With a name most people are not too familiar with yet, Edwin Rios is in the hunt to land a decently sized role with the Cubs this season. Rios is a 28-year-old third-baseman from Puerto Rico who signed with the Cubs on a one-year deal for only $1 million. Coming from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Rios never found success or playing time, with 2020 being the most games played of his career at 32, and having subpar statistics during his LA tenure.
Edwin Rios could be a huge addition to the Cubs lineup because they need left-handed hitters. The offseason landed the Cubs with a few lefties, such as Hosmer, Bellinger, and Barnhart, but creating a solid mix of right-handed and left-handed hitters is essential.
Edwin Rios’s name has been turning heads all Spring Training, with him now tied with catcher Yan Gomes for home runs this Spring Training. Cubs coach David Ross made a statement earlier this week that turned some more heads in Rios’s direction.
“Man, I think Edwin’s been one of the more impressive guys in camp,” Ross said. “Looking at who he was coming into cap, the adjustments he made for the San Diego game over there, and the at-bats he’s had since then, has been really impressive. He’s worked some walks, gotten some deep counts; he’s hit for power.”via Kade Kistner, Sports Illustrated
Ross’s comments shed some light on what the coaching staff thinks of Rios and how he has performed this Spring Training. They see him as a power hitter who has made deep adjustments in his swing and is creating a great carry on the ball. As I said in my article on David Bote, both first and third base are occupied and full of talent that will take most of the playing time. While those spaces conflict with Rios’s potential playing time, it can only help a team to have a deep bench, especially with left-handed hitters.
Taking a shot in the dark, the Cubs’ go-to bench bats may look like Patrick Wisdom, Nick Madrigal, David Bote, Christopher Morel, and Yan Gomes. Again, that is entirely theoretical and will look different throughout the season. However, not one of those players mentioned above hit left-handed, which is why Edwin Rios could make some noise on the bench if that’s where he ends up. According to the depth chart, the only players who are not expected to be consistent starters that are left-handed are Zach McKinstry and Miles Mastrobuoni, both of which have below-average hitting stats throughout their careers. Cubs prospect Pete Crow-Armstrong is expected to get his callup to the MLB at some point this season, which will add another left-handed bat. Should Rios not get the starting gig on Opening Day, he could see daily playing time as the go-to left-handed pinch hitter.
With all of this being said, it may be too big of a leap for Edwin Rios to go from never playing more than 20% of a season to being a reliable bat off the bench. But with the change of scenery and the confidence of the coaches and team behind him, there is no reason Rios cannot get a job on the 40-man roster this year. Regardless of how his season goes and where he plays in April, it is a great problem the Cubs have in terms of the stressful decisions going into final roster cuts. Spring Training would be considered pointless if it was not an opportunity for players who may not be household names or who have struggled in years past to get a chance to find an efficient role for the pro club. Not only that but with Rios’s contract being structured as a one-year, $1 million deal, there may be a chance the Cubs got the offseason steal of the year.
Are we watching the same team?