As the Chicago Cubs’ front office gets set to make some critical roster changes this offseason, here’s one unheralded player who’ll likely influence those plans.
It’s no secret the Chicago Cubs are preparing themselves to be major buyers and sellers this offseason. After another disappointing finish to their season, the team’s window of opportunity to compete for championships appears to be not as wide-open anymore. Player regression, along with notable injuries over the past two seasons have ultimately stunted the Cubs’ growth.
Currently constructed, despite their inconsistent play, the Cubs are still probably talented enough to make another deep post-season run or two if they don’t run into more bad luck with the unpredictable injury bug. Unless their young players continue to under-perform like they have the past two seasons.
Theo Epstein, the mastermind behind the Cubs, will have to determine whether these three players still have a bright future with the organization; or if their past successes were just flash in the pans. If the latter, Epstein will likely look to trade one, two, or all three of them this offseason in order to hopefully get some young, more dependable talent in return.
There is one less-talked about player, whose impact will likely factor greatly into those future plans. I’m talking of course about David Bote.
Bote, the do-it-all player who has shown brief flashes of brilliance with both his bat and glove as a rookie, presents Epstein with an interesting dilemma moving forward. Though he hit just .239 in his first season as a Cub, Bote seemingly had a knack for raising his level of play when the game was on the line. Hitting multiple walk-off home-runs, to go along with stellar defense in both the infield and occasionally the outfield, there is plenty for the Cubs’ front office to like.
While 74 games played is a small sample size, Bote was at his best while hitting with two outs. He batted .323 in those situations, more times than not keeping the inning alive for the rest of his teammates to hopefully do some damage against opposing pitchers.
While the rookie didn’t start a ton of games, he often came into games late either as a pinch-hitter or as a defensive substitution. Bote showed remarkable versatility, playing just about anywhere on the field, while routinely making highlight-reel plays.
One must wonder what Bote would look like if he became a regular-everyday player next season? Could his flashes of brilliance as a rookie be just a taste of what’s to come as he gains more playing experience?
Unfortunately, those same thoughts racing among Cubs fans now were also shared back when Russell, Schwarber, and Happ all finished their promising rookie seasons. Too bad there are never any guarantees when it comes to projecting the play of young talented players down the road.
That’s why Bote presents an interesting dilemma for Epstein. He’s seen this movie far too often already. The ending just doesn’t appear to match up to the insane buildup leading into it.
If Epstein feels confident in Bote’s play moving forward, that could very well make Russell, Schwarber, or Happ expendable, as early as this offseason. Especially if the Cubs land a big free agent such as Bryce Harper in the winter.
Or, maybe Bote’s play has already influenced Epstein to be less aggressive in pursuing a big-time free agent or two this offseason. Epstein knows that committing large amounts of money on a player such as Harper will likely result in a flurry of roster moves that may hamstring the Cubs’ depth.
Bote might be one of many on the Cubs who’d have to get moved to make room for big-time free agents.
The final alternative that presents itself to Epstein is trading Bote to get promising prospects in return. Bote’s trade value is likely higher than Russell’s given his slumping play and off-field issues. It’s at least tempting for Epstein to consider testing Bote’s trade market value this winter. It might be higher now than ever.
Bote, unknowingly, will have a big impact on the Cubs’ roster plans this offseason. It’s anyone’s guess at this point what those plans entail.