Between the Cubs dropping two of three to Cincinnati and Cole Hamels going to the IL with an oblique strain, there wasn’t a whole lot of attention paid the farm system this past weekend. But the roster moves that followed Hamels’ injury may have well have additional ripple effects that impact the Cubs as the trade deadline approaches.
Not only was Hamels placed on the IL, but veteran outfielder Carlos González was designated for assignment to free up room for an extra arm. The transactions left the Cubs with an extra spot on the 40-man roster, one that could presumably be filled by slugging utility infielder Robel Garcia (it has become my goal in live to speak this into reality). Ah, but now they’ve actually got two extra spots.
According to Arizona Phil of The Cub Reporter (h/t to Bleacher Nation’s Bryan Smith), righty reliever Tony Barnette has been placed on the restricted list. That leaves the Cubs with only 38 men on the 40-man roster, with the possibility of gaining another spot by moving lefty reliever Xavier Cedeno to the 60-day IL.
RHRP Tony Barnette has been placed on the Restricted List, apparently for leaving the Iowa Cubs (they were in San Antonio) after he was not recalled to replace Hamels on the 25-man roster.
BTW, if Zobrist and/or Barnette are not reinstated from the Restricted List by midnight on 8/31, they will not be eligible to play in the MLB post-season (presuming the Cubs get there).
Barnette looked almost unhittable through mid-June in his second rehab stint with the I-Cubs and may have been frustrated by not being called up earlier, but he was only mediocre in a pair of relief outings with Chicago and was optioned back down to make room for Craig Kimbrel. We don’t know what he was told at that point, but it’s probably safe to assume the 35-year-old figured he’d get another crack once the bottom of the roster churned again.
Well, that churn took place two days later and Barnette was passed over in favor of fellow righties Dillon Maples and Rowan Wick. Leaving the team at that juncture seems a little rash, especially knowing that subsequent moves could easily have brought him right back up, but you can imagine how an aging reliever would object to serving as a commuter on that Iowa Shuttle.
Maybe the righty needed assurance that he’d be up for good and the Cubs weren’t willing to give that to him. Or maybe they’d indeed provided that assurance and then went back on their word due to circumstances. We should also acknowledge the possibility that Barnette left the team for entirely different reasons and that the timing of this placement on the restricted list is merely coincidental.
As with Ben Zobrist and Tommy La Stella, we’ve seen the Cubs leave the door open to players who’ve left the team for personal reasons. Those two position players, however, were far more impactful both on and off the field and had built up quite a bit more personal capital in the clubhouse and with the front office.
The Cubs are loath to part with any player they feel can be of value, to the point that it may even be harming the team, but you have to wonder how long they’re willing to wait on Barnette. He signed a major-league deal in February for a base of $750,000 that included $250,000 bonuses for breaking camp on the active roster and then for lasting there at least 155 days during the season.
Knowing he was not going to achieve neither of those, and that his $3 million option for 2020 wasn’t likely to be exercised, Barnette may have simply felt his best option was to get started on whatever his next venture will be. La Stella talked at length about his own mental health and having to take time away from the game in order to refocus on what he actually wanted, which could be the case for Barnette as well.
And, again, maybe he just thought he was being treated like crap and deserved better. If Barnette doesn’t return, or if the Cubs don’t care to let him, the team now has some legit roster flexibility when it comes to promotions and/or trades. With a month to go before the deadline and maintenance of the status quo resulting in a losing record for June, it may be time to shake some things up.
Or maybe the Cubs can just hold onto those roster spots for a rainy day.
Ed. note: Players on the restricted list for non-PED suspension reasons are still eligible for the postseason.