The Cubs announced a flurry of roster moves this evening, most prominently sending second baseman Nick Madrigal to the 10-day IL with low back tightness. The team also selected Triple-A infielder Ildemaro Vargas’s contract, designating right-handed pitcher Adrian Sampson for assignment to open up a 40-man roster spot for Vargas.
Madrigal, acquired in last season’s cross-town trade for Craig Kimbrel, was hitting a pedestrian .203/.250/.241 (43 OPS+) at the time of his IL placement. There’s still plenty of time for the 25-year-old to turn it around when he returns to the field, though a few things stick out in his early season offensive performance. Chief among them, Madrigal’s elite contact abilities have eluded him to a notable extent thus far.
His 16.7% strikeout rate, while considerably better than the league average, is more than double his career rate entering the season. The former first-rounder is hitting the ball with more authority than ever, however, which may eventually lead to a more impressive batting line than the one that is currently present. Madrigal’s defense has also remained top-notch, largely offsetting the contact hitter’s lack of offense in the eyes of most defensive metrics.
Vargas meanwhile returned to the organization this winter on a minor league deal and was hitting .279/.321/.413 in 25 Triple-A contests. Offense isn’t Vargas’s calling card though, as his promotion stems from his ability to play all around the infield, a must-have for a three-man Cubs bench.
Sampson, another offseason minor league signee, pitched to an excellent 2.80 ERA in 35 plus innings (10 games) for the Cubs last season as a swingman. Advanced metrics weren’t terribly bullish about his performance however, which helps explain the minor league pact and the right-hander’s lack of opportunity with the big league team this season. The 30-year-old has continued to have a decent run in Triple-A this year, so it will be interesting to see if the Cubs can keep him in their organization as depth or if a team hurting with injuries will seek to claim him in the coming days.