scouts around the league. Why take on more issues from new players?
Next: Wasted opportunities sink Cubs
Teams like the Diamondbacks, Reds, Rockies, and Rankers could benefit from Papelbon’s services more than the Cubs. At the league minimum, he could be a mentor for many of those teams.
Once the Cubs’ storm of a bullpen fully takes shape, the postseason battle will hinge on staying healthy. With Maddon’s insistence of extra rest for his players, it seems the Cubs are well aware of this.