You have probably tried out for a sports team. You and your peers are somewhat uncomfortably assembled in a gymnasium or field, followed by two or three days of activities with adults frantically scribbling on clipboards. Finally, you either look for your name on a list, or if the coaches are more professional, they give you the good or bad news personally. I have been cut as a student athlete and had to cut as a coach, verbally, and both were painful.
During a recent Cubs broadcast, the constantly-revolving Marquee crew wondered aloud “how do the players stay motivated?” I don’t envy having to fill in three hours of talking with a team that was almost never in contention at all, but really? I would venture, and not too far out on a limb, that more than half of this team won’t be here next season. By ‘this team’ I mean the current twenty-six-man roster. Tryouts have already begun.
Attention Chicago Cubs players: if you are not under contract for 2023, and perhaps even if you are, tryouts are NOT in Tempe next February, they are taking place right now.
As Clint Eastwood asked in Dirty Harry fifty years ago, “you’ve got to ask yourself one question?” Please cheat and Google the roster. Go ahead, I am a retired teacher and give you permission. The next time the Cubs take the field in October (excluding the 2023 season finale at American Family Field October 1), who, realistically, will be on that roster?
Since the Cubs are parting ways with Jason Heyward, only Yan Gomes, Kyle Hendricks, Marcus Stroman and Seiya Suzuki are under contract for next season. Obviously, many others are up for arbitration. With all due respect to the players on the field (and a few at Iowa who were up), a good many of them have not shown the talent to be on a contending, or championship-caliber team.
The rumor mill has already started. Well-connected experts, and people like myself will speculate, ad nauseum, for the next six months. The Cubs may get Shohei Ohtani, but have to trade their entire minor league system and your firstborn child to the Angels. If he stays long-term, the Ricketts family has to give him a fifty percent ownership in the team. We’re going to see some ridiculous proposals and rumors come the winter months.
Cubs roster has far more questions than answers at this point
If you start going around the diamond, starting behind the plate, the questions begin immediately. There’s still no extension in place with Willson Contreras. If he walks, where then, do we turn? Yan Gomes? P.J. Higgins? Miguel Amaya?
The offensive production out of first and second base has been abysmal, and deep data diving is unnecessary. I was intrigued by Nick Madrigal at second, but he has about as much power as I did as a little leaguer – AKA, none. Nico Hoerner might be the team’s MVP, but speculation about all these free agent shortstops is already underway, again.
We have seen what you get in Patrick Wisdom – power, good defense and athleticism, but he’s a right-handed Kyle Schwarber. He can’t be your best power hitter, maybe fifth, on a good team. A bench bat who can play the corner infield and outfield positions might be his best role, on a contender.
The outfield is potentially set in left and right, and there are options in center, with youth. If you watched the Toronto series and saw their lineup introduced on your screen, those OPS numbers were very robust.
Franmill Reyes has been an interesting addition, but will that last? Look how the league has caught up with Higgins, Christopher Morel and Nelson Velasquez, and I am in no way giving up on them. Today, these poor guys have to face one live arm after another, fed by baseball geeks pouring over information like voter rolls in a political campaign.
Who would start that first game of a postseason series? Who would close it? Tryouts continue. How much will we see of Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson in September? Wade Miley and Drew Smyly? Some of us, I am too guilty, follow the prospect lists for the future pitching staff, yet we’ve seen Assad, Farrell (again), Estrada and Little. None of these pitchers came in those trades in July. The injured list may offer a few late season tryouts, or re-evaluations as well.
David Ross wants to develop kids, but also keep his managerial record above Brandon Hyde who is closing that gap. Compliments to the Orioles for making the turnaround we hope to see, but when? Make your list now, three columns. One is for “back” another is “gone,” and third is “tryouts.” I would guess less than ten players on the twenty-six-man roster will represent the next Cubs playoff team. I listed a few earlier, a good dozen won’t be here, and the rest, are trying out – and they’re doing so right before our eyes.