Nico Hoerner optioned to minors, other roster moves as spring winds down
The remaining question-mark among the Cubs’ positional spots seems to have gotten a bit clearer Saturday morning. The club officially announced they were optioning Nico Hoerner to Triple-A Iowa, and he will thus not start the 2021 campaign with the big-league club.
Additionally, the Cubs announced that left-handed reliever Brad Wieck had been optioned to Triple-A Iowa. Right-handed pitchers Shelby Miller, Trevor Megill and Pedro Strop along with outfielder Rafael Ortega were optioned to minor league camp. The club granted veteran outfielder Cameron Maybin his release.
The Cubs’ spring roster sits at 31 after the moves and they’ll have to reduce it to 26 in time for Thursday’s Opening Day tilt against the Pirates.
Hoerner was putting together a nice spring campaign, slashing .361/.400/.639 in 40 plate appearances. The second base job will likely fall to some combination of David Bote, Ildemaro Vargas and non-roster invitee Eric Sogard.
Hoerner debuted with the Cubs in 2019 after a string of injuries forced the Cubs to bring him up after his Double-A campaign had ended. He spent the entirety of the shortened 2020 campaign with the Cubs. His defensive performance was highlighted by being named a finalist for a second base Gold Glove, but he struggled at the plate as he slashed .222/.312/.259 in 126 plate appearances.
Bote (1.065 OPS), Sogard (1.024 OPS) and Vargas (.813 OPS) have all had strong springs for the Cubs. Bote and Sogard give manager David Ross the flexibility to platoon against pitchers and Vargas’ flexibility to play anywhere across the infield and in the outfield allows Ross to get creative, especially with the designated hitter being dropped in the National League.
Miller had been impressive in spring for the Cubs, pitching 9 innings and allowing just a 1.00 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP. He was seen as a potential fifth starter in the rotation, but also showed the ability to pitch a few innings out of the bullpen for the Cubs. He missed the 2020 season after opting out, so managing his workload was key for the Cubs.
Strop, who spent 7 seasons with the Cubs, signed as a non-roster invitee and pitched to a 6.00 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in 3 innings of work.
Maybin spent the second half of the 2020 season with the Cubs after he was acquired at the deadline from Detroit. He played in 18 games and had a .669 OPS. The Cubs will now likely go with Jason Heyward, Ian Happ, Joc Pederson and Jake Marisnick as their 4 outfielders to start the season.