Chicago Cubs: Signing Descalso is smart, but not enough

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs signed free-agent utility man Daniel Descalso on Tuesday. However, they still have work to do if they want to solve last season’s hitting woes.

The Chicago Cubs have been noticeably silent so far this offseason. This could mean that they’re not planning any big moves and given their current salary cap situation ($168.5 guaranteed for 2019), that would make sense. However, with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer at the helm, the Cubs cannot be counted out of the Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sweepstakes just yet.

For now, the Cubs have only made minor roster moves, the most recent being the addition of Daniel Descalso. He signed a two-year, $5 million contract with a club option for the 2021 season on Tuesday. The 32-year-old utility player started games at four different positions for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season while hitting .238/.353/.436 in 423 plate appearances.

Signing Descalso makes sense for the money. While it is unlikely that he will have a significant impact at the plate for the Cubs next season, he can play all four infield positions and thus give days off to key players when needed. In addition, Descalso brings an experienced, veteran presence to a very young infield.

However, the Cubs still have some work to do this offseason to shore up shortcomings at the plate from last season. Post-All-Star break, they ranked 17th in the league in on-base percentage and 27th in slugging percentage. In addition, the Cubs were the fourth worst team in swinging strike percentage in the second half of the season.

Now, those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Last season, Cubs (now former) hitting coach Chili Davis attempted to change some of the young players’ approaches at the plate. Though it is impossible to know until we see them hit next year, it is plausible that young hitters such as Willson Contreras, Albert Almora Jr., and Ian Happ struggled at the plate because they were uncomfortable trying to fit into Davis’s instruction.

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However, for the Cubs to put faith in these young hitters next season would be a big risk. Jon Lester and Cole Hamels are getting very near retirement, and the Cubs cannot afford to waste the final seasons of these two future Hall of Fame pitchers, especially considering the postseason success they’ve had in their careers. The Cubs need good hitting, and they need it sooner rather than later.

Descalso is a smart, low-cost move for the Cubs. Look for them to continue from here and make an acquisition or two bolster the offense for the 2019 season.