In a surprise move, the Cubs have optioned outfielder/infielder Ian Happ to Triple-A Iowa, manager Joe Maddon announced Saturday (via Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic). Happ’s “not happy” about the demotion, Maddon revealed.
The decision comes in the wake of a miserable spring for the 24-year-old Happ, who batted an awful .135/.196/.192 in 52 at-bats during the exhibition season. Before that, Happ looked like a shoo-in to open the season in a prominent role in Chicago, where the former high-end prospect emerged following a mid-May promotion in 2017. Since then, the switch-hitting Happ has slashed .242/.341/.459 (109 wRC+) with 39 home runs in 875 plate appearances. Defensively, Happ has seen a significant amount of action in all three outfield spots and at third base with the Cubs.
Happ figured to start 2019 in the Cubs’ outfield, but he’ll have to wait before factoring into their lineup again. For now, the Cubs want Happ to work on cutting down his strikeouts in the minors, per Maddon (via Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune). Strikeouts have indeed been a problem for Happ, who fanned in 33.8 percent of major league PAs from 2017-18 and went down another 14 times during the spring.
Chicago’s in position to temporarily say goodbye to Happ because of the depth in its outfield, where it has several experienced options. Jason Heyward, Albert Almora Jr. and Kyle Schwarber lead the way among the team’s primary outfielders, while Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant, David Bote, Daniel Descalso and Mark Zagunis also represent 40-man outfield possibilities on hand. Johnny Field, meanwhile, has held his own this spring after joining the Cubs via waivers from the Twins during the offseason.