Alexander Canario's Chicago Cubs future is further in question after latest demotion

Alexander Canario once again could not buy playing time in his recent stint with the Chicago Cubs, and it seems unlikely he'll ever find runway on the major league roster.
Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs
Milwaukee Brewers v Chicago Cubs / Nuccio DiNuzzo/GettyImages

Alexander Canario is heading back down to Iowa as the Chicago Cubs brought their star slugger Cody Bellinger back from injury much sooner than expected for Tuesday night's game. Bellinger's bat is sorely needed in a lineup that has been struggling mightily to score runs of late. For Canario, however, it's another disappointing development on the road to becoming a major league regular that begs questions about whether that day will ever come with the Cubs.

Since first making the majors in September of last year, the right-handed outfielder has struggled to get consistent playing time in Chicago despite becoming a respectable offensive force in the minors. It was hard to understand last year when David Ross rarely gave him a chance during a postseason push amid struggles from the Cubs offense. This year, he faced the same if not more competition for time with Bellinger returning, Ian Happ and Seiya Suzuki locked in at left and right, and Mike Tauchman on the roster, which again has left him on the outside looking in.

Suzuki and Bellinger's recent injuries, however, seemed like the perfect opportunity for Canario to earn some reps in the outfield. Then, Tauchman stepped up as a key contributor with a slash line of .278/.412/.454/154 wRC+ and Pete Crow-Armstrong was promoted and began flashing the leather in centerfield. Craig Counsell occasionally worked in Canario, but his chances were still minimal.

It's increasingly looking like Canario may go the way of Nelson Velazquez before him - a powerful bat with potential but little room to work with and little willingness to play him. Granted, it's not as if Counsell and the Cubs don't have reasons to be concerned about him. He's struck out at a ghastly 45.2% clip at the majors thus far which is simply untenable. With Crow-Armstrong on the verge of locking down a spot himself and other prospects like Owen Caissie and Kevin Alcantara inching ever closer, he may ultimately be better served as trade fodder for a reliever if he's not going to get any at-bats anyway.

Canario deserves another chance after some time in Triple A

That said, it feels too early to move on from a guy who could add a ton of power to a lineup that still needs it. Canario is only 24 and his Triple-A experience was interrupted by a freak injury in the Dominican Winter League, meaning he never got a full season of runway in 2023. In what time he's had in Iowa, he's hit a solid .263/.361/.517, while Double-A proved he has 30-home run power. That's also without considering his skills in the field and on the bases.

His bat has shown some promise in the majors, too, albeit in a small sample. Between 2023 and 2024 in a limited 19-game, 42-plate appearance run, he's posted a perfectly respectable .282/.333/.538 slash line, good for a 140 wRC+ with a pair of homers to boot. Again, the strikeouts were a big problem, but he has yet to have a significant chance to work through those issues either back in the minors or on the big league squad. Counsell and the Cubs clearly lack trust in him outside of desperate times, so it may take an extended hot streak in Triple-A to force their hand and earn a more significant role.

It's obviously hard to work out at-bats for everyone, but considering the Cubs lack prospects with the raw power of Canario, it would not be ideal to package him in a trade without determining what he could provide for the big league team. What he offers is intriguing and some extra time in the minors may help with cutting down on strikeouts. The extreme lack of playing time, however, really indicates that his next chance may not be coming in Chicago.