The Cubs roster is crowded — which is a good problem to have — but, it left them with a difficult decision Friday morning.
The Cubs have optioned lefty Tommy La Stella to Iowa while calling up left-handed bat Chris Coghlan. The news came as a surprise to many, considering Coghlan struggled before heading to the DL with a rib-injury.
He slashed an abysmal .194/.356/.306 in 19 games with the Cubs after being traded from Oakland. What makes the move even more surprising is that La Stella was really coming into his own — hitting .295/.388/.457.
The only concern with La Stella is that he’s struggled coming off the bench, hitting just .179/.324/.250 as a sub. Ultimately, the move was likely made because La Stella could be optioned to the minors without having to clear waivers. Nonetheless, it appears that the move will hurt the Cubs’ bench in the short-term.
When MLB’s active rosters expand to 40 on Sept. 1, La Stella will certainly come back up. That being said, with the Cardinals just 6.5 games back of the Cubs in the NL Central, these roster decisions could prove to be crucial.
That’s not to say that having or not having La Stella will be the difference in the division race — that would be preposterous — but the team certainly needs their best on the field right about now.
The next decision for manager Joe Maddon will come when Jorge Soler is ready to fully return from his hamstring injury. However, Soler can be optioned down to the minors without having to clear waivers. As he continues to struggle in his rehab assignment at Double-A Tennessee, that’s looking more and more likely. He’s 1-12 at the plate, plus, his already-poor defense won’t get any better when coupled with his hamstring injury.
If the Cubs did decide to bring Soler back up, the easiest players to move would be youngsters Wilson Contreras and Carl Edwards Jr. — both could be sent down to the minors without having to clear waivers. But, both players have become key contributors as of late.
Contreras is hitting .273/.362/.463 in 34 games since being called up, which makes him a significantly better option at catcher than David Ross or Miguel Montero on days when Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta are not pitching. The young catcher has also proven his versatility, playing innings at first base and in the outfield. Considering how valuable he’s been to the team, it would be difficult to imagine a scenario where he gets sent down.
Edwards Jr., despite his player options, would be difficult to send down as well. He has a 1.84 ERA and .750 WHIP in 14 appearances since getting called up last month.
Righty Matt Szczur, who would have to clear waivers, isn’t going anywhere either. He’s hitting
.294/.333/.431when coming off the bench this season.
The next viable move, though it may sound surprising, would be to send down right-handed reliever Justin Grimm. But, for as much as he struggled in the month of June (10.38 ERA and 2.65 WHIP in 15 appearances), he has turned things around in the month of July. He’s yet to allow a run in seven outings.
Another option could be to send down veteran righty Joe Nathan, but the team just called him up. With the crowded roster situation, don’t be too surprised if one of these bullpen righties is sent down.
Time will tell what the Cubs decide to do with Soler when he’s ready. Either way, when rosters expand Sept. 1, Cubs fans will certainly be happy.
Maddon will be relieved too.
“It’s not easy,” Maddon explained on Thursday. “The players, to a certain extent, they will understand, but deep down it's hard to swallow.”