WASHINGTON – This would be outside-the-box thinking for the Cubs, an aggressive move to get a big left-handed bat in the lineup: Kyle Schwarber, designated hitter.
It could all be lining up for Schwarber, the No. 4 overall pick out of Indiana University at this time last year. The hard-edged catcher is dominating at Double-A Tennessee (1.033 OPS), putting himself on the fast track to at least become a September call-up.
Beginning Tuesday in Detroit, the Cubs will play seven games in 13 days in American League stadiums. Manager Joe Maddon doesn’t know what moves are coming next until he breaks it all down with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein.
But the idea of Schwarber – who’s hitting .326 with 12 homers and 37 RBI through 51 games and getting on base almost 45 percent of the time – has to be tempting.
Will Schwarber’s name be in the conversation?
“He could be,” Maddon said before Sunday’s 6-3 win at Nationals Park. “I would think (so). Based on what he’s done, it would make sense that he would be. But, again, I don’t know what we’re willing to do.
“I just try to do my job, and if the guys think that’s the right thing to do, then I would be on board with it.”
The Cubs already strengthened their roster by activating veteran outfielder Chris Denorfia and optioning Matt Szczur to Triple-A Iowa. The numbers also suggest the Cubs may not need three left-handers in the bullpen against a Tigers lineup that can handle lefties (.764 OPS).
The Cubs are preparing for those two interleague games at Comerica Park and will be traveling to Cleveland and Minnesota next week. A player optioned to Iowa would have to spend 10 days in the minors before becoming eligible to be called up again (barring injury).
“I am going to talk to Theo about all of this,” Maddon said. “You got that window of opportunity. If you want to do something, there it is.
“It’s a perfect window of opportunity. If you want to manipulate, there it is.”
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The Cubs are also confident Schwarber will be a long-term answer at catcher, so there could be benefits to giving him more exposure to Miguel Montero, David Ross and the team’s game-planning system.
Sooner or later, Schwarber will join a talented young core that already includes Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Starlin Castro and Addison Russell.
“I don’t want to just get a look at him,” Rizzo said. “I want someone – if they’re going to get called up – to stay up. But those at-bats are important in the minor leagues. It’s proven over track records of guys getting a certain amount of at-bats. I know he’s doing well, but he hasn’t hit the dog days of summer yet. Your first full season professionally can get to you a little bit.
“But it’s whoever can help this team, whether it’s someone off the streets or one of our top prospects.”