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Chicago Cubs: Heyward ready to return, but who goes down?

May 19, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) and right fielder Ian Happ (8) celebrate after scoring during the fourth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports
May 19, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) and right fielder Ian Happ (8) celebrate after scoring during the fourth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Chicago Cubs’ Jason Heyward will return to the lineup on Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers. But who will be sent down to make room? Assuming Joe Maddon keeps his pitchers, it’s a three-man “race” to see who stays.

This is a problem that all managers would like to have. The Chicago CubsJoe Maddon has so much talent on this roster that he can’t keep it all in Chicago. With the return of Jason Heyward from the DL, someone is going to need to be sent down to make room. While many think this is a difficult decision, I do not. The answer to who goes down? Albert Almora.

Assuming Maddon has no intention of sending down a pitcher, that would leave Almora, Tommy La Stella and Ian Happ. The argument for keeping Happ on the roster is that if he’s here, he needs to play. And that’s why it needs to be Almora that’s sent down.  There’s no knock on Almora here; this is just a matter of shifting the players around to allow the most playing time for Happ.

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First off, La Stella has proven to be a solid bat off the bench. If not for any other reason besides that, he needs to stay. Defensively, he’s limited in position and ability, but the versatility of the rest of the lineup allows Maddon to move players around to do what he needs to do.

Lots of moving pieces

The success of Jon Jay is another reason why Almora could be the odd man out. When the Cubs signed Jay, they were aware of what they were getting, but he’s exceeded those expectations thus far. With a slash line of .293/.398/.373, Jay is doing what he needs to in spot starts and off the bench.

When Almora came up last season, he was well known for his defensive ability. With the departure of Dexter Fowler, many thought he would see most of the playing time in center field. His results have been far from terrible, but they’ve not been as consistent as Maddon and the Cubs would like to see.

And then there’s Happ. Since he’s been called up, he’s made it his mission that everyone knows his name. After homering in his first game, he’s continued his hot stretch with a slash line of .333/.462/.714 and an OPS of 1.176. He’s hit two home runs and driven in four while the Cubs have won four of the six games Happ’s played in.

Next: Happ making Baez expendable?

Unless the Cubs’ pull some stunner (send down Eddie Butler?), I feel that it should be Almora to “fall on the sword” for the good of the team. Whatever the case, Happ has bought himself some more time in Chicago.

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