Why the Cubs felt now was the time to call up Matt Mervis
Jed Hoyer had a sense that there was some form of offensive lapse on the horizon.
Entering their last road trip to Miami and Washington D.C., the Cubs had the number one offense by OPS (.794) and weighted runs created plus (117) in the National League. They were second in all of baseball behind only the hotshot Rays.
It was a pleasant surprise, but not something that was expected from a team that was built on pitching and defense.
“That probably wasn’t something that was gonna continue at that rate the entire time,” Hoyer said. “There [were] probably some factors in there that we were bound to regress and that’s just the nature of the baseball season.”
That rang true on that road trip. The Cubs’ offense wasn’t bad — they posted a .714 OPS and a 94 wRC+ on the trip — but it was a dropoff from the first month-plus of the season, for sure. And the Cubs struggled with timely hitting, posting a .158 average with runners in scoring position in those 7 games.
“We did not hit well on that trip at all,” Hoyer said. “We’re struggling a little bit right now and we’re not really clicking on offense.”
Rarely, in season, does the president of baseball operations or general manager have a clear opportunity to positively impact a position of need by calling up a prospect from the minors. But as the road trip was ending, Hoyer and GM Carter Hawkins saw one of those uncommon moments to try and boost a struggling offense.
After all, at Triple-A Iowa, there was a prospect who was off to a torrid start — one who had 6 home runs and a 140 wRC+. And it wasn’t a fluke start — he had been doing that for over a year now.
That prospect — Matt Mervis was slashing .305/.383/.599 with 42 home runs, 146 RBI and a 153 wRC+ since last April across three minor league levels. He had ascended the minor league rung, showing his prowess each step of the way.
“Ultimately, there’s no perfect answers to when a guy is ready,” Hoyer said. “We felt like he had 112 plate appearances in Iowa, felt like the right time for the team and felt like the right time for him.”
Make no mistake, neither Hoyer nor the Cubs are expecting Mervis to come up, put up the gaudy numbers he did in the minors and carry their offense to those top-of-the-league levels they were at to start the year.
“We’re pulling him up in part because we’re struggling a bit, but I’d also say we’re not expecting him to carry our lineup or do anything more than he can do,” Hoyer said.
That isn’t stopping Mervis from setting the bar high for himself. It’s what’s helped him go from a college player who many people felt had no future as a hitter, to an undrafted free agent who took the minor leagues by storm and reached the major leagues as a first baseman.
“I don’t really pay attention to [outside expectations],” Mervis said. “I have high expectations for myself. So, I expect to come in and help us win right away. So, whatever Twitter or the media is saying about me, then I’m sure I’m thinking the same thing about my own performance.”