Chicago Cubs: What is Alfonso Rivas’ role on this team moving forward?

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

In this post-World Series core era, the Chicago Cubs are packed with surprisingly compelling players and out-of-nowhere performances. None have captured fans’ attention quite as well as the Schwindy City himself, Frank “The Tank” Schwindel. A castoff from the Royals and A’s, he’s proven himself a favorite, pacing the team in hitting and even earning National League Rookie of the Month honors.

Yet, Schwindel’s success papers over the arrival of Alfonso Rivas. Originally planned to be a possible successor for Anthony Rizzo, Rivas has sat more on the sidelines while the Schwindel show makes its way through Chicago. Watching The Tank do his thing has been a ton of fun, but it does create some questions about Rivas’ future. I have no doubt that he still has a spot on the Cubs, but his role is something worth exploring.

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What role will Alfonso Rivas play on the Chicago Cubs going forward?

In Rivas, you’re getting a contact-oriented bat with great on-base skills. In Triple-A this year, he slashed an impressive .284/.405/.411, all while striking out only around 20 percent of the time. This has been his M.O. throughout the entirety of his minor league career too. It’s not much to go off of, but the few looks he’s gotten at the majors at first have also been impressive, with his smooth hands making for some good Rizzo-esque picks out of the dirt.

Rivas does also have one saving grace over Schwindel in that he can play in the outfield, but his real value is at first. The best way to answer the Rivas-Schwindel problem then comes back to, you guessed it, the CBA. It’s plausible that the Cubs could go into next year with Schwindel as a DH to get his bat in the lineup while allowing Rivas to man first. It’s not set in stone though and, should a certain Nicholas Castellanos, for example, pique the Cubs’ interest in free agency, that setup shouldn’t stop them from making that move.

While I’d like to see Rivas play first full-time, it’s more likely he plays a utility role going forward, moving between first and left. Unless Schwindel absolutely melts down between now and Opening Day 2022, there’s no replacing him at first with how he’s proving himself thus far and we can’t count on the DH to fully solve this issue. The rest of 2021 can be used as a chance to briefly survey Rivas’ outfield skills, even if we’re not likely to glean much from such a small sample.

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Schwindel and Rivas are both very intriguing players that the Cubs need to keep around the majors for next year, even if finding playing time for both will be difficult. Again, a lot can change for both of these guys that could alter how we feel going into 2022 and certainly, those feelings will change throughout 2022 as well. For now, though, the Cubs have to acknowledge what both have shown and find ways to make it work in the lineup.