The Cubs’ long-term plan for Christopher Morel
The Cubs still see Christopher Morel in their long-term plans.
It’s part of the reason why the team decided to option him to Triple-A Iowa to start the season. With the big-league club, Morel was likely to see little game time and for the long-term plans of both him and the Cubs, it didn’t make too much sense to include him on the Opening Day roster.
“The coaching staff really felt strongly that he’s a really good player,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “We really want him playing a lot and having him as a bench option isn’t the right thing for his career and is probably not the right thing for the length of the season.”
It was a tough message to deliver, nonetheless.
Morel is known for his smile — he even has a smiley face emoji on his glove — and has an upbeat attitude whenever he’s on or off the field. The always-charismatic Morel was more down earlier in the week in Mesa when the news was delivered.
“Christopher Morel enjoys playing baseball,” David Ross said. “He’s a got a smile on his face. He’s a fun guy to have around.”
One member of the Cubs’ staff talked with Morel after he got the news and offered encouragement to him, reminding him that plenty of players had been optioned in their Cubs career and went on to have a lot of success — players like Javy Báez, Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner.
The move to send Morel down highlights the Cubs’ depth.
Last season, the Cubs were stretched so thin from a roster perspective (especially when injuries cropped up) that Morel’s versatility wasn’t necessarily a luxury, but rather a necessity. The Cubs needed Morel to play center field one day, third the next and shortstop the following. This year, the Cubs inflated their depth and carrying Morel on the Opening Day 26-man roster would have been redundancy.
“Our bench is as deep as it’s been here for me,” Ross said. “I think we’ve got real players that we can plug and play in different scenarios that are really gonna help us out this year. I feel like it’s a deeper team as far as some of the guys that are gonna be coming off the bench at times or getting starts here and there.”
At Iowa, Morel will be getting regular at-bats — he started the I-Cubs’ Opening Day on Friday night — and can play all over the diamond. The consistent plate appearances will be crucial for his development.
After starting his first 58 games with an OPS of .850, Morel slashed .163/.238/.340 with 62 strikeouts over his final 55 games (50 starts). The 23-year-old can continue to refine some of the areas of his offensive game that caused him struggles late in the season, all while improving his defensive game across the diamond.
“I think he can be at one spot, but I think a lot of times, the longer into a guy’s career they can move around, the better,” Hoyer said. “His versatility provides so much value.
“I know guys want to play one position but a lot of times, the value to the team is so much higher when you can move the guy around. Having really athletic, really versatile players, it does create a ton of value.”