Garrett Cooper makes Cubs Opening Day roster over Dominic Smith

The former All-Star infielder had an impressive spring and will provide depth at both first base and designated hitter.

2024 Chicago Cubs Spring Training
2024 Chicago Cubs Spring Training / Matt Dirksen/GettyImages

An IL stint for Patrick Wisdom and Dominic Smith opting out of his minor league deal with the team cleared the way for veteran infielder Garrett Cooper to reportedly make the Chicago Cubs Opening Day roster.

Anyone who regularly reads my work here knows that I've been high on what Cooper has to offer all spring long and have regularly said that if it came down to carrying either Wisdom or Cooper, I'm taking the latter. While that decision won't need to be made (at least not right now), Chicago now has a guy capable of platooning with Michael Busch at first and getting regular ABs as the DH.

As for Smith, the road to playing time got a lot murkier once Chicago re-signed Cody Bellinger (not to mention, Cooper, who came in after Smith signed, as well). The veteran put up big numbers this spring (a .909 OPS in 9 Cactus League games) and will almost certainly catch on somewhere, especially after recovering from a hamate issue. The guy is still just 28 and has shown flashes of what made him a first-rounder back in the day. Hopefully, now, he can go out and prove it here in 2024.

Cubs have a quality depth piece on their hands in Garrett Cooper

The general expectation is that Craig Counsell and the Cubs might try to protect Busch, a top 100 prospect getting his first extended look at the big league level, against southpaws early in the year. This opens up playing time for someone like Cooper, who has hit left-handers fairly consistently in his seven MLB seasons, putting up an .816 OPS.

Cooper was an All-Star with Miami back in 2022 and has a 109 OPS+ since the start of the 2019 campaign. During that 2022 season, his Statcast page was loaded with red - and even though he came back to earth last year, splitting time between San Diego and Miami, he still showed he has plenty to offer, especially in a role like this where he can consistently face favorable matchups.

With Smith out of the picture and Wisdom injured, Cooper joins a Cubs bench that will also feature Mike Tauchman and Miguel Amaya. Nick Madrigal is a coin flip as far as being ready for Opening Day goes, so if he's not ready, I suspect we'll see the final two bench spots go to Alexander Canario and Miles Mastrobuoni, whose versatility the team loves.