As the new MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement is negotiated this winter, count Cubs manager Joe Maddon among those who would be in favor of 27-man rosters.
Maddon and the Cubs had to make arguably the toughest roster call of the year Friday as they activated veteran Chris Coghlan from the disabled list and optioned Tommy La Stella to the minor leagues.
La Stella is not an everyday player, but performance has not been his issue at all, hitting .295 with an .846 OPS as a left-handed bat off the bench receiving spot starts at third and second base.
La Stella has also been effective lately, hitting .308 with a .419 on-base percentage in 32 plate appearances since returning from his own DL stint in early July.
"Honestly, it's just about rules," Maddon said of the move. "It's just getting Coghlan back. He was ready to come back. And Tommy had an option."
The option is really the biggest part, and the fact both Coghlan and La Stella are lefties.
The Cubs couldn't send Matt Szczur down because he is out of options and they didn't want to risk losing him to another organization. (Plus, he's a right-handed bat off the bench who is also performing well with a .759 OPS.)
The Cubs are currently carrying three catchers, but David Ross is a valuable presence in the clubhouse, Miguel Montero is a veteran and a two-time All Star and Willson Contreras is the backstop of the future and has also seen some time in the outfield.
Among the bullpen arms, Carl Edwards Jr. can be sent down to the minors with no issues, but he has a 1.84 ERA and 0.75 WHIP.
When it came down to it, La Stella was the only option for the Cubs if they wanted to bring back Coghlan.
"(La Stella did not take it) well. And he shouldn't take it well, honestly," Maddon said. "It's an unusual moment we're in right now where we have so many guys. This is definitely an advocacy for a 27- or 28-man roster.
"It's difficult. These are hard decisions. Guys are not gonna like 'em. I don't expect them to like 'em.
"I would not make up any kind of excuse or try to give (the media) any kind of reason other than the fact it was hard to do, (La Stella) didn't like it and again, it's part of the rules and how they are constructed in our game that kinda forces you into different moments."
Maddon said he doesn't expect La Stella to get over this move right away, suggesting it may take a few days before the 27-year-old can come to terms with it.
"The fact that he got it straight up matters," Maddon said. "And that's all you can do. There's no saying, 'You're not playing good enough; you're not hitting good enough.' You can't tell them that. It's not true.
"These are the rules. And in order to retain everybody that we want to, we had to do it this way."
Coghlan — who landed on the DL with a side/rib injury — said the Cubs told him earlier in the week that he would be activated on Friday if all continued to go well in his rehab stint but also said he did not know the corresponding move until reporters informed him in the clubhouse before Friday's game.
Coghlan felt he was ready to come back earlier than this, and his numbers in five rehab games back that up. He posted a .500 average and 1.369 OPS with Double-A Tennessee.
"You gotta get over some of those mental hurdles, but that was kinda done probably the first couple games," Coghlan said. "I had a check swing, kinda did all those things.
"I think it was just key to get some timing back. And obviously it's not the same caliber, but it's what you could get, so I was grateful for that time and (trying to) carry that over here."
The Cubs will have another tough call to make when Jorge Soler is activated from the disabled list, too.
Soler has played in six rehab games in his return from a hamstring injury but is just 2-for-19 in those contests, so the Cubs want him to work more on getting his timing back before activating him.
With a few days still until the MLB non-waiver trade deadline, even Cubs staffers aren't ruling out another move from Theo Epstein's front office.
Aroldis Chapman and Mike Montgomery have already been brought in as reinforcements for a struggling bullpen and veteran Joe Nathan's Cubs debut can help matters, too.
But there have still been rumblings about the Cubs possibly acquiring another bat, with names like Oakland's Josh Reddick and Yankees slugger Carlos Beltran being tossed around.
The problem is: If the Cubs do upgrade their group of position players, who becomes the odd man out on the roster?
Joe Maddon and the Cubs already had to make one extremely difficult roster decision Friday to send high-performing left-handed role player Tommy La Stella down to the minors as Chris Coghlan came off the disabled list.
Jorge Soler is also on his way back from a hamstring injury that has robbed the young outfielder of almost two months.
When he returns sometime over the next week, who does he replace on the 25-man roster?
Because of that, Maddon admitted he's not sure how another hitter from outside the organization would fit right now.
"I think it's harder to imagine," Maddon said. "Of course, the guys are always attempting to do what they think is the right thing. It's harder to connect those dots right now."
Soler has struggled in six rehab games in the minor leagues (.385 OPS) and the Cubs want him to get his timing back before calling him back to Chicago.
The Cubs lineup would also see a boost in the season's final two months if Jason Heyward can return to his career norms, providing another left-handed bat on a daily basis. He homered Friday against the Seattle Mariners and has been working diligently with Cubs coaches to climb out of his season-long funk.
These roster decisions also have a way of working themselves out most of the time between injuries and performance.
"It's tough," Maddon said. "It's unusual to have this kind of volume of good players."
Maddon talked at length about the La Stella decision before Friday's game and how honesty is always the best policy when it comes to sending a guy down or making these kinds of moves.
Maddon didn't completely rule out a trade, but also believes in what he has to work with right now, even if Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer don't add more before Monday afternoon's deadline.
"Right now, we're in a good position regarding our standing, the talent on the field, the players that are behind us in the minor leagues," Maddon said. "So right now, we're obviously dealing from a moment of strength.
"Theo and Jed are so good at this. Just my conversations, the weighing of all the potentialities is all there. Their logic and intellect are so high. All of these are present right now.
"Everything is magnified a little bit right now. The 11th hour is the strongest hour in history. We will continue to [weigh that all], whether it's internally or potentially externally. But I have a lot of faith in our guys and their judgement."
The Cubs optioned Tommy La Stella to Triple-A Iowa on Friday, making room for Chris Coghlan, who was activated off the disabled list ahead of Friday’s series-opener against the Mariners at Wrigley Field.
Cubs recall Chris Coghlan from DL. Tommy La Stella is optioned to Triple-A. #CubsTalk— Tony Andracki (@TonyAndracki23) July 29, 2016
Coghlan was the team’s starting left fielder and leadoff hitter for Friday afternoon’s contest.
Coghlan returns after a 26-day stay on the disabled list. The Cubs reacquired him this season after he played in 148 games for the team last season. In 19 games with the North Siders in 2016, Coghlan is batting .194/.356/.306 with seven hits in 45 plate appearances.
After missing nearly a month with an injury of his own, La Stella played in 13 games during the month of July. On the season, La Stella is hitting .295/.388/.457 with nine doubles, a pair of home runs and 14 runs scored.