The Cubs have not yet officially added Jeimer Candelario to the active roster and Tuesday’s lineup won’t drop for a couple of hours after this is published, but Jesse Rogers reported during a radio hit on ESPN 1000 that the newly acquired infielder will be starting at first base. That’s notable because all of his last 3,046 defensive innings over three seasons have come on the other side of the diamond. Candelario has played first in the past, most recently for the Tigers in 2020, and it was presumed that he might slide over to first on occasion to give Nick Madrigal more time at the hot corner.
Even with that in mind, putting the NL’s WAR leader at third base over at a spot he hasn’t played in three years could signal some of the club’s intentions for other players.
As we explored earlier, the Cubs need to free up a spot on the 26-man roster and it would make the most sense for them to do so by trading or designating either Patrick Wisdom or Trey Mancini. The latter has generated negative WAR value this season and has been well below league average in overall run production, plus he’s very limited positionally. Wisdom at least has one outstanding skill and the Cubs need all the power they can get.
The fact that Candelario is starting at first in this one feels like a bit of a tell, though it might just be a matter of handedness because he’s a switch-hitter and the Cubs are facing a righty Tuesday night. Mancini carries a higher batting average against righties this year, but his 71 wRC+ is seven points below what he’s generated against lefties. Wisdom has the same .195 average either way and his 117 wRC+ against righties is well above his 94 against lefties.
Madrigal has likewise been a little better against righties, though his early-season struggles have pulled down his overall numbers. Since returning from a demotion to Iowa back in June, however, he is slashing .326/.426/.500 with a 158 wRC+ in 55 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers. Madrigal’s numbers against southpaws over that same span are much lower.
The Cubs hate making permanent personnel moves unless they absolutely have to, so we may end up seeing Miguel Amaya optioned to make room. But if Jed Hoyer is truly intent on creating the best possible roster out of the players at his disposal, there’s really no room for Mancini. Then the Cubs can put the pedal to the metal by trading for Pete Alonso.