The Rundown: Butler Could Be Next Up, Candy Man Can, Arrieta’s Rocky Season Continues

My predictions regarding Eddie Butler’s call-up have had all the accuracy of a carpet-bombing run, but I guess that means I’ll eventually hit the target one of these days. And with signs pointing toward the Cubs needing rotation help at the conclusion of this Rockies series, I’m going to say the Cubs ring for Butler to start Friday night in St. Louis.

While the rainout did afford some much-needed recovery time following that Sunday night affair with the Yankees, it resulted in Tuesday’s day-night twin bill in Denver. That means that, for all intents and purposes, the Cubs have played two doubleheaders in three days. Even the day off following the Rockies series doesn’t help much, since would-be Friday starter Brett Anderson is now on the DL.

Jon Lester could open in St. Louis on regular rest, but Joe Maddon may want to give his ace a little extra time to recover from his 120-pitch outing Sunday. Calling Butler up would allow Maddon a bit more leeway when it comes to setting up his rotation in the short term. Mike Montgomery is also in play here and I had said the other day that I thought he was most likely to fill in for Anderson, but my thinking has changed in light of the current situation.

The Cubs have needs in both the pen and the rotation at this point, though the latter unit has been able to rest over the last couple days. Now it’s a matter of how to best allocate resources to right the ship over the next few games. Though he could help stabilize the rotation for a turn or two, Montgomery’s removal from the bullpen weakens that unit appreciably. Should Butler maintain anything close to his AAA production, he represents an improvement over Anderson and is at least a wash with Montgomery in a starter’s role.

But it’s really not as much a matter of whether Butler is better than Montgomery as it is that Montgomery is needed in a bullpen that has been leaned on way too heavily over the last week or so.

Adding a starter means Lester could pitch on Saturday with an extra day of rest, Arrieta would go on regular rest Sunday, and Lackey and Hendricks would actually have six days apiece between starts. Depending on how things shake out from there, the Cubs could then start back with Lester, who would start the finale with the Reds on May 18 on regular rest. They wouldn’t need a fifth starter again until Monday, May 22 against the Giants.

Of course, there’s the small matter of a corresponding move should the Cubs opt to bring Butler to the bigs. With the news that Dylan Floro has been optioned back to Iowa, you figure Jeimer Candelario will stay until Jason Heyward returns. That leaves Justin Grimm or Tommy La Stella, both of whom just returned from Iowa, or perhaps Felix Pena. My money’s on Pena going back down, just because of Occam’s razor and whatnot.

Now that I’ve laid it out thusly, you can expect the Cubs to go with Montgomery as the permanent No. 5, moving Anderson to the pen once he comes back and letting Butler continue to hone his craft in Iowa.

The Candy Man can…show out in a showcase?

Jeimer Candelario has been absolutely tearing up Triple-A for the past two seasons, though you’d never know it with Ian Happ stealing all the headlines this year. With the Cubs allowed to bring up an extra body Tuesday, they brought up the corner infielder and immediately inserted him into the cleanup role in Denver. All he did was single to ignite a five-run Cubs rally on the first pitch he saw in the 2nd inning.

The move was about more than just an injection of energy, though.

Blocked at the MLB level by Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, not to mention any number of outfielders should he be converted to get more playing time, the Candy Man could be up to help the Cubs in another way. If, that is, other teams find a guy with a .995 OPS across 104 AAA games attractive enough to want to part with a pitcher in return for his services.

It’ll take more than just Candelario to land the kind of cost-controlled arm the Cubs could use to rebuild their rotation after this season, but he could definitely be the centerpiece of such a deal. Or he could factor very heavily in the acquisition of a rental arm like Johnny Cueto, should such a deal come along. The best part of the latter option would be the agonizing over a) trading away a top prospect; and b) doing so for a rental.

As much as I’ve been adamant about Candelario’s eventual exit from the system as a trade chip, he’s the type of guy I’d love the Cubs to be able to hold onto. Not only is he an excellent player who can bat from both sides of the plate, he’s everything this organization wants in terms of makeup. Candelario is a humble baseball rat who endears himself to anyone who meets him.

If you’d like to know a little bit more about Jeimer Candelario as a person and a ballplayer beyond what you can see on the stat sheet, check out this interview I did with him at this past Cubs Convention.

Arrieta looks rocky

Once considered the best damn cooler in the business, Jake Arrieta had given up a double-deuce of earned runs over his last six starts when he exited Tuesday’s game in the 4th inning. That matched his worst stretch of last year, when he gave up 22 earned over the half dozen starts between June 26 and July 30. And after Trevor Story singled off of Dylan Floro to add another tally against Arrieta, this recent stretch became the bearded pitcher’s worst.

For entertainment purposes only I took a look back at Arrieta’s 2015 Cy Young season and found that he did actually have a stretch in which he allowed 22 earned runs. Over his last 23 starts of the season.

But back to that 2016 skid, which coincided with similar struggles from the rest of the Cubs’ staff. In fact, the whole team had fallen into a nosedive during which the Cubs went 6-15 and even lost nine of 10 at one point. The good news is that things worked out pretty well after that, as the Cubs caught fire and left the rest of the division, and the rest of baseball for that matter, in the dust.

The bad news is that this rough patch is coming several weeks earlier in the season and shortly before the Cubs are scheduled to play 16 games in as many days. No rest for the weary. Well, other than the buffers on either side of the upcoming tilt with the Cardinals.

Arrieta’s poor performance is costing him much more than just his inflated stat line, though. You can almost hear the printing presses scaling back as the former ace’s value drops precipitously each time he takes the mound. There’s time enough to get some of that back prior to free agency, but it’s not looking great for him at this point.


More news and notes

  • Mark Melancon has been placed on the DL with a mild right pronator strain
  • Zach Britton will won’t touch a ball for at least 10 days and will be out 6-8 weeks with a forearm strain
  • The Blue Jays have DFA’d former Cub Neil Ramirez
  • Kris Bryant’s opposite-field HR Tuesday was his second of the season, one more than last year
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