The Chicago Cubs toughest decisions as far as roster have more to do with logistics than the talent. Matt Szczur is out of options. Tommy La Stella still has two. And Ian Happ keeps banging on this door in Chicago. Do the Cubs have a master plan?
Over the past two seasons, there has been very little drama for the Chicago Cubs. The biggest may have been Tommy La Stella‘s refusal to report to Triple-A Iowa after being sent down. Coming out of this spring, La Stella and Matt Szczur are at the forefront of the final roster decision. Szczur seems to have the edge but has no options. La Stella has assured the team he would accept an assignment to Iowa if he isn’t on the opening day roster. And then there’s Ian Happ.
One of these three will be on the Opening Day roster–and it isn’t going to be Happ. But with the revelation that the Cubs are actively shopping Szczur, it could be possible the Cubs aren’t going to try and hold Happ back any longer than they need to. The MLBPA frowned upon what transpired with Kris Bryant, but that’s worked out just fine for the Cubs.
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But holding a player back now–especially after the Bryant fiasco–could draw undue attention to the Cubs. The one thing in the Cubs “favor” is that there’s no clear place for Happ to play. But instead of labeling him as trade bait and dangling him in front of teams, the Cubs may be trying to make room for him however they can.
While Happ has played all three outfield spots and second base, many believe the Cubs may move him around in the minors to help develop his versatility. That in itself could be the Cubs biggest reason for making room for him on the roster–to get him here sooner than later.
The issue the Cubs are facing: La Stella is a solid left-handed bat off the bench but only plays on the infield. For Szczur, he’s a solid player who has shown he can produce in small samples–but only plays the outfield. And then they have a prospect in Happ who–although in minimal samples–can play some infield and the outfield, and he’s a switch-hitter. It’s really not that hard to see why the Cubs would want to find a place for him.
Some might like to say that his at-bats have been against sub-par pitching. Maybe so. But he’s played in 24 games. He has a slash of .417/.483/.814 with five home runs and 17 RBIs. Some of those might have been against less than stellar pitching–but not all of them. This kid can rake, and the Cubs are well aware of that.
If he continues to do this type of damage when he gets to the minors, I see him getting the call by July, assuming Szczur gets traded. I’m a fan of Szczur and would hate to see him go, but Happ is the real deal. I said this four months ago before he started ripping the cover off the ball this spring. I’m doubling down, now. The Cubs need to find a place for Happ.