Could David Bote Be Victim of May Roster Crunch?
David Bote entered Cubs camp on a mission in 2019. After getting his feet wet for 74 games in 2018, he’s looking to earn a bigger role this season. Even without watching him play, it’s apparent he utility infielder has transformed his body. Or as he puts it, stacking muscle and becoming more vertical.
Not sure if it’s the new physique, winter swing improvements, or a determination to earn playing time, but Bote is having a great spring. He is batting .462 with a 1.353 OPS in 11 games, including eight walks to only seven strikeouts in 34 plate appearances. Between his versatility, power, and good plate approach, it seems like a given that he will be a key piece for the Cubs all season.
So why is there still a possibility that Bote could find himself in Triple-A Iowa in May?
As is often the case with roster crunches, it comes down to options and positional flexibility. Bote has enough of the latter to be of value, but having some of the former means he can be sent down without having to pass through waivers. Thus there is no risk the talented infielder will be claimed by another team on his way to the minors.
Ian Happ, who is struggling mightily in Arizona and could also be a candidate for a refresher course in the minors, has an advantage in that he can play center as well as infield. Being the primary backup for Albert Almora Jr. makes it less likely he will be sent down.
And the whole reason we’re talking about May is that Addison Russell’s return from a 40-game domestic violence suspension means one less roster spot in the infield. While many, this correspondent included, feel Russell doesn’t deserve to remain on the team, the Cubs have made a different choice. Regardless of where he plays and how regularly, Russell will need be activated.
The final infield roster spot is likely to be held by the Cubs’ “big” offseason addition, Daniel Descalso, who is nicked up at the moment and may miss some time at the start of the season. Descalso’s numbers in 2018 were very similar to what Bote put up and the fact that Chicago made a two-year, $6 million investment in the veteran probably gives him an edge.
Now, it’s possible that additional injuries or trades could clear more room for him to stay in the majors. Or the young infielder could stumble out of the gate and a trip to Des Moines will be fully justified.
But if Bote gets off to a great start and crushes April, things get very complicated. Benching a promising young-ish player who is producing in order to give more time to Russell or Descalso would be very frustrating. Just something to keep in mind as the early season plays out, since it doesn’t look like Bote will make it an easy decision.