Wow, this was a shocker. The MLB Transactions page showed that Alec Mills had been optioned to Triple-A Iowa and a report late Saturday morning had Junichi Tazawa being released, but the Ian Happ news was not something anyone expected.
“We’re gonna send Ian back to Triple-A,” Joe Maddon said Saturday afternoon. “We just want to make sure he gets down there and really gets a lot of consistent at-bats, especially from the left side. Obviously we consider him a huge part of our future.
“But just based on the conclusion of last year, what we’re seeing to this point this year, we think it’s really important that that would happen that way.”
Maddon on Happ optioned to Iowa: pic.twitter.com/GXgqZBlDXx
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) March 23, 2019
Maddon said Happ took the news hard, which is to be expected. After all, he’d forced himself onto the roster after being called up in 2017 and has enough athleticism to make up for shortcomings at the plate. But with Albert Almora Jr. playing lights-out this spring and looking like one of the team’s regular leadoff hitters, Happ’s opportunities were clearly limited.
This would almost seem to ensure that hot-hitting Cristhian Adames breaks camp with the Cubs, since he was looking like a strong possibility even had Happ made it. Mark Zagunis may be there as an extra outfielder as well. It’s also a sign that the Theo Epstein’s vow to prioritize production over talent was not just lip service. Happ was batting .135 with a .389 OPS in 56 spring plate appearances and the holes in his swing remained at least as glaring as before.
There was simply no way he would have been able to make the necessary adjustments with a limited role in Chicago. It’s also important to remember that Happ only had a total of 390 plate appearances between Double- and Triple-A, so it’s not as though he was anything close to a finished product by the time he was called up.
The hope is that this lights a fire and provides both the time and motivation he needs to take the next step.
Update: Maddon told reporters the decision to leave Happ off the Opening Day roster was unanimous “among the room.” Even beyond his putrid spring numbers, the folks who make the calls clearly saw things Happ simply wasn’t doing well enough at this point. And if they were at all worried that his poor hitting would continue, it’s better to option him now than to demote him during the season.
Maddon on Happ: It was a unanimous decision among the room. It’s not like it was an outlier. We all concluded the same thing. We had a great meeting. Everybody had an opportunity to speak and we all felt the same way. Which pretty much means you gotta do something like that.
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) March 24, 2019
Update #2: Hahahaha, so much for saying Adames would make the roster. He was assigned to minor league camp Saturday, along Johnny Field. Dillon Maples and Taylor Davis were optioned to Triple-A. There’s still a possibility that a non-roster player makes the 25-man, it’ll probably just depend on all the other moves the Cubs are looking at.
Dillon Maples and Taylor Davis were optioned, Johnny Field and Cristhian Adames assigned to minor league camp. 12 position players left in camp, not including Addison Russell. Mark Zagunis still in camp, but Cubs still looking at external options.
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) March 24, 2019