This may come off as hypocritical, as I’ve always said to trust in Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon. But the Chicago Cubs have a problem–and I’m trusting the 2016 version of Maddon on this. He needs to utilize the versatility of this team.
Last season was the perfect storm for the Chicago Cubs. One of their highly touted prospects in Kyle Schwarber goes down early, and they didn’t miss a beat. Joe Maddon was forced to adjust on the fly, and he did it with the touch of Rembrandt. Less a few spots on the diamond, anyone could play anywhere on any given day. This year’s team? Status quo. Other than the occasional move from Ben Zobrist–you know what the lineup is going to be. It’s time to break that funk and go back to what works.
Now I’ll admit, it was Schwarber’s injury that necessitated many of those moves. But it’s time to look at the blueprint from last year and what worked and institute it into this team. The pitching hasn’t been as good as last year, and it might never be that good. Again, it was a perfect storm. But this offense has been dreadful, so why not make the changes now and see what happens? That’s a much better plan than waiting till the end of June and then saying “uh oh.”
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs: Adrian Sampson is forcing his way into the conversation
- Projecting the Chicago Cubs bullpen to open the 2023 season
- Cubs fans are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel
- Justin Steele has evolved into a frontline starter for the Cubs
- The future of first base is murky right now for the Cubs
Who’s on first–everyone else is fair game
Last season, we saw a combination of Zobrist, Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras play the outfield. Zobrist is getting older and isn’t the outfielder he once was, but he’s not bad. Shifting them around–even more so with Jason Heyward out–is critical. Yesterday, the Cubs simply ran into a rookie that shut them down. I’ve said many times how often that happens. It was another example again yesterday afternoon. So we can’t use that for the “it didn’t work argument.”
Miguel Montero is off to a scorching hot start. It may not last, but the Cubs need to get what they can from him. Yes, they lose quite a bit behind the plate when Montero is back there. So when Jon Lester is on the mound, it’s always going to be Contreras. But why not put Contreras in left field from time to time again? Just to get Montero his at-bats. I realize looking at the splits might say different, but how has this offense been doing? I’m thinking outside the box.
Jeimer Candelario is up while Heyward is out. This could be one of the moves that help this theory of mine. Many believe he’s likely going to be trade bait–and that may be true. But until then, moving Bryant to the outfield to get him a few at-bats can’t hurt. The young man looks confident and can play a solid third base. This is a “can’t hurt to try it” type of move.
Another injury coming?
I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but Addison Russell‘s sore shoulder could keep him out for an extra few days. With the 10-day DL, the Cubs could opt to do the same that they did with Heyward and place him on it retroactive to his first missed game. This could begin the Javier Baez, Zobrist and Candelario shuffle, at least temporarily.
This dings and bruises aren’t detrimental, but it might allow Maddon to do some of the things he did last year while saving face. I don’t know that he feels like he’d be giving up on his plans, but he could use the injuries as a reason to do so. Heyward will be back soon, but Russell could head to the DL himself. But the Cubs still have the players to make it work, just not in the traditional sense.
The other part of the issue is the leadoff spot. I’ll be the first to admit that while I was for Schwarber, I knew we’d miss Dexter Fowler. How could they not? But if yesterday was any indication, the Schwarber leadoff experiment may be coming to an end. Schwarber is a masher. He needs to be down in the lineup. And let’s not forget, as incredible as he was in the World Series, he’s played less that a full season. He’s still early in his career, even if it feels like he’s been here forever.
Maddon can shuffle and move people like he did last year, and I think that would be exceptionally good for the Cubs. But only time will tell. In Joe I trust…except a little more 2016 Joe.