The Expendable 3: Matt Szczur, Jonathan Herrera, and Ryan Sweeney Vying for Spot
I can’t lie, I love Sly Stallone’s Expendables franchise. Something about the cheesy one-liners and cheesier one-dimensional bad guys, the overwrought machismo and non-stop over-the-top action just speaks to the 80’s child in me. And in case you were wondering, I did just used five hyphens in that last sentence.
I’m not going to get into detail in regard to the Italian Stallion’s trio of flicks, other than to say they feature a group of mercenaries who truly are expendable, at least as far as the rest of the world is concerned. There’s a high probability of death involved, but it’s how they make a living.
Much of the same can be said for the players who make their living floating around the fringes of a major league roster. Well, except for the constant gun-play. But in Ryan Sweeney, Jonathan Herrera, and Matt Szczur (the only one of the group whose name qualifies him for inclusion in Stallone’s outfit), the Cubs must decide who they can truly live without.
Herrera, the 30-year-old journeyman, is certainly the least well known to fans in Chicago; he’s also the only infielder. A switch-hitter, Herrera has played parts of six seasons with the Rockies and Red Sox, putting up a .263 average and .324 OBP. In 1,213 plate appearances, he has racked up 8 home runs and 15 stolen bases.
He has a career K-rate of 14.3%, though that number was a robust 23.1% in 42 games with the Red Sox last year. His BB-rate (career 7.7%) isn’t awful, but it doesn’t really do much to make up for his other mediocre offensive stats. Herrera does seem to be a good contact hitter though, boasting 93% Z-contact and 87.3% overall contact rates.
This isn’t a guy who’s going to bring a lot to the table, but he can play three infield positions and bats from both sides of the plate, increasing flexibility on a roster that will be carrying three catchers into the season. That fact that Arismendy Alcantara is also a switch-hitter and is even more versatile in the field, however, may hurt Herrera’s chances.
Also hurting his chances is the fact that he’s not yet a member of the 40-man roster, though Jacob Turner going to the DL could open up a temporary spot for him. I’m usually inclined to root for well-traveled vets like this, but I don’t see Herrera sticking around for much longer.
Ryan Sweeney’s case for a roster spot is bolstered by his $1.5 million guaranteed contract, though the Cubs have shown no issue with eating salary in the past. He can play all three outfield positions but has been hampered by injuries (which seems to be a trend for Cubs outfielders) and is also rumored to be on the trading block.
Of course, a trade would bring the roster down to 39, thus opening a spot for Herrera and opening the door for Matt Szczur, who has lit the Cactus League up this spring. Given his performance in March (.349 with 5 homers), one might think the former Villanova wide receiver would be a lock for a roster spot.
Add to that his speed and ability to provide great defense across the entire outfield, and you’ve got a guy who seems tailor-made to stick. The rub here is that Szczur still has one option remaining; but is it really possible the Cubs could send both of their best Spring Training performers?
It’s entirely possible if they’re really still unsure of where Kris Bryant will be playing, or if they are already convinced that he’ll be a left fielder. If they roster Szczur and then call Bryant up, not to mention Chris Denorfia’s eventual removal from the 15-day DL, Szczur could become the odd man out.
Rather than allow him to languish on the bench in Chicago, the Cubs may prefer to have Szczur getting more consistent AB’s in AAA. Again, this is all a moot point if and when Sweeney and/or Welington Castillo are traded.
I’m not big on playing armchair GM — admittedly, many of you are far better at that than I am when it comes to understanding all the nuances of options and such — but if this was my call I would be keeping Herrera and Szczur. Sweeney has been a nice player at times for the Cubs, but health and age (30, about 4 1/2 years older than Szczur) are not in his favor.
Given the potential feast-or-famine offense of this Cubs team, I think it’ll be necessary to maintain as strong a defense as possible. We’ll find out soon enough what the opening roster is going to look like, but this is just the latest in what is sure to be a very exciting game of musical chairs.
And the best part is that they’re no longer being rearranged on the deck of the Titanic.