By Bruce Levine
(CBS) — Players from the Chicago Cubs farm system are making their way onto the 25-man roster. Arismendy Alcantara has already forced the Cubs front office to keep him around for a longer period of time than first anticipated.
When second baseman Darwin Barney left the club for the birth of his child, it was thought Alcantara would only stay in the majors for two games. Alcantara went 4-for-5 in his second start, solidifying a roster spot until at least after the All Star break.
The old saying “How you going to keep them down on the farm?” has a different connotation now than it did after the Great Depression, when youngsters made their way from rural areas to big cities seeking fame and fortune. In the world of Cubs farm hands, it points to the ascension of the next wave of top prospects that the team expects to be a part a winning franchise.
Alcantara was 6-for-14 in his first 20 plate appearances. Having the knowledge that Emillio Bonifacio was coming back from a rehab stint, manager Rickey Renteria dodged questions about the 22-year-old infielder staying for an extended period of time. Bonifacio is coveted by numerous teams, including a former employer in Kansas City. That information and the fact the trading deadline is only 19 days away might mean a short-term demotion for the promising young Alcantara.
Other youngsters down at Triple-A Iowa also appear ready to compete at the top level. That said, starting the major league clock is another matter that club officials must deliberate.
The team has a number of suitors for some of their veteran role players. Toronto has been watching Bonifacio and Barney. At the same time they may have interest in pitcher Carlos Villanueva, who fills the valuable role of swing man and spot starter.
Renteria started Alcantara in center field Saturday. The manager made that move despite the fact that Alcantara had only played a handful of games in the minors away from his natural infield positions. A versatile performer should be a welcome addition for the manager in the second half of the season.
“You want guys on your team that are flexible,” Renteria said. “You want them to play different positions if they can. That is especially true in National League ballgames, where we can move pieces around and change things up a little bit.”
Reliever James Russell and Justin Ruggiano are also on that short list of players most likely to be moved before or right after Aug. 1. Starter Edwin Jackson has too big of a contract and too few positive results to move in a deal. Jackson has two more years left on a four-year, $52-million contract that he signed before the 2013 campaign. He lost his 10th game of the season and is a combined 13-28 in a year and a half of pitching in Chicago.
“This was just one of those games that was horrendous, embarrassing game flat out,” Jackson said Saturday after giving up nine earned runs. “There is no other way to put it. The team went out there and continued to battle back and continued to go out and give up the lead. Unacceptable.”
Renteria was asked if another role was being considered for the failed starter.
“Good question — I would have to say no,” he said.
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.