Why Cubs won't call up top-performing prospect in 2022


Anyone catch that eye-popping debut of Cubs pitching prospect Hayden Wesneski Tuesday night?

So what’s next?

So who could top that over these final 27 games of a long gone wrong-way season?

So when the hell does Wrigley Field get its first look at Matt Mervis?

Judging by social media — and “Mash” Mervis’ own eye-popping surge through the organization this year — that might be the only question more actively, urgently and persistently on the minds of Cubs fans than the Wesneski question that began to get answered with that five-inning scoreless debut.

As in: Is Mervis getting called up from Triple-A this month and when?

The answer is as short as it might be bittersweet for fans and Mervis: He’s not getting a callup this season, despite the most productive and consistent performance in the farm system, across three levels, this season.

RELATED: Cubs' Wesneski's dazzling debut chance to dream bigger

That means the lefty slugger currently tearing up the International League and working on an organizational Triple Crown (.313, 30 home runs, 107 RBIs, with a .985 OPS in 118 games) is going to finish up at Triple-A Iowa on Sept. 28 and then sit around twiddling his thumbs waiting for his Arizona Fall League assignment to start while the Cubs play out the string until Oct. 5.

All of which makes the better question: Why?

And this time — unlike 2014 with Kris Bryant — it has nothing to do with service-time manipulation

Cubs officials won’t comment on decisions like that involving Mervis or any other prospect.

But they’ve been very vocal and clear about the numbers crunch that ultimately prevents them from seriously considering a callup this month of their best Triple-A player — or any of a handful of others.

The Cubs have more players this winter than any winter in recent memory who must be protected with 40-man roster spots or risk the likelihood they’ll be nabbed by other organizations in the Rule 5 draft.

They included Wesneski — acquired a month ago in a trade with the Yankees — until he was added for Tuesday’s debut, and Double-A pitcher Ben Brown, who was acquired the next day in a trade from the Phillies

Adbert Alzolay, Kyle Hendricks and Codi Heuer also must be reinstated from the 60-day injured list by the same roster deadline.

“We obviously got Wesneski back and Brown at the deadline, which only added to some of those challenges,” Cubs president Jed Hoyer said of a 40-man crunch that already represented his biggest headache of the early part of the offseason.

“It has to be a factor this time of year,” he said of the dilemma in general. “Putting a guy on [the 40-man roster] that doesn’t have to be on is bumping another guy off this winter. You’ve got to factor that in every time.”

Once a player is added to the 40-man, he can't be removed without exposing him at least to waivers.

Guess who doesn’t need a 40-man spot to remain protected this winter?

Mervis, whose Arizona Fall League season starts two days before the Cubs’ season ends, knows the numbers reality was well as anyone.

He also has as much reason as anyone in the system to believe he’s earned a look with the big-league club, even if that will have to wait until an invitation to next spring’s big-league camp.

“I would love to [get a September callup],” Mervis said. “Obviously that’s my goal. I’m just going to keep doing what I can do to get there.”

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