Patrick Wisdom’s Balky Back Could Color Roster Choices

Even if Christopher Morel hadn’t already been installed as the favorite to land the everyday third base job, he may have ended up with it by default. Nick Madrigal is working through another in a long series of leg issues and now Patrick Wisdom is dealing with back discomfort. He had already been shelved for a few days and was scratched from Tuesday’s lineup when his warmup didn’t go well.

“Patrick got going today and didn’t feel great,” Craig Counsell explained to reporters. “Not really sure what’s gonna happen next, but obviously, it’s concerning that we had to stop today.”

The manager added that Wisdom isn’t likely to get back into a game until later this week at the earliest, putting his readiness for the regular season in jeopardy. There’s no need to make a decision on the IL just yet, but having both Wisdom and Madrigal unable to go next week would necessitate at least one roster move.

Alexander Canario seems like an obvious choice to break camp with the big club as a righty bench bat because he’s already on the 40-man roster, then you figure one of either Dominic Smith or Garrett Cooper will make it. That already seemed like a strong possibility, with Cooper making sense as a short-side platoon option to pair with Michael Busch at first base.

Both Smith and Cooper can opt out of their minor-league deals if they’re not added to the 40-man, but keeping them would mean clearing two spots. The Cubs can create one by moving Caleb Kilian to the 60-day IL, so they’d have to DFA or trade someone else to make another. As things currently stand, it’s hard to see them valuing a week or two of either veteran over someone who’s currently rostered.

The calculus changes if both Wisdom and Madrigal are close enough to being ready by March 28 that IL stints aren’t required. Lord knows the Cubs love to delay such choices, but this is a little different. Counsell said Tuesday that “it’d be pushing it” for Madrigal to suit up, so the risk of playing short-handed while also losing a cheap veteran or two should have them erring on the side of caution.

Since I know this will probably spur more than a few folks to say the team is better off without Wisom anyway, I want to close by noting that the manager and makeup of this team may well bring out the best in him. When used situationally in matchups best suited to his strengths, he gives the Cubs much-needed power with a little defensive versatility. Lament the strikeouts all you like, but he’s been an above-average run-producer all along.

I’d expect this to be one of those things that comes down to the wire in terms of making any firm decisions, so we’ll be waiting another week or so before we know for sure.

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