Cubs shake things up with some major roster moves
Amid their longest losing streak of the year, the Cubs are mixing it up.
The team announced a series of roster moves ahead of their series opener in Philadelphia on Friday night:
- 2B Nico Hoerner was reinstated from the 10-day IL
- CF Cody Bellinger was placed on the 10-day IL (retroactive to May 16) with a left knee contusion
- RHP Keegan Thompson was optioned to Triple-A Iowa
- 1B/DH Eric Hosmer was designated for assignment
- 3B/1B Edwin Ríos was recalled from Triple-A Iowa
- OF Mike Tauchman was selected from Triple-A Iowa
There’s a lot to break down in all those moves, so let’s look at them individually:
There’s no denying the importance the 26-year-old second baseman plays for this Cubs’ offense. He’s served as a catalyst at the top of the lineup, reaching base at a .348 clip, swiping 12 bases and playing stellar defense at second base.
The Cubs have gone just 2-6 since he landed on the IL. While his absence isn’t the sole reason for the team’s struggles, his return should provide a jolt to a team desperate for it, much like Matt Mervis’ debut brought a buzz to the Cubs when he came up.
“It’s no secret he sets the tone at the top,” David Ross said Friday.
All along, the Cubs and Hoerner had indicated that the injury was not too serious and that it would likely be a minimum IL stint. Had this been later in the season with the Cubs in a playoff push, then Hoerner likely would’ve pushed through it, although some of the elements that make him the player that he is — his baserunning, for example — would have been hindered. With the time off, he should come back fully recovered and without limitations.
Bellinger landed awkwardly in Houston after making a spectacular catch to deny Kyle Tucker extra bases. The landing and how his knee buckled looked like a more serious injury, but after the game, both Ross and Bellinger felt like they were out of the clear in that regard. Still, the injury lingered enough that both sides decided to play it safe and place him on the IL.
“Kinda like Nico, why push it got an off day in here to not miss quite as many games, hopefully, and he’s back pretty soon,” Ross said.
Bellinger has been having a resurgent year so far — he’s slashing .271/.337/.493 with 7 home runs, 9 stolen bases and a 122 weighted runs created plus. The Cubs will likely turn to Christopher Morel and Tauchman to fill the void in center field while he’s out.
For the Cubs, the decision to option Thompson stemmed from the belief that it can help him rediscover his form. The righty has walked hitters at a 15.4% rate, the highest of his career and struck out batters at a 17.6% clip, the lowest of his career. Wednesday in Houston, he allowed 3 runs on 2 hits without recording an out.
“We know what he’s capable of when he’s at his best,” Ross said. “So, getting him back stretched out to a multi-inning role, consistently, is the plan for him down there and once he builds his confidence back and is pitching really well, I’m sure we’ll see him back.”
Thompson has struggled in his ability to recover on short rest for the Cubs. When he’s pitched on 3 or more days of rest, he’s allowed 2 earned runs on 6 hits with 7 walks, 14 strikeouts and a .105 batting average against in 17.1 innings. On less than 3 days of rest, Thompson has allowed 8 earned runs on 8 hits with 7 walks and 2 strikeouts in 4 innings of work in 6 games. Opponents have hit .444 against him on less than 3 days’ rest.
In Iowa, Thompson will be stretched out to pitch in a multi-inning role, much like he did last season. Being able to pitch multiple innings offsets the ability to not use him as frequently. But Ross did say that they’ll continue to occasionally use him on 1-day of rest and in a smaller workload, to see if the recovery will improve.
“But what I would say, is he’s at his best when he feels good and has multiple days off and can give us multiple innings,” Ross said. “We’ll get him in the zone, trusting his stuff, trusting his secondary, whether that’s rest or confidence or whatever that is, I think just getting that back on track because he is so important is gonna be key for us.”
Hosmer struggled this season, slashing .234/.280/.330, 2 home runs and a 67 wRC+. Still, Ross called his conversation with Hosmer “super difficult”.
“He’s been a big part of impacting this group since Spring Training,” Ross said. “The way he comes into work every single day, just an emotional day from that standpoint. That’s probably the worst part of my job having those types of conversations.
“He’s as professional as I’ve been around, and his energy has impacted a lot of guys around this clubhouse.”
Mervis credited Hosmer as a resource he was leaning on in his first few days in the majors and someone he learned from in his time in Spring Training.
But the Cubs felt the need to have a natural third outfielder on their roster was crucial — Morel can play the outfield but wanted the security of Tauchman’s defense on their roster. To add Tauchman, the Cubs needed a 40-man spot, which led to Hosmer’s DFA.
“If Belli doesn’t go down, Hosmer’s probably still here,” Ross said. “We need that defensive replacement out there or that defense out there in center field … Two everyday outfielders isn’t enough.”
Edwin Ríos/Mike Tauchman
As referenced above, the Cubs felt Tauchman’s defense was a necessity on the roster while Bellinger is on the IL. But the 32-year-old has been having a solid campaign with Iowa. The Palatine native was slashing .278/.427/.443 with 3 home runs, 17 RBI and a 129 wRC+ at Triple-A.
Tauchman had 12 home runs and a .795 OPS with the Hanwha Eagles of the KBO in 2022. He signed a minor-league deal this offseason with the Cubs and was one of the last cuts in Cubs’ camp.
Ríos provides a lefty bat with power for Ross off the bench and someone that can play third base and first base.