After the Chicago Cubs’ 4-3 walkoff win over the Washington Nationals Sunday, one thing is certain: It’s David Bote’s world and we’re all just living in it.
Okay. Maybe that’s a bit extreme. But it does feel like a wave of Bote-mania is sweeping Chicagoland and starting to catch on nationwide. Hitting a clutch, grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning certainly garners attention.
But if you’ve been paying close attention this year, you know he’s not just a one-hit wonder. Through five separate stints this season, the 25-year-old rookie has flashed his ability both at the plate and in the field.
So could Bote’s rise give the Cubs more options down the stretch and into the offseason? That question would’ve been crazy to ask a month ago, but it’s not too far fetched in the moment.
Through 34 games, Bote is slashing .329/.418/.539 with 3 home runs, 18 RBI, a .957 OPS and some big at-bats. While his walk-off grand slam is getting plenty of publicity, he also had a walk-off walk on July 8 in a 6-5 win over the Cincinnati Reds to go along with a game-tying two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning during a 7-6 win on July 26 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He also is a solid defender. While he might not make flashy plays in the infield, Bote has been steady at both third and second base. During his time in the minors, he even played well at shortstop and in the outfield.
He seems like a Ben Zobrist clone, and we know that Joe Maddon can’t get enough of those type of players. Bote, Zobrist and Ian Happ give him the ability to create a whole bunch of lineups and defensive options.
However, the roster is flooded with redundant position players and something’s got to give. Bote has benefited from Kris Bryant’s injury, getting plenty of run at third base. No matter how well Bote plays, there is no chance that Bryant is being chased out of the lineup when healthy.
So where does he go the rest of the season?
Maddon could remove a mediocre Addison Russell from the lineup, inserting Bote at second base and moving Javier Baez to shortstop. If he would rather keep the dynamic combo of Russell and Baez up the middle, either Bote or Bryant could move to left field in place of Kyle Schwarber.
Since the All-Star break, Schwarber is slashing.229/.313/.343 with 2 home runs, 7 RBI and a .655 OPS. If he continues to slump, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bote get more playing time.
Prior to mid-July, most Cubs fans would’ve thought Happ was the natural replacement late in the season and into the playoffs. However, his inconsistency might be his downfall this season.
Happ’s .241/.363/.414 season slashline isn’t that impressive, but it’s better compared to his numbers after the All-Star break. In his last 23 games, Happ is slashing .180/.307/.262 with 1 home run, 7 RBI and a .569 OPS. Add that to his already high strikeout rate and you understand why Bote might have the advantage.
What if Maddon thinks Happ needs more consistent playing time to iron out his latest offensive woes? If that’s the case, either Bryant or Bote could play left field while Happ slides into center field. After all, his platoon-mate, Albert Almora, is dealing with his own problems at the plate, slashing an abysmal .214/.252/.265 since July 1.
All these scenarios are made possible by Bote’s ascension. If he continues at this current pace, the Cubs have flexibility not only this season but also in the offseason.
With plenty of redundancy on the roster, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will have to start identifying which young pieces are part of their core. Whoever isn’t can be moved, whether it’s to upgrade starting pitching or restock the farm system.
Russell might be the most likely candidate to get dealt over the winter. While he’s stellar defensively, he hasn’t produced at the plate like many in the organization expected. Schwarber is another possible trade chip, especially to an American League team looking to add a powerful DH to their lineup.
It’s even possible that the Cubs cash in on Bote’s high value and add him to a trade package. There is no doubt he would garner attention in the offseason if he keeps up his current production.
Seeing how the Cubs handle their wealth of depth from now until next spring will be intriguing. As long as Bote keeps exceeding expectations, the possibilities seem endless.