As spring training has worn on, and as shortstop Starlin Castro has continued to sit out games with a hamstring injury, more and more fans have been asking about whether or not Javier Baez could potentially make the Chicago Cubs’ opening day roster. His four home runs in Cactus League play (including one in Surprise on Tuesday night) have done little to pour water on those rumors, but Cubs GM Jed Hoyer did just that on Wednesday morning.
In a radio interview with David Kaplan and David Haugh, Hoyer said that the team will start Baez out with the triple-A Iowa Cubs this season, but did acknowledge that fans of the team have every reason to be excited:
Hoyer on Baez ascent to majors: “Cubs fans will see him soon enough but it’s not going to be Opening Day.”
— David Haugh (@DavidHaugh) March 19, 2014
Baez has been bouncing around the field a bit for the Cubs in spring training, with manager Rick Renteria looking to work him out at several positions. He has played some games at shortstop, but this week he has also been getting some time at second base. Hoyer added in the interview that Baez will start at shortstop for the Iowa Cubs, but that he could still see a bit of action at second base once their season starts in April.
As for the Cubs’ current situation at the position, there’s no telling if Castro will actually be ready when the season begins at the end of the month. He still hasn’t gotten into a game since pulling his hamstring, and he said that he would likely need 8-10 games in order to get fully prepared for the regular season. The Cubs only have 11 games left (12 if you count split squad action), so Castro is getting close to a point where he may not be able to get his preferred warm-up time before the grueling 162-slate begins.
Even with that in mind however, the Cubs are still making the right choice when it comes to sending Baez to the minors. He is arguably the top prospect in their farm system, but with the team not really poised to do much of anything this season, it doesn’t make sense to burn a year of arbitration eligibility just to have a starting shortstop for a week or two while Castro gets ready for the season. Starting Darwin Barney or Donnie Murphy in that spot makes a lot more sense as a short-term solution rather than starting the clock on Baez’s MLB service time, and Hoyer is right to exercise patience with one of his prized assets.