Counsell ‘Very Open and Uncommitted’ on DH, Could Be ‘Bunch of Guys’

The addition of Cody Bellinger means the Cubs have very few remaining question marks when it comes to everyday at-bats. That could change if Christopher Morel and/or Michael Busch give team leadership pause when it comes to handing over the reins at their respective corners, but let’s assume for the time being that both prove themselves competent. The only remaining spot in the order is designated hitter, which Craig Counsell admitted recently he hasn’t paid much attention to.

“It’s the spot I’ve thought the least about,” the manager told reporters. “That probably means that it’s going to be a bunch of guys. Right now I’m viewing it as very open and uncommitted.”

The indication here is that the Cubs aren’t looking outside the organization for an option to step in and serve as the primary DH, which would rule out a bigger name like J.D. Martinez. That may have been foreshadowed to an extent by the addition of Garrett Cooper on a minor-league deal, even though the former Marlin and Padre doesn’t have much thunder from the right side.

Further clarification from the manager makes it sound as though the Cubs are indeed comfortable moving forward with what they’ve got.

“You’re at the time of the year where you start in your head looking at rosters for sure, and that’s with the guys here, absolutely,” Counsell added.

Based on how things have gone so far this spring, you have to figure they’re looking for Alexander Canario and/or Matt Mervis to step up and take the role. Both are on the 40-man roster already and neither is going to be playing in the field consistently based on the logic above, plus there’s almost nothing to be gained by either of them heading back to Triple-A. Unless the goal is for the I-Cubs to win more games, which it’s not, more time in Iowa means little.

Canario has the defensive chops to play any of the three outfield positions, so it’s pretty easy to justify a roster spot for him even at the expense of Palatine Pounder Mike Tauchman. Mervis has shown a very patient plate approach this spring and offers significant pop from the left side as long as he shows that he’s patched up the holes in his swing that concerned the Cubs last season. If I’m being honest, or just greedy, I think having them both in Chicago provides tremendous upside.

Depending on what the Cubs choose to do with their glut of corner men, they could also use Morel and Patrick Wisdom in the DH rotation. But if we go back to the idea of Morel holding down the hot corner, there’s no way this team can break camp with Wisdom, Nick Madrigal, and Miles Mastrobuoni on the roster. Right? Right?!

Under the right circumstances, you could make the argument for any one of them to be a strong ancillary piece to a contender that lacked a particular trait: power, contact, versatility. As things stand, however, the Cubs aren’t good enough that keeping a large number of flawed role players provides much value to either the team or the players in question. In the end, the DH spot will probably be settled by default once things jell at the corners.

I keep coming up with different ways to look at how Counsell improves the Cubs, and this appears to be another one. Just as he was brought in to make the front office uncomfortable when it came to some antiquated ways of thinking, he’s not tied to any particular players or positions. That might mean delivering difficult news when it comes to certain roles, or lack thereof, heading into the regular season.

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