The Cubs optioned righty Javier Assad to Triple-A yesterday when recalling outfielder Nelson Velasquez, and Meghan Montemurro of the Chicago Tribune tweets that the current plan for Assad is to stretch him out for rotation work down in Iowa. Manager David Ross didn’t rule out Assad returning in a bullpen role for the big league club at some point, but the 25-year-old Assad impressed as a starter both in the minors and the big leagues last season.
Last season, Assad split his time between Double-A, Triple-A and the Majors. He logged a combined 2.66 ERA, 24.8% strikeout rate and 7.8% walk rate in 108 1/3 minor league frames, with all but two of his 23 appearances coming out of the rotation. In nine big league appearances, Assad made eight starts and turned in an overall 3.11 ERA through 37 2/3 frames. His 18.1% strikeout rate and 12% walk rate were well off his minor league pace, and that ERA looks generally unsustainable without some gains in one or both areas, but it was an impressive debut regardless. He also tossed 5 2/3 shutout innings for Mexico during the World Baseball Classic, fanning six opponents against just one walk.
As things stand, there’s no open spot in the rotation for Assad. Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon, Drew Smyly and fellow 25-year-old Hayden Wesneski have those five starting spots locked down. Veteran Adrian Sampson and righty Caleb Kilian have both struggled in their first pair of Triple-A starts, however, and while that alone may not change their status as the next men up in the event of an injury, it’d become a greater concern if those struggles prove to be prolonged. Stretching Assad back out gives the Cubs a potentially viable alternative. Kyle Hendricks’ recovery from 2022 shoulder surgery is also worth monitoring, but he’s still building up and is not yet facing live hitters.
Turning to the lineup, it seems the Cubs could welcome back a key bat soon, as Ross also laid out a best-case scenario that sees Seiya Suzuki return to the club as soon as this weekend (Twitter link via Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Sun-Times). Suzuki has played in a pair of minor league games and tallied seven plate appearances already. A return this weekend would leave him a bit shy of the total number of plate appearances he’d pile up over the course of a full spring training, but he could still have 20-30 trips to the plate under his belt if he plays regularly with Iowa this week and is activated at some point this weekend.
An oblique strain suffered in the early stages of spring training kept Suzuki on the shelf throughout Cactus League play and into the regular season. Signed in the 2021-22 offseason to a five-year, $85MM contract, the now-28-year-old right fielder turned in a solid .262/.336/.433 batting line with 14 home runs, 22 doubles, a pair of triples and nine stolen bases (in 14 attempts) as a Major League rookie last year. A quality batted-ball profile and strong finish to his ’22 season led to some optimism that the longtime NPB star could take a step forward in his sophomore MLB campaign, but those efforts have been placed on hold for the season’s first couple weeks.
Nelson Velazquez should have made the opening day roster instead of Luis Torrens. Nothing against Torrens, but the Cubs needed a RF more than a 3rd catcher who only plays DH against LHP.
Ross insists on having as many catchers on the roster as is possible…regardless of quality
Yeah, Another head scratcher. Mastrobuoni has proved also that he is better than Madrigal. He can play more positions- Better and is just as good a hitter and he’s LH. So the question has to be, Where does he get traded to? Rossie loves his 3 C setups. That’s fine, But then keeping Mastrobuoni and Madrigal is another double setup that isn’t really needed. Madrigal should go as Morel is raking in Iowa so he’s not really needed anymore.
Disagree on that bit about better than Madrigal. At least Madrigal knows when to dive for the ball to (try to) save a run, or game in the case of Mastrobuoni, who will be their 1st DFA.
Not a huge fan of Madrigal but he’s hitting better than Mastrobuoni. 4/14 vs. 3/17 and a single strikeout for Madrigal compared to six. Contact is more valuable. As Zimmer says, Mastrobuoni will be DFA’d first.
Oh never said Madrigal will be DFA’d. Show me where I said that? But he will be sent down first or traded. They’ve made it clear he’s not getting released. The pitiful 3B experiment should end. Madrigal will bring something back someday. Forget the averages, Mastro has hit the tar out of the ball with nothing to show for it. I get Nicky 2 strikes has his fans the same way Drascoo said I was an internet bully for suggesting that the Cubs trade Happ. But now he’s saying it too so…… Happ is still in the way and he would of gotten way more back last off season.
I don’t think anyone said you said Madrigal would be DFA’d. I agreed with Zimmer that Mastrobuoni would be their first DFA.
No. Torrens has no options and they dont want to lose him.
Bless your heart
I was disappointed to see Assad get off to such a bad start this season but hopefully he’ll be back with the big league team soon. I know it was just an exhibition, but he was really impressive during WBC.
Good move to send him down to work on his stuff, and he’s going to be back up with the big league club later in the summer.
I think the roster will get really interesting when Hughes comes back.
Velazquez will most likely on the shuttle back when Seiya comes this weekend. That still leaves a necessary move when Hughes is ready. I suspect they will balance back to the pitcher/position player mix before Assad going down.
As Deshaies said last night “the results don’t match the piece of work” but I really think Mastrobuoni has outplayed Madrigal thus far and seems to be much more of a threat at the plate.
With Seiya back that completely (or should) eliminates Widsom and Mancini from the outfield mix. The only way Mancini is going to get at bats going forth is spot starts at first and maybe a game out of ten at third.
Madrigal has options left and with a team that doesn’t have much power to begin with I think Mastrobuoni is a better 25th-26th man at this point.
I know these on the cusp 26-man roster players aren’t great or anything, but it’s quite a good problem to have when you are trying to fit about 28 or 29 guys on your 26-man roster. The best part is these guys are contributing enough that it makes it hard to remove whomever from the roster. Even with Madrigal, that was a nice steal pressing the issue last night in the 10th inning. Helped make that really easy for Myself to drive in that walk-off run last night.
Nico—-that really wasn’t a steal….that was a pickoff gone awry. Suarez didn’t react quickly enough and the pitcher froze just that millisecond to regroup and have his throw go to third instead of second.
But to your point. Madrigal DID make a great slide and once he was committed he went—-and did not hesitate at all.
Yeah, either way Madrigal got a ridiculous jump (at least 5 steps) before the pitcher acknowledged what he needed to do and by then it meant an absolute perfect reaction and play by both the pitcher and 3rd basemen to get him out. The risk was worth the reward. Ironic part was he coulda scored from 2nd on that hit anyway. Lol
I think it was just a great reactionary baseball play by Madrigal who got caught. I don’t believe for a second that he was stealing there…..left handed hitter up, two strikes, the old “don’t make the first out at third base” thing…..almost like a good old Javy Baez react and make them throw me out type thing.
After the couple of failed bunt attempts that reaction was a sigh of relief. And, yes I think he would have been able to read the ball off the bat and score from second on the hit.
And—-kudos to the new lights at Wrigley!! The TV screen looked better than ever for a night game.
True. I couldn’t believe that with all the upgrades they did to the Park that those were the same lights from 1988. About time. It was a big difference.
Mike 127- Couldn’t agree more . Hughes and Seiya coming back are no roster problem. Merryweather goes and Velasquez goes back down. After that 40 man spots get interesting. After that they only have one 40 man spot open( Merryweather) And deserving people. The only other move without making a deal would be to DFA Roberts as nobody would pick him up because he’s out all year anyway and he can go on the Iowa DL. Things are going to get interesting this year I’m thinking. Cubs are about to make some serious long term decisions. They’re going to have to. Benefit of a deep farm system. They don’t have bums they can just cut anymore.
Drascoo- Madrigal can only play 2B. The Cubs have better 2B than him and Mastrobouni is one of them. He hasn’t got much to show for it but he’s swinging the bat well. Not down on Madrigal as much as up on Morel and Mastro. Watching Madrigal play 3B is like watching a foal try to take his first steps. He staggers around a bit, maybe gets the ball and then practically goes into a windup to get the ball across the diamond. It’s hard to watch. With Hoerner there , no real need for 3 backup 2B in the organization. And Mastro is LH which none of the others are.
Is the Mastrobuoni out playing Madrgial comment supposed to be serious because it’s an absolutely ridiculous take. Thank god you’re not responsible for putting together a bench.
Not only does Madrigal have more upside offensively, a better defender, his elite contact rate weaponizes the bench.
I think UncleMike and Mike127 are the same person. Pretty funny actually. That’s all I got.
“Three, as some have said ‘taking what you can get’ would have weakened hoyers position in future trades and when it comes to a guy you can at least get some return on if he leaves ‘qualifying offer’ then do not take that chance.”
“If Contreras gets over 5/80 I’ll admit I’m wrong but I don’t see it. He isn’t a catcher contenders want. The QO is going to hurt him a lot also.”
XD XD XD
Contreras got a whopping 7.5 million more than predictions and both he and the cardinals have been awful this season. So that a ridiculously lame attempt at patting yourself on the back.
He got more than 5/$80m and trading him wouldn’t have negatively affected what the Cubs were offered for their other trade chips one bit. That is all that matters.
You better hope for your sake that the Cubs hit on that comp pick.
I really could not careless if the draft pick compensation works out or not. I’m glad Contreras is gone and look forward to hearing Cardinal fans complain about how terrible he is.
Then why were you defending the Cubs not trading him in August? You said it would have weakened Hoyer’s position in future trades and that it would have eliminated any chance the Cubs might have had of re-signing him.
With my apologies to Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp, David Ross is a stooge
Assad day in Chicago in deed.
I have no idea why he went North in the 1st place. I’m assuming it was because he was already on the 40 man already and keeping Sanders or Burdi would of cost another move. They’re going to have to make that decision soon anyway because Merryweather doesn’t impress me at all. Hughes should be back soon and Merryweather probably won’t make it through waivers but no big loss. Killians first start he was pitching with like a 50 MPH wind blowing out but his second start was pretty good. Sampson is exactly like he was in the Spring-Horrible. Iowa rotation should be Brown-Asad-Wicks-Killian and Elias in that order. With Sampson being DFA’d. Mastrobuoni has hit the crap out of the ball with nothing to show for it.
Mike, I’ve learned, when you don’t like a player, you really don’t like the guy. Sampson is 31 and over 140 MLB innings and 24 starts his ERA is right around 3.00. That is not a small sample size. There are about 20 teams that need a guy like Sampson as rotation depth. Elias, 34, hasn’t shown that ability as an MLB starter. Even his 1st start at Iowa was terrible.
I don’t have an Adrian Sampson jersey, or have posters of him all over my walls, but I recognize his value to the Cubs roster. Maybe they trade him once Hendricks comes back, but I really don’t think there is any chance the Cubs release him.
I saw both of Killian’s games, there was a 20mph wind on his 1st start, but he was not locating well at all. He had the same issue in his 2nd start. Everyone was counting on Assad and Killian as depth. I wouldn’t allow either to start a game at Wrigley until they get things straightened out. If someone went down tomorrow, I’d bet Sampson would get the call.
Wood- It’s not that I don’t like him. I don’t really, But not for the reasons you state. I don’t like guys who are in the way of the future. Madrigal, Sampson, Happ are all guys who are in the way of the future. Morel, Davis, Canario, PCA are the future. I’d rather they took chances with guys who have an upside. Sampson has no upside. Happ is a nice player but they have better guys coming. Look it’s time for some of these guys to be tossed out of the nest. They’re going to have to make some tough decisions soon. Without data how can you make decisions? Leaving them at Iowa proves nothing. I’ve been wrong before obviously. I thought Amaya might be toast but he actually has gotten into shape and looks good so far. Bote is also but he has no place here anymore either and in the way. It is what it is. If you’re not part of the future, Time to go. Has nothing to do with what I like. It’s life in the Big leagues. Iowa has guys who need to go so Brown and Wicks can move up. They’re the future.
I get ya. I’m not necessarily a guy that believes you’ll ruin a player by rushing him to the MLB roster. I do believe guys need to check boxes. I mean, I wouldn’t throw Horton and Brown in the rotation this weekend.
Id like to see Madrigal go to Iowa to get his bat straightened out. If that happens, his contact skills definitely have a place on my roster. And certainly fits if Hoerner or Swanson went down. I agree, that Mastrobuoni has earned the top utility spot. But that doesn’t mean Madrigal is trash and needs to be DFA’d. He certainly isn’t blocking anyone at this point.
I’m someone that believes Morel needs to play every day. Just because he’s tearing is up at Iowa, doesn’t mean that translates to Wrigley. His 45% K rate in spring is what earned him a trip to Iowa, I don’t think he’s fixed that in 7 games.
Right now Happ isn’t blocking anyone. Certainly not Davis, Morel or Canario. I’m fine with them dealing Happ. I’m still somewhat skeptical on him, although I’d rather sign him and worry about “blocking” Brennen Davis when that’s actually a thing.
Interesting footnote about talent. South bend is starting the 9th round draft pick from last years draft while Cade Horton is at Myrtle Beach. Knock me over with a feather.
Birdsell as well – 5th round. But not concerned about Horton. By all accounts he could have started in South Bend. Due to limited innings last year, wanted to start him in Myrtle Beach. I don’t expect his stay to be long.
Oh I’m not worried about it at all. One of the things I was most looking forward to this off season was who would start where. I just don’t like where Wicks and Brown started but otherwise I’m cool. LOL Sorta.
It’s gonna be a B**ch trying to watch the Cubs and all 4 farm teams at the same time tonight but I’m gonna give it a shot. LOL
Well, I guess we’re wrong on Mastrobuoni, since Madrigal came in when Swanson left.
Hopefully you only watched Iowa.
No I watched as much as I could on the computer. I really hope Swanson isn’t hurt badly. If he has to go on the IL it will be interesting to see if they bring up Alcantara or Morel. Morel has been much better at swinging at strikes and was actually getting a blow tonight when he PH for Suzuki and got a 12 pitch walk. Was actually impressive. Hughes and Suzuki both looked like crap. Noland looked good and I told everyone Velasquez has struggled at first at every level he’s been at. Looks like he’s getting it. That was an impressive win.Wesneski looks a bit flustered so far. But I’d stick with him for now.
Saw Swanson said he thinks it was cramping, so there might not be any roster moves. Hopefully that’s it. I’d still like to see Morel do it for a month. Evaluate everything. I want him playing every day. Saw the box for Hughes and Suzuki. If Velazquez has straightened things out, he really lengthens the bench. We also might get an idea of what Hoyer is thinking. If Velazquez stays up and rotates some with Happ. That may indicate that Hoyer believes they can fill that spot with one of the prospects. I’d actually prefer to sign Happ and trade Suzuki,
I would give Wesneski 3 more starts to figure things out. If he can’t, I’m giving the ball to Sampson.
Except for one tiny thing. Suzuki has a full 5 year No Trade Clause,
Well, that doesn’t help with my plan does it?
Wild Bill the great
I’m sure Hendricks did not have surgery as mentioned in article. Am I missing something?
He did not.
Just ran into Javier at los comales in Pilsen . He was a little down but we sat and talked baseball. We even shared some sopes together. When the check came he refused to let me pay. On the way out he even bought me one of those square candies by the register. What a hell of a guy