Before the season began, the Chicago Cubs weren’t expected to compete for very much of anything other than staying out of the National League Central division cellar. However, while their main competition for such distinction, the Houston Astros, have exceeded all expectations, the Cubs have somehow managed to fail to meet the already meagre hopes of their fan base.
After losing 12 games in a row, including a humiliating weekend series sweep at the hand of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs find themselves tied with the Minnesota Twins as the worst team in baseball. For Cubs supporters, just about the only thing there is to look forward to is the call up of first baseman prospect Anthony Rizzo, who along with Zach Cates, was absolutely stolen from the San Diego Padres for the low, low price of Andrew Cashner and Kyung-Min Na this off season.
Rizzo made his Major League debut last season with the Padres, playing in 49 games and accruing 68 days of service. His unimpressive results, which may have had a hand in San Diego’s seemingly rash decision to move him, should be taken with an enormous grain of salt considering he was only 21 at the time. A year later, he’s positively raking at Triple A for the Cubs, having already hit 17 home runs in less than 200 plate appearances while further frightening opposing pitchers with his .360 isolated slugging and .474 wOBA.
However, with those 68 days of service on his resume, Chicago is unlikely to call him up until they can be assured that the first baseman doesn’t acquire an entire year’s worth of service time. That means the team must avoid having Rizzo on the Major League roster for 104 or more days this season. Doing so would make the young slugger eligible for free agency in 2017 instead of 2018. It could mean as much as $10 million in the difference between an arbitration-eligible contract and a free-agent one, or it could mean one less year with the club if Chicago isn’t in a position to retain Rizzo. Helping matters in this quest to limit service time is Bryan LaHair, who until just recently, has surprisingly been one of the best hitters in all of baseball while playing first base for the Cubs.
Despite the reasoning behind the delays to call up Rizzo, fans want to see the future at first base, and if that means moving LaHair to the outfield and causing the team to lose Rizzo early or have to pay more to keep Rizzo longer, well, so be it.
This was never more apparent than last night, when Rizzo was pulled from Chicago’s Triple A affiliate’s game in the sixth inning without any injury being reported. Within minutes rumours, speculation and innuendo was swarming social media with the firm belief that a call up was imminent. For Toronto Blue Jays fans, the hysteria was reminiscent of last year’s Brett Lawrie watch, when every single move made at Triple A Las Vegas seem to have implications leading to his arrival with the big club.
However, there was no such premature call up. Rizzo was taken out of the game due to a wrist injury, so reports of 44 jerseys being printed for use at Wrigley Field appear to be exaggerated … for now. And for now, that’s the smart play. However, we can most likely expect to see Rizzo called up after the All-Star break when the timing makes a bit more sense.
And The Rest
Philadelphia Phillies starter Roy Halladay continues to prove that he’s actually human, or at least more cyborg than all out robot. Shoulder soreness has been bothering him for a while. [Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia]
Derek Jeter passes George Brett on the all time hit list. [The Star-Ledger]
After dominating the Cleveland Indians this weekend, the Chicago White Sox find themselves a mere half game out of first place in the American League Central. [Baseball Musings]
Woody Paige firmly believes that the Colorado Rockies must put an end to the Dan O’Dowd era. [Denver Post]
The greatest sports radio call in show moment of all time ever. [DJF]
San Francisco Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez has yet another injury setback. [Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area]
Heath Bell is still the official closer for the Miami Marlins. [Baseball Nation]
Washington Nationals rookie outfielder Bryce Harper went oppo taco for the first time and sprinted around the bases. [Nats Enquirer]
Milwaukee Brewers fans are pretty darn good. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
The end is looming for Colorado Rockies pitcher Jamie Moyer. [Heaven And Helton]
I’m not sure if this expanded or contracted Brandon Beachy’s strike zone. Kerwin Danley, welcome to hard ball. [Scott Lewis]