Chicago Cubs: IL returns will force some tough roster decisions

Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

After a monster month of May in which the Chicago Cubs mimicked the team from Major League, some of the team’s key players are finally making a return from the injured list. Jason Heyward and Jake Marisnick are close to a return and they’ll certainly be followed by Nico Hoerner and Matt Duffy at some point in the future. The problem with all of these players returning now is deciding who has to go to make room.

Most of the call-ups the Cubs have made to cover for injuries have really paid off so far. Most recently, Patrick Wisdom has only destroyed baseballs with his godly sledgehammer of a bat since joining the big league squad, making a case for himself as a legitimate piece of the team. The most impressive, however, are the team’s three rookie relievers, Justin Steele, Tommy Nance, and Keegan Thompson, who all joined the team as a result of injuries or DFAs.

Returning players will give the Chicago Cubs some tough roster decisions

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Some of these players, like the aforementioned rookie relievers, have played so well that they simply have to stay on the roster, but there may be some tough casualties as a result of the returns. With both Marisnick and Heyward starting their rehab assignments, it will likely spell the end of Rafael Ortega and Nick Martini, neither of which is a huge casualty. Once Hoerner and Duffy come back though, it’s going to be extra hard to send Sergio Alcantara and Wisdom back down if they continue playing so well.

On the pitching side, the decisions aren’t particularly easy either. With Alec Mills and Steele making their way back as well, it means that one of Brad Wieck or Rex Brothers is on the chopping block and, unless something is done with Mills, Dillon Maples could find himself in that same spot. Maples, in particular, would be a tough loss since this is by far the best he’s pitched in Chicago, even if his inclusion comes at the expense of Mills.

Whatever decision the Cubs will make regarding these players really depends on their play throughout June. While it’s unlikely that all of the replacements keep playing to such a level, it’ll really make the front office sweat if they can continue providing solid production. I’d really hate to be in Jed Hoyer’s position if he has to send down a still-mashing Wisdom or one of the team’s two effective lefties, but that’ll likely be reality given the importance of the guys on the IL.

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I honestly don’t see either of Wisdom or Alcantara sticking around in the majors for the long haul, but talk to me when decision time comes and I might have a harder time saying that. The Cubs have been getting so much production out of their back-ups and bench depth that having to decide between who to keep is a good problem to have. It could make for some tough decisions down the line though.