When Cubs ace Jon Lester was scheduled to pitch the series rubber match last night in Miami, fans had to like Chicago's chances. Lester pitched great in May, and the Marlins entered the game with a record of 21-32. Unfortunately, Lester allowed four runs in the second inning and was outpitched by Dan Haren. Starting the road trip 1-2, the Cubs now have a tough challenge ahead, stopping in Washington for four games before heading to Detroit for a couple.
Below are three thoughts as the Cubs prepare to face the Nationals.
1. The Cubs need more offensive production from the outfielders. I've been discussing left field all season so far; now, Dexter Fowler is having a little trouble, and Jorge Soler is on the DL. Adjustments need to be considered, and I think the team will do so. Against the Marlins, Soler, Fowler, and Chris Coghlan combined to hit 5-for-25. By comparison, Junior Lake, Mike Baxter, and Matt Szczur combined for six hits in only 13 at bats. I'm not saying those three should be starting every day together, but some kind of changes might need to be made. That being said...
2. When is Javier Baez coming? I think Baez is very close to making his return to Chicago, actually. I wouldn't be surprised if we see him on June 9th in Detroit, if not sooner. Baez has reestablished himself at AAA-Iowa, where he is currently hitting .325 with a .404 OBP and an OPS of .949. Those are some of the best numbers of his career.
Baez played 3B last night for the first time since the 2012 fall league, showing that the Cubs are trying to find a position for him. Kris Bryant's start in LF on Tuesday could be further proof that Baez is coming, and he may get his playing time at 3B.
At this point, if I'm going to watch Coghlan get on base at a .301 clip, then how is watching Javy Baez strike out any worse? And let's not even get started on Jonathan Herrera. (Tommy La Stella, where are you??)
With the DH spot available in Detroit, only the dreaded "service time" issue should be keeping Baez in the minors for more than another few days.
3. So then, how far away is Kyle Schwarber? The Cubs have a chance to win this year, and if the front office makes a full push by trading for a key player (Cole Hamels, Ben Zobrist, etc), then the team should also consider getting Schwarber out of Tennessee ASAP. (Nothing against Tennessee!) Imagine a lineup with Bryant, Addison Russell, Baez, AND Schwarber. That was a dream at the beginning of this season, and now we could see it later this summer.
Of course, there are other players waiting for a shot as well. Later this week, I'll look at a few players in the Cubs system who may be getting called up sooner or later as the team tries to save as much of Schwarber's service time as possible.