The 2016 Major League Baseball season is underway, and Cubs fans have plenty to be excited about.
After outscoring the Angels 15-1 in a quick two game set, the Cubs will head to Arizona to face a team that lost two out of three to a team that many expected to finish in last place, the Colorado Rockies. Everything seems to be off to a great start for the Cubs, but there is one problem that may be on the horizon.
Matt Szczur is playing out of his mind.
Now, an unheralded player playing really well might seem like a silly thing to worry about, and it probably is, but let me explain.
Javier Baez will not be on the DL for very much longer. Getting this core piece back in the lineup or on the bench will be great to see, and honestly, I’m excited about it. However, there is an aspect of this reality that I am not exactly thrilled about. Matt Szczur can’t be sent back down to the Minor Leagues.
This has become so commonplace for Theo and company to bounce Szczur back and forth from Iowa to Chicago to fill in for injured players. They optioned him a whopping ten times in 2015. Unfortunately, the Cubs are out of option years with the young outfielder and he will have to clear waivers, something I don’t believe will happen given how well he has started the season.
So if they can’t option Szczur to the minors and they don’t want to risk putting him on waivers, there has to be a better option, right?
One possibility is going with one less reliever for the time being. I, for one, would not feel uncomfortable if we were without Aaron Brooks for the time being. That’s Aaron Brooks, Cubs relief pitcher, that you may or may not have heard of before right now.
Travis Wood, Trevor Cahill, and Clayton Richard are capable of going out there and throwing 3+ innings so the small bullpen doesn’t scare me. I consider Brooks more expendable than Szczur and would much rather have this happen than Szczur chopping salads for another team.
Another possible scenario could involve a trade. With Baez continuing to work on his outfield, him coming back gives us 7(!!!) capable outfielders (Schwarber, Fowler, Heyward, Soler, Szczur, Baez, Bryant). The last two may be a stretch, but I think trading a guy like Szczur for a minor leaguer would make sense. Szczur is seeing the ball well and could help a team that is thin in the outfield, and the Cubs could add a potential pro for the future.
Look, trying to stay level headed after this offseason and the start to the season is hard and Szczur could very well be hitting .235 by the time Baez is called up. That would make the decision pretty easy. You waive Szczur. But if he continues to stay hot until Baez is ready, there is going to be some big time decisions being made in Theo’s office, but I think we all believe he will make the right ones.