Descalso Will Have Ample Opportunity With Cubs

Daniel Descalso will platoon at second base and provide versatility off the bench.

Bruce Levine
December 20, 2018 - 9:25 am
Daniel Descalso

Matt Kartozian/USA Today Sports

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(670 The Score) The ink had just dried on infielder Daniel Descalso's new two-year contract with the Cubs on Tuesday when new details emerged Wednesday about alleged spousal abuse by shortstop Addison Russell.

The new account from Russell's ex-wife, Melisa Reidy, further clouded Russell's future with the Cubs. He has already accepted a 40-game suspension for violating the league's joint domestic violence policy, and he still has 28 games left to serve on it to open the 2019 regular season. 

Regarding the baseball equation, it also means even more opportunity could await the 32-year-old Descalso, a versatile player capable of playing all four infield positions.

The Cubs' signing of Descalso was a low-profile move, but it could pay bigger dividends. Descalso brings the left-handed bat and professional approach the Cubs were seeking, and he's coming off the best season of his nine-year career. He compiled career-best marks of 13 homers, 57 RBIs, a .353 on-base percentage and a .789 OPS in 138 games for the Diamondbacks. He also hit .238 in 2018 and is a career .240 hitter.

Descalso will open the season as a platoon option at second base alongside Ben Zobrist while also serving as the backup third baseman. And given manager Joe Maddon's preference for keep the 37-year-old Zobrist fresh, Descalso should receive plenty of starts early on. Descalso also played shortstop earlier in his career, though he's logged just one appearance there in the past two years.

The Cubs did their homework on Descalso, taking a liking to his increased slugging percentage (.424, .395 and .436 across the last three seasons while he has a career .370 mark) and increased on-base percentage (.349, .332 and .353 across the last three seasons while he has a career .324 mark). Descalso's newfound plate approach included an average launch angle increase from 12.8 percent in 2017 to 19.1 percent in 2018, which helped increase his flyball rate to 47 percent amid a career rate of 36.9 percent.

Descalso's strikeout rate increased to 26.0 percent in 2018. His career strikeout rate is 20.1 percent.

Descalso can also play left field in a pinch, a useful skill given how creative Maddon likes to be in late innings to find preferred matchups. The Cubs recently traded utility infielder Tommy La Stella to the Angels. While La Stella was a quality pinch-hitter, he lacked range and arm strength in the field. The Cubs now have a stronger bench given the better all-around games of Descalso and David Bote.

Descalso's salary will be $1.5 million in 2019 and $2.5 million in 2020, according to reports. It also includes a club option for $3.5 million in 2021 or a $1-million buyout. Looking ahead, the structure of the contract gives the Cubs an inexpensive option to fill the void of Zobrist, whose contract expires after the 2019 season. 

Descalso also brings some of the veteran leadership that Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has been seeking. Descalso has been to the playoff fives times in his career and was a member of the 2011 champion Cardinals.

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.​​