Frank Schwindel Optioned to AAA Iowa

Frank Schwindel‘s playing time had been growing spotty over the last week or so and Patrick Wisdom had made three starts at first base since August 4, including Monday’s win over the Nationals. In the wake of that win, and with the news of Jason Heyward‘s pending release still hanging heavy, the Cubs optioned Schwindel to Triple-A Iowa.

The 30-year-old is batting .229 with a .277 OBP and just a 75 wRC+ and -0.7 fWAR. With just eight homers on the season, none of which have come in his last 89 plate appearances, Schwindel simply wasn’t producing the kind of power you need from a corner man.

Assuming this one sticks a little longer than the option earlier in the year, Schwindel will join a very crowded group in Des Moines that includes Alfonso Rivas, Matt Mervis, Jared Young, and Nelson Maldonado. The easiest solution from a fan perspective is to promote Mash to Chicago, but that presents an issue with a 40-man roster that is going to need all kinds of room this offseason.

We’ll get back to that in just a moment, but I want to first view this as fallout from picking up Franmil Reyes on Monday. There was room on the roster to add him without dropping someone else, so we’re not really looking at a direct move. However, Reyes is a right-handed batter who serves primarily as a DH with the ability to play right field. The Cubs are set in one of those spots and Schwindel, also a righty batter, has gotten 100 of his 292 plate appearances as a DH.

Wisdom and P.J. Higgins can hold down first base with Christopher Morel playing the hot corner on a more regular basis. The combination of Morel’s arm and Wisdom’s glove may not necessarily be the most effective, but it’s not like the Cubs care about much more than getting reps and seeing what happens at this point.

Back to that positional glut down in Iowa, where Maldonado has already been struggling to get playing time of late after a scorching start in Tennessee. Even with Rivas getting more run in left field and Young playing third, you’re looking at three first basemen, one of whom may be seeing his future with the organization drawing to a close.

The Cubs have a lot of decisions to make this winter when it comes to who to protect on the 40-man roster, which is what really puts Schwindel in jeopardy. All three pitchers acquired in deadline deals are Rule 5 eligible and will need to be protected, plus there are several other prospects in the system worthy of roster spots. While Mervis has certainly earned a promotion, it’s possible he’ll remain in Iowa just so the Cubs maintain as much flexibility as possible.

Of course, we could see the front office get really proactive by making some moves prior to the end of the season. With nothing to play for but pride and a lottery pick, they might want to get some of the young guys up for a cup of coffee in September. I could see Jed Hoyer getting a little more aggressive on the fly as the Cubs head down the stretch.

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