Baseball / Sports

Chicago Cubs third baseman Luis Valbuena (24) celebrates his three-run home run with Anthony Rizzo and Chris Coghlan off San Diego Padres starting pitcher Ian Kennedy (22) in the fourth inning Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Cubs lose 8-3 while pondering moves for future

CHICAGO--Outfielder Jorge Soler has one advantage over Triple-A Iowa teammates Javier Baez and Kris Bryant in their quest to reach the major leagues.

Soler is on the Cubs' 40-man roster, which will hold significant consideration as to who could get promoted later this season.

"The 40-man is a real consideration when it comes to promotions," President Theo Epstein said Wednesday night before Cubs pitchers issued a season-high 11 walks in an 8-3 loss to the San Diego Padres.

With thick layers of talent reaching the upper levels of the minor league system, the Cubs are extremely careful about not placing players on the 40-man roster just for the sake of doing so. Baez doesn't have to be placed on the 40-man roster until after the 2015 season, and Bryant after 2017 (although both players likely will be on the major league roster sometime in 2015).

Simply, the Cubs want to keep their 40-man roster flexible this season so they don't run the danger of leaving a prospect unprotected and losing him in the Rule 5 draft.

Epstein stressed the Cubs haven't made decisions on who could be promoted when 25-man rosters can be expanded Sept. 1 and he hoped Iowa would be in the Triple-A playoffs.

"And that affects the calculus if you're looking at with only a couple of weeks left in the major league season," Epstein said.

Wednesday night, left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada gave up five runs in four-plus innings while walking four as the Cubs trailed the Padres 5-3 after seven innings. Wada was added to the 40-man roster 10 days in advance of the Jeff Samardzija-Jason Hammel trade.

The Cubs also had room on their 40-man roster to add pitcher Kyle Hendricks two weeks ago.

Soler, 22, received praise from Epstein after batting .459 at Double-A Tennessee following his return from a hamstring injury. Soler is batting .409 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs in 28 games with Tennessee and the Cubs' rookie team in the Arizona League.

"(Soler) said, 'Now is my time,'" Epstein said. "He just went out and made a statement. It wasn't just the numbers but the quality of the at-bats. He was laying off tough breaking pitches. He wasn't being overly aggressive. Pitchers weren't giving him pitches to hit.

"(But) he was doing a much better job of getting the ball in the air, leveraging the ball. He hit a lot of balls hard in the past on the ground and line drives. Now that he's on time and feeling comfortable at the plate, he's using the entire ballpark and hitting balls out to straightway left, center and right-center. When you're a strong as he is and hit balls as hard as he does and manage a bat like he does, hitting the ball in the air is a good thing.

"He's just not getting pitched to. He's on a mission and we think Triple A is an appropriate level for him to be challenged."

Baez, who moved from shortstop to second base and is batting .328 in his past 17 games, remains under consideration for a September promotion.

The Cubs have a chance to clear more space on their 40-man roster by making trades before the July 31 trade deadline expires, but Epstein doesn't believe deals are necessary.

"If there's a chance to acquire talent and help us in the future, we're interested in that," Epstein said. "But at the same time, especially with the players we control beyond this year, we have to factor into the calculus how well those players fit going forward.

"How helpful they are in the clubhouse? What they can do for us on the field? How they mesh with the next generation of talent that might be coming up, especially for complementary-type players? There's value to keeping players who have roles here and for the sake of continuity and leadership and performance on the field, especially the players we control through this year.

"We're not in a rush to make trades for the sake of making trades. We'll see beyond that. The guys who are free agents at the end of the year, there's always a lot of talk about those players at this time of year. We'll see what happens. ''

(c)2014 Chicago Tribune

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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