MIAMI — The Cubs insisted moving Kris Bryant to left field shouldn’t be interpreted as a precursor move that sets the stage for a huge shakeup.
But feel free to imagine all the possibilities, the wide-ranging effects if Bryant does shift from third base, what it means in 2015 and beyond.
Manager Joe Maddon wouldn’t go there before Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the Miami Marlins. But it’s a good thing Bryant packed his outfield glove.
“I almost didn’t bring it this road trip,” Bryant said at Marlins Park. “I haven’t played there in awhile, but I’m excited for it.”
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The Cubs could promote Javier Baez from Triple-A Iowa to strengthen their shaky infield defense and see if his Gary Sheffield bat speed still plays after trying to channel some of that aggressiveness and cut down on all those strikeouts.
The Cubs would also have to figure out what to do with All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro and 21-year-old second baseman Addison Russell.
Does putting Bryant in left field somehow signal the Cubs are convinced elite prospect Kyle Schwarber can be the long-term answer at catcher?
How will all these moving pieces influence the front office’s thinking leading up to the July 31 trade deadline?
The Cubs are 27-23 and will be looking to add, but Maddon downplayed the Bryant position switch, rattling off all the factors that went into the decision.
Jorge Soler could be placed on the disabled list with an ankle injury, and that would definitely change the outfield mix, probably creating an opportunity for Junior Lake in right. Maddon also didn’t like the matchup of Chris Coghlan against Marlins lefty Brad Hand and wanted to give utility guy Jonathan Herrera some playing time at third base.
“Honestly, it’s just based on today,” Maddon said. “I just chose to do this. Purely, that’s it.”
But the Cubs are always thinking about tomorrow and what’s coming next. Bryant has some outfield experience, playing center and right at the University of San Diego and getting exposed to left in spring training.
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Coghlan’s hitting only .229, but he’s definitely contributing with seven homers, a .739 OPS and five outfield assists, which was tied for second in the National League. It’s also fair to wonder if Bryant would be a defensive upgrade in left field.
Bryant is a team guy who doesn’t seem to care how the dominoes might fall, willing to move wherever, and that’s another factor the Cubs will consider.
“I’m prepared for anything,” Bryant said. “I played all over the field growing up. I think that’s important to have that versatility.
“I’ve said it before: It’s a kid’s game. So (when) you’re a kid playing this game, you play all over the field. That’s what I do. I’m a ballplayer. I’m ready for anything.”