Morning Cubs Roundup: Start making decisions
today at 6:28 am
I’ve joked since Spring Training about the amount of right-handed relievers the Cubs brought to Mesa. The organization was definitely taking the throw-stuff-at-the-wall approach. And though I kidded them for it, I really couldn’t blame them, not with the state of the bullpen and the seeming lack of funds to address it.
It made sense: Collect a bunch of maybes, and hope a few somethings emerge, then ditch the ones who don’t.
Here’s the rub: The Cubs haven’t cut anybody.
Sure, they released a couple of guys once Spring Training was cut short, but they still held on to a lot of extra arms, and for every one they did let go they seemingly added another to replace them. Rule 5 pick Michael Rucker was returned to the org by the Orioles after he failed to make their Opening Day roster. The Cubs own Rule 5 pick, Trevor Megill, failed to make the roster (and keep in mind this was 30-man, not 26). The Cubs didn’t return him though, instead making a cash deal with the Padres so they could hold onto him.
This is Duane Underwood Jr.’s 9th season in the Cubs organization. He is out of options. Make a decision.
Dillon Maples has been around for 10 years. He was a Tim Wilken pick, the year before the Epstein regime took over. Javy Baez was the Cubs first round pick that year. Maples was the Cubs second highest profile selection. Maples still has the tantalizing stuff and another option year remaining. Still, make a decision. If he wasn’t good enough to hold on to a spot in a struggling 11-man bullpen after 10 seasons, what are the odds you unlock his ability to throw strikes now?
Meanwhile Dakota Mekkes destroyed right-handed batters at the AAA level the past 1.5 seasons after being one of the most dominant relievers in the Minors at every previous level. Lefties became an issue for the first time last year, and his control has never been a strength, so a finished product he is not. After leaving him exposed to the Rule 5 draft last winter and watching him go unchosen, the Cubs brought in those dozen or so arms to compete for a MLB job. Mekkes never really seemed to be in that competition.
The Cubs made Michael Rucker repeat AA in 2019, and even when he was pitching well in relief, with added velocity, they didn’t make room for him in Iowa. Then, they didn’t protect him from the Rule 5 draft after the season.
Apparently, the Cubs think highly enough of these two to give them spots in the 60-man player pool but little enough of them, despite already having numerous options ahead of them on the 40-man roster, they also keep bringing in the likes of Cody Allen and Kelvim Herrera to be additional non-roster competition.
Do you remember Luke Adam from this spring? He’s still around. Again, they think enough to stick with him in South Bend, but not enough where they feel they can pass on performing autopsies on the corpses of Allen and Herrera. If the Cubs were to form a psuedo-Iowa bullpen right now, I’m not sure Rucker would fit. For the second straight year. And not because of anything he is or isn’t doing.
What’s the point? All of these guys are going to be Rule 5 eligible or Minor League free agents again once this very short season ends. If they aren’t answers now, will they ever?
I’m not saying the Cubs need to get rid of every single one of their depth pieces, but at some point they need to realize they are reaching the point of diminishing returns. They will never have room for more than one or two of these guys on the 40-man roster. To add someone like Allen or Herrera, or someone like Adam, Mekkes or Rucker, someone like Underwood or Maples has got to go.
START MAKING DECISIONS
Why? Because you need to make room for prospects. We are getting beyond the throw-stuff-at-a-wall part of the season. You are now cutting into the limited window of development for the limited number of prospects you can focus on in 2020.
It is unconscionable that Ryan Jensen isn’t in South Bend at this point. It frankly boggles my mind. Every team should have their top 5 prospects from full season ball in their camps by now. If they don’t also add at least one of Michael McAvene, Kohl Franklin or Riley Thompson before the end of the year I am going to lose it.
And don’t even get me started on Manny Rodriguez and Zack Short. You know, two of the players on the 40-man roster, two of the guys that presumably figure to factor into the 2021 roster. I can’t think of a single good reason why you might want them training in South Bend this year. Really.
Its all just another part of the Cubs mixed messaging, an art they’ve perfected through plenty of practice over the last nine years: We love you, really. We think you’ve got a bright MLB future.
Prospect: Should I pack for South Bend and begin quarantining?
Cubs: Uh,… We’re going to bring in players A, B, C first. Oh, who am I kidding? We’re also going to sign players D and E to Minor League deals and give them a shot before you too.
But we still love you, promise.
I don’t get it. Either you have some faith in the guys you’ve been developing for years or you don’t. Perhaps judging by the struggles of Underwood, Maples and Norwood this year they shouldn’t. But if that is the case then it is all the more reason to begin developing the next wave.