Cubs’ Insistence on Using 24-Man Roster Remains Baffling

With all due respect to the members of the Cubs front office, all of whom know more about the inner workings of their team than those of us on the outside could hope to, I think it’s foolish as hell to utilize a truncated roster. Like a college team being penalized with a loss of scholarships, the Cubs are essentially playing a man down by keeping Daniel Descalso on the roster and never playing him.

The never playing him is easy to understand, since he’s slashing .182/.280/.264 with a 48 wRC+ and has been worth -0.6 fWAR this season. But if you aren’t going to play the guy, and when he provides negative value when he does play, why is he taking up a spot that could be more capably occupied by almost any other player in the organization?

Believe it or not, Descalso has actually been more valuable than 10 of the 287 major leaguers (oof, Yonder Alonso) who’ve logged at least 180 plate appearances this season. So it could be worse, like if the Cubs had Starlin Castro and his -0.7 fWAR. But why are we even having a conversation like this about a contender with admitted soft spots in the lineup?

Descalso remains on the team even as Theo Epstein has said publicly that the Cubs’ depth is thinner than ever, ostensibly because he fills the leadership void that was such a big talking point this winter. So was a focus on production, though that edict seems to have been more of a soft guideline than actual rule.

Perhaps the strangest part of this whole thing is that Descalso has essentially been Milton Waddams’ed, exiled to the basement as a means by which to “fix the glitch.” But you know what? If a guy is going to suck, I’d just as soon he do it out loud. At least that affords him the opportunity to either fall bass-ackwards into positive contribution or to work out of a slump.

Descalso has seen his playing time decrease each month, from 86 plate appearances in March and April to 61 in May and 31 in June. Through 16 July games, he’s gotten a grand total of five PAs. Five. All came in four pinch-hit appearances, with the 18-5 blowout in Pittsburgh standing as the only one in which the 32-year-old has dug in twice in the same game.

Descalso actually managed a hit in that one, his fourth in 36 plate appearances since the start of June. That comes after logging just five hits in 61 May PAs, with a triple on May 20 standing as his only extra-base knock since the start of that month.

Just so we’re clear, I am not dragging Daniel Descalso here. I mean, yeah, I am pointing out his anemic production as a means by which to argue that he shouldn’t be on the roster. But my real target is a team that continues to keep him active in the face of what has long been obvious ineffectiveness.

A trade or two could and should make Descalso (more) expendable and harping on this as I am now may come across as beating a horse that’s long since collapsed. But I just can’t reconcile the decision to wait on this as long as they have, to see how far they can drive their car after the needle hits E. More accurately, they’ve just chosen to put the car in the garage rather than take it out on the road any longer.

Why the Cubs haven’t already moved on is beyond me, though I suppose we’ll see something happen soon enough. Right?

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