Friday, April 19, 2024

Cubs Bench Guy Playing Himself Out of a Job


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There is just no way in the world the Cubs can be serious about wanting to compete in 2023 if they’re also starting the season with left-handed hitter Zach McKinstry on the Opening Day roster.

Ever since the Cubs acquired him from the Los Angeles Dodgers last year for reliever Chris Martin, McKinstry’s been terrible at the plate. The best thing I can say about McKinstry is that he had a .741 OPS in the last month of the 2022 season. But even that late-year jump only raised McKinstry’s wRC+ to 79. Just know that means he was 21 percent worse than the average hitter last year.

And I do understand that McKinstry has some value for the Cubs. He seems like a solid baserunner and he’s been good defensively at multiple spots, so he can give a manager flexibility on the roster. Guess what, though, the Cubs have other guys who can do that as well and man, McKinstry’s at-bats are so brutal watch. That’s why this quote from David Ross earlier in March and the assumption made from Cubs reporter Andy Martinez caught my attention recently after McKinstry got some playing time in left field.

Via Marquee Sports Network.

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“That’s not kinda the priority, but if I have to put him out there, it’s just a little irresponsible of me not to get him some reps,” Ross said. “He is an option out there, he’s played there before. Just making sure that we get him a game out there, some game reps, something to just turn his attention [to] the little details out there, be fundamentally sound out there.”

Given McKinstry’s situation — he’s out of options this year — he’ll likely start the season with the big-league team, meaning the Cubs want him ready for any and all situations. Ross and the Cubs like to have versatile bench pieces and McKinstry certainly is that — he’s a left-handed hitter than can play second, third or shortstop, so having that ability to play in the outfield in a pinch is a boost to the Cubs roster.

Again, no reason to be talking about McKinstry needing reps in the outfield in case of an emergency in the regular season. I wish the discourse was how bad he’s been at the plate and that he’s just fighting to hold on because he doesn’t have any minor league options left.

Entering Wednesday’s game against the Oakland A’s, McKinstry is 2-for-30 with seven strikeouts in spring training. He has not gotten a hit since March 6, against the Seattle Mariners, going 0-for-18 during the past two weeks. I know, small sample size, but he was bad last year, too.

The Cubs are trying to compete for a playoff spot in 2023, but I don’t know how they can have that mentality if they begin the season by not having the best possible roster right out of the gate. I mean, especially for guys at the bottom of the roster, the competition for the final few spots should be earned, right?

Well, after slashing .199/.273/.361, last year, which included a .633 OPS in 47 games with the Cubs, McKinstry is being talked about like a player who doesn’t have to worry about losing his spot all because he’s out of minor league options and the Cubs could end up losing him for nothing. Well, sometimes you have to admit you were wrong about a player and stop making things worse by keeping him around.

It would be fine if McKinstry was driving the ball all over the park in spring training, but he often looks overmatched at the plate. Does the defensive versatility really out-weigh the offensive shortcomings when you’re already going to begin the season without Seiya Suzuki, Eric Hosmer’s recent decline and the catcher position is going to provide almost no value on offense? Not ideal to also carry another player who hasn’t shown progress offensively at the major league level.

While I do think that most results don’t matter in spring training, some guys should have to prove they belong. We’ve made a big deal about Hayden Wesneski looking the part as the fifth starter while competing for that role in spring training. It should be the same way for guys battling for bench jobs.

Let’s hope things have changed in the mind of Ross and the Cubs front office because the only thing Zach McKinstry has been doing in spring training is playing himself out of a job.

We’ll talk about the Cubs bench competition, expectations and how we’re feeling about the 2023 team heading into Opening Day with Joe Johnson from Obvious Shirts on this week’s Pinwheels And Ivy Podcast!

We will be streaming live tonight, Wednesday, at 8 p.m. CST.

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Mar 23, 2023 10:41 am

How many hits does Swanson have?

Jay T
Jay T
Mar 23, 2023 10:31 am

Opposite for bote. He is a hitting machine and has infield versatility. Why not put him to work?

Mar 23, 2023 10:20 am

Agreed. McKinistry has to go

Silver Khloe
Silver Khloe
Mar 22, 2023 4:32 pm


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