Cubs 2020 roster outlook: Daniel Descalso can only improve from last season

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Each day in March, NBC Sports Chicago is previewing one player from the Cubs’ expected 2020 Opening Day roster. Next up is utility man Daniel Descalso.

2019 recap

Things couldn’t have gone much worse for Descalso last season. In 82 games, he hit .173/.271/.250 with a 29.4% strikeout rate and 42 wRC+ — all career worsts for the 33-year-old.

Descalso was hitting .310/.394/.448 with a 124 wRC+ through April 24. A 3-for-25 stretch over his next eight games followed, the last of which (May 4) he suffered a left ankle injury. From that point on, he hit .094/.204/.118, generating a woeful -7 wRC+.

Expectations for this season’s role

Descalso played second base in all but four of his appearances last season. He’s bracing for more of a utility role in 2020, which isn't a major change considering he’s played all but center field and catcher during his 10-year career.

Descalso career innings by position

-Second base (2,275 2/3)
-Third base (1,405 2/3)
-Shortstop (1,255 2/3)
-First base (318 1/3)
-Left field (316)
-Right field (1/3)

2020 outlook

Fans called for the Cubs to move on from Descalso this winter, but that was never going to happen. They value his veteran presence in the clubhouse and, importantly, are up against the luxury tax. They plan to get under the threshold by season’s end and would be on the hook for Descalso's $2.5 million salary if they cut him.

That’s a small sum for a big market team, but the Cubs didn't operate as such this winter, and struggled to make any moves to get under the tax threshold.

Although Descalso doesn't blame last season’s woes on the ankle injury, he admitted that he tried to play through it when he should have rested. If his issues at the plate linger, perhaps the Cubs cut bait and eat his salary.

But this season offers him a fresh start, and he’s only a season removed from an impressive 15.1 percent walk rate, .353 OBP and 113 wRC+ with the Diamondbacks.

He can only go up from last season, right?

The complete roster outlook series:

1. Cubs hoping Kris Bryant stabilizes leadoff spot in 2020
2. Kyle Hendricks is a steady force in the Cubs' rotation
3. Kyle Schwarber is primed for a breakout 2020 season
4. Tyler Chatwood has chance to rewrite the script in 2020
5. David Bote searching for more offensive consistency in 2020
6. One pitch could hold key to Jose Quintana's 2020 success
7. Albert Almora Jr. looking to rebound behind new swing, refreshed mental state
8. Cubs counting on bounce back season from Craig Kimbrel
9. Javier Báez is indispensable, and the best is yet to come
10. New pitch key to Rowan Wick staving off regression
11. New MLB rule gives Victor Caratini chance for bigger role

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