As the Cubs lose patience with Starlin Castro, they don’t seem to be in a hurry to promote Javier Baez from Triple-A Iowa.
Joe Maddon still hasn’t unveiled his big plans for the roster once catcher Miguel Montero (thumb) comes off the disabled list. But the manager has shared his ideas with Theo Epstein’s front office, thinking about ways to create platoon advantages, exploit matchups and give players extra rest (while keeping everyone relatively happy).
That could mean downsizing Castro’s role – at least from the All-Star shortstop’s idealistic goal of playing all 162 games every season. But it doesn’t sound like the Cubs are on the verge of a major shakeup that would involve adding Baez to run point on their middle-infield defense and give this lineup another potentially explosive bat.
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“It’s (almost) a constant assessment,” general manager Jed Hoyer said before Thursday’s showdown against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field. “The biggest thing is his season’s been so truncated. He missed April, basically, and then he had the hand injury. I just feel like with those two things he hasn’t had a natural season.
“We’d love to get him going – and not just a week-to-10-day hot stretch. But really let him establish (himself), get in a rhythm down there and get playing. That’s what we’re focused on now.”
Maddon pushed for Baez to make the team out of spring training and didn’t win that debate over the former first-round pick who struggled to adjust to big-league pitching last year (95 strikeouts in 52 games). Baez took an extended leave of absence after his sister died in April and fractured his finger on a headfirst slide in June.
Since rejoining Iowa, Baez is hitting .279 with three homers, 14 RBI and a .982 OPS through nine games. He’s also struck out 15 times in 43 at-bats. At the age of 22, he has the potential to become an elite defender at shortstop or second base.
Baez would have been a natural target in any trade talks with the Cleveland Indians (Carlos Carrasco) and San Diego Padres (Tyson Ross), but the Cubs didn’t land a building-block pitcher at the July 31 deadline.
“I have no idea what the future brings,” Hoyer said. “We can have an urgent need. But right now, I think we’re really comfortable letting him play. Just keep getting better in Triple-A and sort of provide some normalcy to a season that’s been kind of weird.”