Opening Day Roster Predictions

The Cubs made flurry of moves at the recent Winter Meetings, including signing Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and John Lackey and trading Starlin Castro to the Yankees for Adam Warren. The bulk of the roster is now set, and we can already take a look at the potential Opening Day roster and the battles for the few remaining slots on it.

If there are no further trades or signings, and barring any injuries (and there is sure to be one or two in spring training, there always are), the starting eight, against a right-handed pitcher (without Lester on the mound), should be:

C – Miguel Montero
1B – Anthony Rizzo
2B – Ben Zobrist
3B – Kris Bryant
SS – Addison Russel
LF – Kyle Schwarber
CF – Jason Heyward
RF – Jorge Soler

The bench would then be:

C – David Ross
IF – Javy Baez
IF – Tommy LaStella
OF – Chris Coghlan

The starting rotation, as of now, should be:

Jake Arietta (R)
Jon Lester (L)
John Lackey (R)
Jason Hammel (R)
Kyle Hendricks (R)

The first three are, of course, set, and I think Hammel and Hendricks have the inside track on the final two slots. Hammel is being paid $9 million this year and despite his late season injury problems and struggles, put up a 3.74 ERA in 170 IP in 2015. He has made over 20 starts 9 seasons in a row. Hendricks had a 3.95 ERA in 32 starts (180 IP) last year and is a dependable fifth starter.

Adam Warren has more upside than either, in my opinion, and clearly the Cubs thinking highly of him given the Castro trade. But neither Hammel nor Hendricks has much experience pitching out the bullpen, while Warren does. So I expect them all to be stretched out in Spring Training, but barring injury, Warren will start in the pen until an injury to one of the five starters, either Hendricks or Hammel struggle, or a mid-season trade opens up a slot. I am sure Trevor Cahill and Travis Wood will also be stretched out in Spring Training too, just as insurance, and perhaps Wood could be traded to a team that loses a starting pitcher to injury in Spring Training. He is still club-controlled for the next two seasons and could be attractive to someone.

The bullpen, as of now, is mostly set as well, with eight slots:

Hector Rondon (R)
Pedro Strop (R)
Justin Grimm (R)
Neil Ramirez (R)
Rex Brothers (L)
Trevor Cahill (R)
Adam Warren (R)
Travis Wood (L)

EDIT**I forgot Clayton Richard here in the orginal. If you add him in then that makes the likelihood of a trade even greater**

Rondon is the closer, with Strop and Grimm setting up like they did last year. Ramirez, of course, was lights out in 2014, but was injured for most of 2015. If he regains his old form, he should be once again ahead of Grimm and setting up with Strop. Brothers, acquired from Colorado in a trade for 18-year-old prospect Wander Cabrera, is now the key left-handed short reliever. He had a combined 2.82 ERA in 175 IP from 2011-2013, but then struggled badly in 2014 and began last season in the minors. He was called up in September and used as a LOOGY and had a 0.00 ERA in 7.2 IP across 14 games, which bodes well for him regaining form and contributing in that role this season. Then, as noted above, Warren, Cahill, and Wood are the three who have the potential to be stretched out—though each has proven that they can also pitch more often in high leverage situations.

Yoervis Medina (R) is out of options, and so may have the first chance to snag a spot if someone gets injured. Newly acquired Spencer Patton (R) (from the Rangers via trade), last season’s call-up Carl Edwards Jr. (R), Zac Rosscup (L), and recently-signed Andury Acevado (R), will be the AAA depth that can be called up if anything happens.   

This projects an Opening Day roster of 12 position players and 13 pitchers, which I think is doable given the flexibility of many of the position players on the roster (Baez, Zobrist, Bryant, etc.). If, however, Maddon wants to reverse this and go with 13 position players and 12 pitchers, then there will be a trade of one of the pitchers, most likely Wood, in Spring Training, or perhaps one of those 8 relievers is injured in spring training and the Cubs simply start without him, delaying the roster decision until he recovers.

The Cubs then currently have several options for the 13th position player:

OF – Matt Szczur
IF/OF – Arismendy Alcantara
IF – Brendan Ryan

Ryan is said to be the player-to-be-named in the Starlin Castro trade, and would provide the Cubs with another infielder who can play SS. He can also play 2B, 3B, and has even had innings in the OF and at 1B. He would basically replace Jonathan Herrera on the roster—both hit about the same, but Ryan has much more experience at shortstop and has more flexibility to play around the field. Ryan would mean that Baez and Zobrist and perhaps even Bryant would end up playing more outfield. Szczur can play all three outfield spots and would give Maddon the ability to move Heyward to RF and sit Soler late in games by putting Szczur in CF (with Coghlan likely in LF for defense). Under this scenario, Zobrist and Baez would play more time in the IF. Alcantara, of course, has the versatility to play both IF and OF and would give the roster the most flexibility. But he is not as strong in the IF as Ryan would be (and has little experience at SS) or as strong in the OF as Szczur, so if the goal is to improve the roster’s defense he probably will not be the choice. Alcantara also has to prove he can hit again. After a fantastic 2014 season at Iowa, at just age 22, where he put up a 307/353/537 line, he struggled to start 2015 in the majors, going 2-26 at the plate before being demoted. He never recovered, hitting just 231/285/399 at Iowa and was not called up in September.

There is also the possibility, however, that the Cubs could make another key trade or free agent signing between now and Opening Day, bringing in perhaps a more experienced CFer to take this final 25-man slot. 

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Comments

Clayton Richard and Zac Rosscup have legitimate shots at making the roster, as does Patton. Otherwise, I think you nailed it. And yes, Szczur is probably the 26th man.

c.richard got a 2m contract...pretty much assumed he's part of the regular roster.

there's too many pitchers, a young MLB-ready IF prospect without a starting position, and the team is looking to possibly trade out one of their OF starters for a CF'r.

even if trades bring nothing of 2016 impact (such as another solid SP or a CF'r), i'm expecting more moves to settle out the excess.

Ah yes, I missed Richard. I noted an edit above. That makes it more likely that there is a trade to get rid of someone, like Wood, for example. And I agree that Rosscup has a legit shot, but he has options left, so it makes sense to keep someone else and him in AAA for the time being, rather than lose someone permanently.

Combinations and permutations abound, and no need to consider a David Patton-type as a possibility. Still surprised that nobody else has been run through waivers. Not seeing that as a precursor to anything. Just a bit odd.

While Theo pretty much ruled out any big trades including trading Soler this offseason he did say we'd probably see a couple smaller trades. So a trade of someone like Wood is probably in the cards. His positive attitude about getting sent to the bullpen and his large involvement in the community should help his trade value.

WISCGRAD: Nice job.

Just one minor clarification: Travis Wood is a FA after the 2016 season, so he has just one more year of club control (not two). 

Besides Wood, the other post-2016 Article XX-B MLB free-agents will be Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard, Chris Coghlan, and David Ross, and possibly Jason Hammel ($12M vesting option for 2017 if 200 IP in 2016--which he has never done before--or else a $12M club option or $2M buy-out). BTW, I wonder if the Cubs will audition catchers to replace Ross as Lester's personal backstop after the 2016 season, or just expect Lester to deal with whatever catchers are on the roster in 2017? 

But the main question I have is will the Cubs go with a seven or eight man bullpen? If you have Arrieta, Lester, and Lackey routinely going deep into games, a seven man pen might be sufficient, leaving a fifth slot open on the bench for a RH-hitting 4th OF (and actually Austin Jackson would fill that role very nicely, if he would be willing to accept it).

I also get the impression that Maddon is not all that fond of a straight-LOOGY, so I don't know if Rex Brothers is necessarily likely to make the Opening Day roster. (Brothers does have two minor league options left). A bullpen of Rondon-Strop-Grimm-Wood-Cahill-Warren-Richard (with the latter four scheduled to be "stretched-out" as starters in Spring Training) could cover enough relief innings to make an 8th reliever superfluous, at least unless and until it becomes clear that an 8th reliever is actually needed.  

RHRP Yoervis Medina, RHRP Neil Ramirez, OF Matt Szczur, and 3B Christian Villanueva (who is having an MVP-type season in the Mexican Pacific League) will be out of minor league options in 2016, making them less valuable than the other "on-the-bubble" guys in 2016 because they can't ride the Des Moines-Chicago shuttle the way they could if they had options left. So for each of those four, it's pretty much make the Opening Day MLB 25-man roster, get traded, or (likely) get claimed off waivers if the Cubs try to outright the player to the minors. 

BTW, when Jim Hendry was GM, he used to like to trade the "bubble" guys who were out of minor league options before the start of Spring Training, rather than take the chance of losing the player off waivers at the end of Spring Training and getting nothing back in return except $20,000. I don't know if Epstein-Hoyer think like that (in fact I doubt that they do), so the "Out of Options Four" (which sounds like the title of a Quintin Tarantino movie) could remain around throughout Spring Training, carried as insurance against potential injuries. 

Prior to last year, Brothers was not used as a LOOGY by the Rockies. He actually had 19 saves as the closer for the team in 2013. But they used him like that late last season as he made his way back to the bigs. If he's back to his 2010-2013 self, he'll be effective against hitters from both side of the plate, though much more effective against lefties. So, in many ways, I think he could work out well for Maddon--he'd bring him in to get the tough lefty out, but then let him finish the inning. But that is all contingent on him finding it again. If he is the 2014 version of himself, then he won't make the Opening Day roster. 

Regarding Brendan Ryan, I suspect the Cubs asked the Yankees to keep Ryan until they actually need his roster slot (the Yankees have only 39 players on their 40-man roster), and then the Cubs will make the deal official either when the Yanks run out of roster slots or at the start of Spring Training (when having Ryan around at Yankees camp would be kind of awkward). 

I don't think there is a spot for Ryan on the Cubs MLB Opening Day 25-man roster as things stand right now, but there could be if Baez gets traded or if Russell and/or Baez get hurt in Spring Training. 

Otherwise, I believe the Cubs will probably carry Ryan as back-up infield (especially SS) "insurance" throughout Spring Training, and then if it turns out he isn't needed, he'll just get released. 

the baez thing interests me, especially with the b.ryan limbo...

it wouldn't be out of the ordinary to keep a "full time ready" dude like baez on the bench scrapping for 300-400 PA (m.adams STL in 2013 comes to mind), but i dunno if the cubs desire to keep a guy with that kind of K-rate around as incidental insurance + bench bat.

i'm sure the yanks are glad to rid themselves of b.ryan, but we're only talking about $1m on the line under contract...and the yanks are "storing" him for the cubs. gotta believe that while baez may be safe from the trade market, there's a real chance he may not be safe.

I assume Baez will get time in LF/CF against tough lefties (Schwarber/Heyward days off), and at SS/2B/3B when the starters need a day off. Given Russell's leg injuries, they may want to give him a few more days off this year. Also, with Castro gone, they don't have another SS on the roster.

Ex-Cub minor league RHRP Lincoln Holdzkom killed in car crash near Diamond Bar, CA. 

link

The fireballin' Holdkom was acquired by the Cubs from the Marlins as a PTBNL in the Todd Wellemeyer deal in 2006 (Holdzkom was a TJS rehab guy at the time), and then wowed the scouts with an electric upper 90's heater in the AFL (Mesa Solar Sox) post-2006.

Holdzkom was selected by the Houston Astros in the December 2006 Rule 5 Draft, but was re-claimed by the Cubs in March 2007, then was assigned to Minor League Camp at Fitch Park, but he was summarliy released at the end of Spring Training (for undisclosed reasons).  

He then signed a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox, had a decent year at AA Portland and AAA Pawtucket, lit up the guns again in the AFL (Mesa Solar Sox again) post-2007, and scored a spot on the Red Sox 40-man roster. But he never got called up to the bigs. (He had a lot of trouble throwing strikes). 

he was expected to play for New Zealand's WBC team like in 2012, too (father from NZ).

I would think that Villanueva would also be an option as the 13th man. He could back up first and third . I would love to see Alcantara get his stuff together and be #13. Maddon's kind of utility player.
.

http://espn.go.com/blog/chicago/cubs/post/_/id/360...

This article has a bit more honest quotes from Heyward that he volunteered:

I know I keep hitting on this but being 26 years old and knowing that my contract would probably put me in any clubhouse for longer than most people there, you have to look at age, how fast the team is changing and how soon those changes may come about,” Heyward said Tuesday afternoon. “You have Yadi [Molina] who is going to be done in two years, maybe. You have Matt Holliday who’s probably going to be done soon. Jon Jay and Tony Cruz (are) gone. [Adam] Wainwright is going to be done in 3-4 years ... If I were to look up in three years and saw a completely different team that would be kind of different for me.”

So while obviously im three years he could opt out but it does sound like he put real thought into taking less money to come here and grow with young players. He definitely wouldn't have said all that about the Cardinals if it didn't matter to him. There's also some info about the contract in that article. He's getting paid only $15 million next year and overall the majority of the money is pushed to after the tv contract so if he does opt out it'll still be a relatively cheap contract over those three years.

"He's getting paid only $15 million next year"

that's so damn sweet given his opt-out.

Yes, but the signing bonus will be due upon opt-out if I'm not mistaken. Essentially it would become closer to a $78M over 3 years deal.

Yes you are correct. 20 million deferred unless he opts out. I guess it had to be that way. Hopefully he truly does want to grow with all the young players. Still that'll be pretty much tv deal money if he does opt out.

meh...oh well.

Addison Russel tweeted he's switching to uniform #27. Apparently Titans Eddie George was his favorite player growing up.

http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/73c7eb9ab6a0c43e3e...

the steady stream of suck that's worn #27 is a bit amazing.

it wouldn't take much for a.russell to "own" that number in cubs history.

http://www.cubsbythenumbers.com/cubs-all-time.html...

Don't free Mel Hall!

he'll be 71 before that has a chance of happening...hopefully it won't happen even with that chance.

Mel Hall and Joe Wallis were the only ones who came to mind before I looked at that list. Mel Hall -- what a dirt bag!

AZ PHIL- Is this legal: 2017 Jason Hammel (34) has a buyout option 2017 year ($2 MIL) or pay him $12MIL. Can the Cubs buy him out then offer him the 1 yr qualifying offer and the Cubs would then get a compensation pick?? Grienke opted out of his and the LA got comp pick. Can teams do the same?? Buyout a player, then QO? Also do you think would Theo play with fire risk that Hammel may say yes to $19ish MIL QO?

CUBBIES-4-EVER: Presuming Jason Hammel's 2017 option does not vest automatically (because it's unlikely that he will throw 200 IP in 2016, since he's never done it previously in his career), the Cubs could decline the $12M club option, pay the $2M buy-out, and then extend a Qualifying Offer, but I doubt that the Cubs would do that because there is too great of a risk that Hammel would take the QO, and then the Cubs would be on the hook for both the buy-out AND the QO (which will probably be up over $17M--or even well beyond that $$$--post-2016).  

The Cubs might consider such a maneuver under different circumstances at a different point in time with a different player, but I just don't see it happening with Hammel post-2016. 

Figured they wouldn't risk it, I just didn't know if teams had the ability to buyout then QO, or if only the players could opt out (Grienke) and the clubs still be able to offer a QO. Then again after next year they need a new CBA so who knows what compensation will be in the years to come. Since they went from team owing pick + comp pick, to player rating system, to QO. I'm not sure what is really the best way to do it. Or maybe no comp, but then you'd have to have a hard cap system like NHL, not the baseball extra luxury tax cap system.

Got to see my old friend and ex-Cubs minor league RHP Ryan Searle pitch for Team Australia in the Australian Baseball League All-Star Game on MLB Network this morning. Searle is the top closer in the ABL, and with his new-found success he should be able to score a contract with an MLB organization for 2016.

Searle signed with the Cubs as a 17-year old and spent eight seasons in the Cubs system. He also pitched for Team Australia in the 2013 WBC, and he threw three shutout innings for Team Australia in an exhibition game versus the Los Angeles Dodgers in Spring Trainiing 2014 (the D'backs and Dodgers opened the 2014 season with two games in Australia).  

It's hard to believe he's 26(!?). Man, time sure flies. 

Good luck, Ryan. 

that was a late one. i couldn't believe they were running commercials for a game that started at 3am eastern, but i'm glad they're doing stuff like that.

any off-season wood bat baseball is welcome.

"Yadier Molina had to have a second thumb ligament surgery yesterday. The first didn't take. That'll keep him out for most of ST."

http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/mlb-big-league-stew/...

You try forcing your hand into a Gold Glove for eight years and see what your ligaments look like.

challenge accepted. check back with me in 2023 and we'll see who's hot shit then, bro.

They don't actually wear the gold glove. It wouldn't be practical.

It would kind of even the playing field though.

You could have a whole system to facilitate parity. Bottom 10% defenders at each position get to use Hoyt Wilhelm elephant mitt. Top 10% of infielders have to actually touch the bag on a double play.

AZPHIL- In Jason Heyward's contract his "signing bonus" ($20MIL) is deferred to either when he opts out or in 4 installments of $5MIL payments on April 1st 2024-2027. His contract assuming he doesn't opt ends in 2023. Do you know what the point of this is and who it benefits from doing it this way?

heyward benefits greatly, cubs some.

rather than having a locked-in long-term contract that's backloaded in pay (common) the opt out gives heyward his full average pay over the contract length...or it turns into a "backloaded-like" contract if it goes full term once the bonus kicks in.

CUBBIES-4-EVER: A post-season buy-out or a legacy payment (deferred money owed to a player who is no longer a member of the club, or money owed to a released player) comes out of the club's payroll from the next year or even several years after the player has left the club, so by deferring $20M of what they owe Heyward, the Cubs can spread the actual money they have to pay him over more years than if he was paid the money just for as many seasons as he actually was a member of the Cubs.

This means more payroll is available each season Heyward is with the Cubs, because otherwise they might not have been comfortable commiting the $184M over eight years (or $78M over three years if Heyward opts-out post-2018, or $98M over four years if he opts out post-2019).   

So now it's either $15M in 2016, $21.5 each in 2017-18, $20M in 2019, $21M each in 2020-21, $22M each in 2022-23, and $5M each in 2024-27 if he does not opt out (with $20.5M AAV 2016-23 and then $5M AAV 2024-27), or $15M in 2016, $21.5M each in 2017-18, and $20M in 2019 if he opts out post-2018 (with $19.5M AAV spread over four years instead of $26M spread over three years), or $15M in 2016, $21.5M in 2017-18, $20M in 2019, and $20M in 2020 if he opts out post-2019 (with $19.5M AAV spread over five years instead of $24.5M AAV spread over four years). 

Think of the deferred money as a sort of automatic "buy-out" (like Jason Hammel's potential $2M buy-out post-2016), or as legacy money owed to a released player (like the Cubs owing Edwin Jackson $11M in 2016 even though he is no longer a member of the Cubs).

I suspect the Cubs got the right to defer some of the money in exchange for Heyward getting the two opt-outs. 

I am glad the Cubs have gotten out of the VSL. Two teams in the Dominican makes more sense. Use that new academy.

This thread is why I read TCR. Full of excellent info, first the original post, then the chiming in from AZ.

yanks send over b.ryan and the cubs DFA y.medina.

Based on track record, the Mariners would currently appear to have a mediocre bullpen. But they might be expecting some major assistance from Tony Zych.

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-mariners-own-se...

Ugh

Q-MAN: Tony Zych was stalled in AA (he had a lousy 2014 season at Tennessee, his second full season at AA) and then he had a really bad Minor League Camp last March and he was going to get released, but the Mariners offered to purchase his contract (probably for around $12,000, equivalent to the Rule 5 Draft AAA Phase draft price) so that they wouldn't have to compete with other clubs to sign him, and so he would cost only about $12,000 in 2015 salary and he would remain under club control through 2017. (If the Mariners had signed him after he was released, the M's probably would have had to offer more than the AA minimum, salary AND Zych would have been a second-contract minor league FA post-2015 if he wasn't added to the MLB 40-man roster after the 2015 season). 

BTW, it's kind of interesting that most of the Cubs minor league pitching coaches are returning in 2016, but the Minor League Pitching Coordinator and the pitching coaches at both AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa were replaced for 2016. (Minor League Pitching Coordinator Derek Johnson was hired as the Milwaukee Brewers new Pitching Coach, but Tennessee Pitching Coach Storm Davis and Iowa Pitching Coach Mike Cather were not offered 2016 contracts). 

And so the new AA Tennessee Pitching Coach for 2016 is Terry Clark, who for the last two seasons was the Minor League Pitching Coordinator for the... Seattle Mariners! 

That is interesting, Phil. They have a Carolina League-championship pitching staff moving to AA and they don't want what happened to Zych to happen to Underwood, Markey, Martinez, Skulina, Berg, Garner, Farris et al.

I see that Zych's 2013 pitching coach at Tennessee, Jeff Fassero, also was let go the following season. That was the first season that Zych's SO/9 fell way below 9. As you point out, 2014, under Storm Davis, was another off-year for Zych. Small data sample, but last year in the majors his SO/9 was 11.8!

Cubs hire John Baker to front office

https://youtu.be/D_JGLUJUvY4

Warren or Cahill to the starting rotation; other to the 'pen. Hendricks to AAA b/c he has option years remaining & can be moved back-and-forth as needed. He becomes (part of) the SP depth that the Front Office wants. Brendan Ryan winds up DFA'd and the Cubs hope that they can keep him in the organization as depth.

I find it hard to believe the Cubs will send Hendricks down to AAA after he was 12th in the entire National League in WHIP last year; not to mention 23rd in WAR and 26th in ERA in his first full season.

unless he fails badly in spring, sending him down would probably result in another cubs kid taking out a grievance on the club. he's as close to established as he can be at this point for a youngster.

i think he's going to be playing with another club, myself...maybe with soler...maybe in ATL or TB...maybe CLE...probably CLE...maybe.

I flew the flag last season, and see the logic this one as well.

If the Cubs get down to the back end of spring training, and have more pitching than spots, that's a very good thing. It probably won't get to that. However, if they have 13 pitchers that can't be sent down, and Hendricks, kicking the can down the road might be better than releasing Richard, Cahill, or Brothers.

MLB clubs have used the "we're sending this pitcher down because he has minor league options left and the other candidates don't" excuse for decades. The player being sent down might not like it and might not deserve it and he'll certainly be disappointed, but It would NOT be grounds to file a grievance. 

The way it would be grounds for a grievance is if the club says "we are sending this particular pitcher down only because that way we gain an extra year of club contriol." And most front offices wouldn't be that stupid. Expecially the current Cubs FO.  

yeah, but this guy put in 180ip in 32 starts last season and did really well...a full season's worth of work. he also finished strong in sept/oct.

coming on the heels of the bryant accusations (agent accusations, just business, not personal) it might not play out so well.

i just don't think this one would go over well if they decided to stash him...if not a grievance, then some complaining. at the very least i think it wouldn't go over well unless he was in the pen at a minimum (which is kinda a waste).

it's speculation, but i think the cubs will move him before spring so it's not even an issue.

CRUNCH: One of the problems with being eight or nine deep in starters is that it works in Spring Training because the Cubs can stretch-out Wood, Richard, Cahill, and Warren, and then just move them to the bullpen at the end of Sprimg Training if they're not needed in the starting rotation, but once the regular season starts, you can't keep Wood-Richard-Cahill-Warren stretched-out indefinitely as starters if they are moved to the bullpen.

So there have to be guys at AAA who can be called-up and be inserted into the starting rotation in the event of an injury to one of the five MLB starters, at least until one of the pitchers who got stretched-out as a starter in Spring Training (before getting moved to the bullpen) can get stretched-out again (which could take two or three starts).

We know that Joe Maddon does not seem too concerned about an occasional "bullpen day" in lieu of an ineffective or injured starter getting the ball, but you can't piggy-back relievers to form a de facto fifth starter indefinitely, because it would put too much of a strain on the pen. 

At present it would seem likely that (barring injuries) Cahill, Warren, Richard, and Wood will be stretched-out as starters during Spring Training, and then get moved to the bullpen once the MLB regular season starts. But one of the four could actually pitch himself into the starting rotation with a strong performance in the Cactus League (Spring Training), and that could mean that Kyle Hendricks would be odd man out and get optioned to AAA (which would be a shame, but oh well). 

That said, unless one of the Cubs starters is incapitated during Spring Training, it will probably be Arrieta-Lester-Lackey-Hammel-Hendricks as the five MLB starters, Beeler-Jokisch-Rucinski-Fife-Pena as the five starters at AAA, and P. Johnson-Zastryzny-R, Williams and two from among Underwood-Torrez-J. Martinez-Skulina-Tseng-Blackburn-Markey the likely starters at AA.  

Another problem with stretching-out Wood, Richard, Cahill, and Warren as starters during Spring Training and then moving them to the bullpen once the season starts (presumably joining Rondon-Strop-Grimm) is that it could make it tough for relievers like Neil Ramirez (who is out of minor league options) or Rex Brothers to find a bullpen slot, unless the Cubs go with a 13-man pitching staff (which really is not optimal in the National League). And of course if the Cubs make a trade for a reliever or two prior to the start of the season (as has been rumored), that would further reduce the number of available bullpen slots. 

Iit should be noted that in addition to Hendricks, both Adam Warren and Justin Grimm do have minor league options left (as do Brothers, Patton, Rosscup, Edwards, and Acevedo), so it's not necessarily a certainty that Warren and/or Grimm won't get optioned to AAA at some point next season, too. 

Both Cahill and Richard have minor league options left as well, but neither can be sent to the minors (by optional or outright assignment() without the player's permission. And I don't know if either would be inclined to give their OK, even if it would help the Cubs deal with a roster crunch at some point. 

BTW, Trevor Cahill has an interesting contract, with a $4.25M base salary, but with $8.25M in potential performance bonuses (up to $7.5M in performance bonuses if he is used as a starting pitcher, or $750K in potential performance bonuses if he is used as a reliever). So it would obviously be in Cahill's interest to be used as a starting pitcher rather than as a reliever. But if he is used as a "swing-man" (goes back & forth between the starting rotaion and the bullpen), it would be virtually impossible for him to reach any of his performance bonuses. 

It's really an interesting group of pitchers. If the Cubs chose to use Hammel or Hendricks as a swingman, they could conceivably go to 12 pitchers, but with 4 traditional starters, 4 multi-inning relievers, and 4 high-leverage relief specialists. If they wanted to add a 13th pitcher to spell the gang when they were overworked, it's not too hard to go to 12 position players for a while when your left fielder is a catcher, your first guy off the bench is a master infielder who is learning outfield this winter, and by the way you have Ben fucking Zobrist on your team now, too. The 2016 Cubs might very well not be the best team in baseball but they will almost certainly be the best-built team in baseball.

Everyone was frustrated (rightly so) with Hammel's performance in the playoffs and for most of the second half, but I feel like he's going to be closer to his first-half performance than that. He clearly was a different pitcher once he got hurt. Look at his overall stats...you'll gladly take that for a 4/5 starter.

Optional Assignment Waivers are the issue. I know this only b/c AZ Phil's 40-man Roster page is so awesome, so this isn't addressed to him but more to the general welfare. Of all the pitchers mentioned as possibilities for the 25-man, only Hendricks has "endnote free" option
years remaining. Everybody else would need to clear OAWs & for any of the pitchers we're discussing that wouldn't happen. High probability that they are claimed and the Cubs pull them back.

wow...ummm...so, this happened...

the rangers signed matt bush to a minor league deal.

yeah, that matt bush. he's fresh off his 3 year stint in the pen...not the bullpen. 30 years old now, was rather new to pitching when his "career delay" happened, and his highest level he pitched in was AA.

Yeah, I really that Matt Fuckin' Bush was done too.

Texas, where criminals go to die...or play professional baseball.

Surprised the Cardinals didn't pick him up. Matt Bush severely injures somebody in a drunk driving incident and spend several years in jail. Taveras kills a person and himself and he is celebrated by the Cardinals on opening day.

Javy Baez played his first game in CF for Santurce. No errors and cleanly fielded a bunch of singles to CF. 0-2 with a walk. He's been at 2B/SS so far this winter.

http://www.mlb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=l133&t...

Javy through 8 games: 6 BB vs. 5 K, which is nice. 4-for-25, which is not.

The usual winter ball caveat applies...probably working on stuff. Any center field play?

See Cubster post above re: CF.

My eyes weren't on.

There has been much commentary on making moves this offseason because of the strong free-agent class compared to next year.

Theo said as much in his radio interview this am with Bruce Levine.

I think it was appropriate to be aggressive given the roster composition, given next year’s free agent class, which isn’t quite as good, and given the long-term outlook.

http://chicagocubsonline.com/archives/2015/12/theo...

So I saw this brief mention of next year and 2017 free agents from Buster Olney:

Next fall, the best free-agent pitchers could be Stephen Strasburg, Brett Anderson and Jered Weaver, and the best position players figure to be a 31-year-old Carlos Gomez and a 33-year-old Martin Prado, and perhaps Jose Bautista. An NL executive offered a one-word description of the depth of next year's free-agent class: "Horrific."

The class of 2017 might be only a little better, beyond the Kansas City trio of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain, and Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez. The best starting pitchers could be Alex Cobb, Michael Pineda and Tyson Ross.

http://espn.go.com/blog/buster-olney/insider/post?...

And after all that comes the first half billion dollar contract with Bryce Harper.

that's a clown contract, bro.

But it could happen. Take Stanton's contract length, add in a bit of salary inflation, take a peek at Greinke's yearly, and you're inching up into that territory.

I don't see how modern free agency is sustainable without eventually moving into a players as owners type of model. Karl Marx must be smiling in his grave.

nothing like a $300+ night at the ballpark for the family sitting in rather average seats eating rather average food...

Vegas Oddsmakers named the Cubs the favorite to win the World Series yesterday. I wonder if, before the season began, they have ever picked the actual winner?

So I wonder if the Cubs will have higher expectations in 2016...

cool graph on size of fair territory in the outfield for all major league parks. Smallest is Fenway then Wrigley. Largest is Coors (does not account for OF walls or foul territory).

http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-major-league-...

link to the full audio interview of Theo Epstein on Bruce Levine's WSCR Saturday program...

http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2015/12/19/levine-theo...

Cubs off season, A+. WSCR audio mixing, F.

AZ Phil: we've gotten to see Matt Szczur some at the mlb level but it's been hard to form an opinion on his defense in CF. Can you give your thoughts on whether he will be good as a backup CF, 4th (Coghlan seems to have this locked up) or 5th OF? Last year had both Coghlan and Denorfia ahead of him (even though neither of them were centerfielders). Will Szczur stick on this roster or do you expect that 5th outfielder to come from another roster move?

CUBSTER: I believe Matt Szczur can definitely handle CF OK. Not Gold Glove quality, but adequately. In fact, he probably is the only realistc option there right now if something happens to Jason Heyward.

I would say as of right now Matt Szczur has the 5th OF job (back-up CF/late-inning defensive replacement in LF/RH-PH/PR), but I would think that the Cubs will try and upgrade the slot later in the off-season (or at least prior to Opening Day). Maybe somebody like Austin Jackson, once he finds out he can't get a starting gig, and as long as he is willing to accept a one-year contract with a back-up OF salary ($5M range). 

The Cubs also could wait until the conclusion of Spring Training and trade one of their LHP "swing-men" (like Travis Wood or Clayton Richard) for a veteran 4th OF who can play CF.

The main concern is what the Cubs will do if Jason Heyward goes down with an injury that's not significant enough to warrant trading for another front-line CF, but bad enough where he will miss two or three weeks. Albert Almora Jr probably won't be ready until 2017, and while Ben Zobrist can play CF in a pinch, I don't know that you would want him out there every day for two or three weeks. Javy Baez could prove that he can handle CF, but that question has not been answered yet and probably won't be until Spring Training or beyond. 

Szczur is out of minor league options, so whether he stays with the Cubs or is moved to another club, he very likely will be in the big leagues somewhere in 2016. I think he will probably end up as a 4th OF or even a "place-holder" CF on a so-called "second division" (non-contending/rebuilding) club, but until the Cubs find somebody else, Szczur should have a slot on the Cubs 25-man Opening Day roster.  

One example of a trade that maybe could happen is something like Matt Szczur to the Phillies for Peter Bourjos. From the Cubs POV, Bourjos would be more of a veteran-type back-up OF who can play CF (and play it well) for an extended period AND be used as a pinch-runner or as a late-inning defensive replacement. From the Phils POV, Bourjos is a FA post-2016 (he gets $2M in 2016), while Szczur has six years of club control left. Also, Szczur is from Southern New Jersey and went to college in Philadelphia (Villanova) where he starred in both baseball and football, and he was a big-time hero in Philly (besides leading 'nova to the 2009 FCS Championship, he also saved the life of a child by donating bone marrow, which cost him a year of baseball in college).

Just from a fan perspective I'm hoping they don't trade Szczur, partly for the bone marrow thing but partly because I just like how he plays the game, and I'm not convinced he can't hit.

i'm thinking he's a vs-LHP platoon partner in the future CF setup.

it doesn't seem like the cubs are linked to any high-end all-around CF types in the FA market or trade. they might try to cobble a platoon out of that position.

He also leads MLB in Z's to vowels ratio. It's a gaudy 2.00

Thanks for such a thorough answer AZ Phil. I was a bit surprised that Peter Bourjos went to the Phillies who probably will flip him at the trade deadline. The Cubs could use PB like they used Quentin Berry as a designated runner, except that Bourjos does have more defensive OF value.

XM Radio tonight is rebroadcasting the Cubs 2010 opening day game vs Atlanta, Braves radio broadcast with Don Sutton. Jason Heyward's mlb debut game. Hank Aaron threw out the 1st pitch (with Heyward receiving). M. Byrd's 1st inning 3 run HR, Heyward's 1st inning 3 run HR to cap a 6 run reply. Zambrano only lasted 4 outs. ARam with a 2 run HR in the 3rd. Cubs bullpen notables: Sean Marshall 8 outs, 5K's. Samardjiza 1 out, 6 runs.

http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=3004...

lulz...b.colon has a 50K silver slugger bonus in his new contract.

CLE GM talking to MLB Network...says he's opening to listening to teams about their excess SP (and teams have been in touch), but the bar is being set high.

sounds like he's going to be very patient in this process and someone's gonna have to "pay" big.

"SB Nation's Chris Cotillo reports that there's a "growing belief" Mike Leake will sign soon and that the Cardinals are a "strong contender" to land him."

looks like Plan A Plan B Plan C is moving along nicely for them.

"MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo reports that the Cardinals and free agent right-hander Mike Leake have agreed to a five-year contract, pending a physical.
Cotillo reports that the deal is worth $75 million while FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes that it's for $80 million."

he needs defense behind him to make his style of pitching work, though. i'm not a big fan of "dependence" signings that require other specific types of players in place to make their work effective, but given his past performance 15-16m isn't bad.

Ken Rosenthal's "cardinals benefit" for signing? Cards get to keep draft pick

Heh

Would that be an upgrade or downgrade from Lackey?

considering leake is mostly as good as his D behind him...a downgrade on his own...unless the age issue shows with lackey.

myself, i'd rather have 2 years of lackey than 5 of leake since the per-year is pretty much the same. that said, they're getting leake at the peak age 28-32 so it's not a bad investment on it's surface.

he's at his peak now

Merry Christmas!

Smoltz replacing Reynolds and Verducci in Fox booth

STRANGE BUT TRUE: The Cubs have claimed LHRP Edgar Olmos (previously claimed by CUBS off waivers from SEA on 12/4, then claimed off waivers from CUBS by BAL on 12/10 when Cubs needed Olmos roster slot for newly-signed FA RHSP John Lackey) off waivers from BAL (Orioles needed Olmos roster slot for newly-signed FA 1B Hyun-Soo Kim), INF Brendan Ryan (acquired from NYY last Thursday as the PTBNL in the Starlin Castro trade) has been released to make room on the 40 for Olmos, and RHRP Yoervis Medina (Designated for Assignment last Thursday to make room on the 40 for Brendan Ryan) has been claimed off waivers by PIT. 

After all that, the Cubs MLB Reserve List (AKA "40-man roster") still at 40. 

so...the cubs get welly back?

wait, i did the math wrong.

+1

What was the point of the Cubs even acquiring Brendan Ryan if they had no plans to keep him?

Yankees salary dump.

CUBBIES-4-EVER: Brendan Ryan is signed through 2016 with a $1M salary (guaranteed), and I think it is likely that the Yankees wanted to offset $1M of Castro's 2016 salary by jettisoning a player they no longer need (Ryan ) and his $1M salary. 

By sending Ryan to the Cubs as the PTBNL in the Castro deal, the Yankees get rid of the $1M salary obligation, and by taking Ryan as the PTBNL and then releasing him, the Cubs are on the hook for the $1M Ryan is owed in 2016 -- HOWEVER -- the Cubs could recoup more than half of the $1M if Ryan were to subsequently sign a 2016 major league contract with another MLB club. Ryan would get the MLB minimum salary ($507,500 in 2016) from his new club, and the Cubs would be on the hook for the balance of the $1M (which would be $492,500).

The Cubs almost certainly did NOT release Ryan with an eye toward re-signing him to a 2016 minor league contract with an NRI to Spring Training, because by rule a player who is released between September 1st and MLB Opening Day cannot be re-signed to a Major League contract by the club that released him (and added back to the club's MLB 40-man roster) until May 15th, and I doubt that Ryan would want to come to Spring Training with zero chance to make the Cubs 2016 Opening Day 25-man roster and with the absolute certainty that he would be stuck at AAA Iowa at least until May 15th, even if every shortstop in the Cubs organization were to go down with a season-ending injury in Spring Training.

So the Cubs are betting that at least one MLB club will be interested in signing a veteran big league utility infielder for the MLB minimum salary.

The bottom line is, the Yankees get rid of Ryan (who they no longer want or need) and his $1M salary, and the Cubs have a chance to get more than half of the $1M back if Ryan signs elsewhere (a reasonable possibility).

Praise the lord, Brendan Ryan is gone...

Addition by subtraction--was only player of Fangraphs' Cubs depth chart projected for a negative WAR.

La Stella celebrating some job security tonight.

Padres sign PCL Pitcher of the Year, former Cub farmhand, Carlos Pimentel

"Brewers claimed C Josmil Pinto off waivers from the Padres."

from MIN to SD to MIL in quick fashion...

dude isn't washed up, but concussion(s) may end up robbing him of a good career in baseball. he was under-the-radar promising for a while.

if he can get sorted he's good for backup C, 1st, pinch-hit duty...he's much move valuable in the AL where he can DH, too. his D at C has really suffered since getting knocked around (unless he rediscovers it)...not like he was a D ace or anything to begin with.

"USA Today's Bob Nightengale reports that Cuban outfielder Lazaro Armenteros will hold a showcase for teams on January 8 in the Dominican Republic."

all 30 teams are expected to attend, even those who aren't expected to tender a serious offer.

dude's 16 years old and described as a mix between bo jackson and willie mays...so there's that hype train.

And looks like Denzel Washington and sings like Marvin Gaye

I heard he single-handedly killed a dozen terrorists and freed an office building full of hostages on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles.

He's overweight, a little long in the tooth, and sings high pitched songs from the grave? Sign him! And bring him up!!

Padres released RHP Jay Jackson. Was granted his release so he can play in Japan. He'll play for Hiroshima Toyo Carp

I would not be at all surprised to see them starting the season with 14 pitchers and 11 position players, since they have so many guys who can move around... at least until the starters start going deeper into games.

Post-Dispatch discusses the 3 Rockies outfielders as potential StL trade candidates. Some nasty home-road splits. CarGo had a one man wrecking crew game at Wrigley Field on July 27th. CarGo was 2-14 (only one rbi double) in the 3 games vs Cubs in April 2015. Cubs won 2 of 3 in April highlighted by the 9th inning 2 run HR by Dexter Fowler.

I wonder if Rockies can extract maximal return if they do trade CarGo.

http://www.stltoday.com/sports/columns/benjamin-ho...

July 27th. Cubs 9 Rockies 8. Took a 9th inning Kris Bryant 2 run HR to over come 2 CarGo HR's (including a 2 run HR in the 9th), 4 rbi's and a 4-5 outing. Still, the Bryant 9th inning HR was one of the season highlights for the Cubs.
http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=3507...

July 28th. Dallas Beeler soiled his underpants in a 4 run first. R. Soriano put the game out of reach in the 7th. CarGo 0-4 with a walk.
http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=3507...

July 29th. Cubs won 3-2. CarGo hit a solo HR off Lester in the 7th, 1-3 with a walk. Lester was strong with 8 IP, 1BB, 14K. Rondon got a save.
http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/boxscore?gameId=3507...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/peyton-manning...

doh.

"In a stunning scene, Taylor Teagarden, an eight-year MLB veteran, appears in one of the undercover videos, openly discussing his use of performance-enhancing drugs during the previous season."

Should have kept his receipt

with all the roiders theo had in boston you'd think he'd sign the right ones.

Chapman to Yanks

don't let the yanks lead through 6ip or you're screwed.

betances/miller/chapman...deadly. all 3 could be top-tier closers.

As much as I'd hate to lose either Coghlan or LaStella, if the Yanks demanded one (or both) of them for Betances or Miller, I'd get over the loss.

AZ PHIL- With this years Rule 5 draft over, and yes it is essiently too early to tell, with the high school class of 2012 and college class of 2013 eligible for rule 5 if you had to choose today who do you seeing being protected? I'd assume Albert Almora and Duane Underwood for sure. Anybody else? Maybe someone else like Paul Blackburn, Rob Zastrzyzny (LHP), Jacob Hannemann?

Yeah, probably too early to tell. Those five will be scrutinized rather closely.

This is my first comment here so please be kind. On this day the first day of the year the Cubs make 2016 a year to remember discussing the 25 man April roster is a bit premature. Spring Training and actual play always expose Black Horses and surprises as well as disappointments and injuries. However there are some current imbalances, shortcomings, risks and opportunities that exist for the FO to work on.

First let us look at the strategic overview. Payroll is approaching $170M up $35M in from the end of last year. So there probably will be some decisions based on contributors/role players and seeking some $$ flexibility. But strategically this is a new class of expenditures which puts the Cubs where they should be along with other high value clubs, (SF, WAS, StL, Tex, LAA, NYM, Phil). Therefore we are in a new world with greater payroll flexibility unless or until they max that out with acquisitions. That said I like to categorize roster spots by impact/core players and key contributors, role players and then replacement players & AAA 40 man. with where the money is spent as that those are action decisions, money talks---PR is meant to veil actions until money is spent.

Impact/core; Rizzo, Heyward, Zobrist, Bryant, Russell, Arrieta, Lester, & Lackey = $86.3MM (51%) (35 zWAR) 2.5MM per zWAR

Key Contributors: Montero, Schwarber, Hendricks, Hammel, Rondon = $26.00MM (15.5%) (10.1 zWAR) 2.5MM per zWAR

Role Players: Strop, Coghlan, Soler, Baez, Warren, Cahill, Grimm, Wood, Ross, Richard, Brother, La Stella $31.4MM (19%) (10.6 zWAR) 2.96MM per zWAR

Replacement Players: Szczur, Edwards, Rosscup, Ramirez $2.3MM (1%) (1.9 zWAR) 1.21MM per zWAR

AAA: Alcantara, Almora, Acevedo, Beeler, Candelario, Contreras, Jokisch, Johnson, Patton, Olmos, Villeneuva, Vogelbach Zastrazny $4.6MM (<2%) (7.4 zWAR) .62 per zWAR

Notice anything? The role players are out of whack by about .5M per zWAR or about $5M and the replacement players could probably use a few additions. Therefore I suspect that subtractions and additions or in other words substitutions will occur.

On the whole Rondon is tweener, in the role of closer he is key contributor but in the role of primary set up he is a great role player. That coincides with both Wood and Strop who are role players but paid close to key contributors Therefore I see some movement here where the Cubs seek out a closer and through that acquisition pushing down the hierarchy in the bullpen allowing the Cubs to move two 3rd year arbitration players, mostly likely Strop before Spring Training and Wood during Spring Training as a team might need a swing/starter at a reasonable rate. The question than is who would be a closer? I could point to NYY (Miller $9M) or WAS (Storen $8.8M est for 4th yr arb) or Wade Davis of KC ($11M +) as all three are tweeners like Rondon.

When making predictions about a speculated roster move this FO's pattern is becoming very transparent, they real like they really focus on acquiring previously known players; ie, Lester, Zobrist, Hammel, Lackey, Ross, sure it is not exclusive but there are patterns besides finding value etc. Well when you look at resume's Miller played for Boston and Davis for Maddon in TB. The question then is affordability and that takes subtraction, T Wood and Strop seem obvious at an estimated $11M cost for role players even if it is almost $$ for $$ as in Wade Davis.

The other appears to be Coghlan who is insurance for LF but in reality he is redundant with Soler both whom I place as role players (though Soler has much upside) and Coghlan costs an estimated $3.9MM while Soler is $3M, redundant roles and similar money. Soler conceivably might have more of a trade market with potential return but that seems to be a miscalculation despite his exceptional post season performance. But then again I see the Cubs seeking a genuine glove who can play all three OF positions very well defensively. The player that jumps out again is someone like Sam Fuld who is in his final arb year with Oakland and expected to make $2M. Trading a package that includes Coghlan and a minor leaguer who is also blocked and redundant (Candelario or Villaneuva) might get the A's attention.

Moving these salaries (Wood, Strop and Coghlan) would amount to $15MM even if the Cubs add $11-13MM it would also change the balance of the team and where the money is invested as the role player group would drop to around $22M or about $2.2M per zWAR while increasing the key contributor category to about $33M and about a 3M per zWAR.

This is my roster thoughts, we shall see if this FO can balance things and find another key contributor and improve their role player group.

I love Travis Wood, but like you said he is getting paid too much to be swingman when you already have Cahill, Warren, Richard, and too a degree Justin Grimm, I'm neutral on Strop, but I agree is also getting paid too much if Ramirez can stay healthy Neil's better, especially in Salary. Yet look at what teams are paying for closers and setup men now a days, maybe it's not too much. However I think Coghlan is important and get paid about what he should as a platoon starting/4th OF (maybe Scott Boras is his agent). Sam Fuld is the same as Matt Szczur, but more expensive, older and less team control. Glove, speed, all 3 OF positions, bring little to the plate (not a short joke). No point to getting Fuld when you have Matt Szczur.

Candelario is still young plus a switch hitter and has an excellent BB/K percentage. Yes he and Vogalbach will probably sit in Iowa for years, barring injury to Bryant/Rizzo they may never see an at bat in a Cubs uniform.

Do they really need anybody else?? No. The real question is what are they going to do with Ramirez, Villanueva, Szczur, and Olmos? All have 0 minor league options and none of them would clear waivers as Olmos has already proved 3x this offseason and with all of the SP candidates/swingman destin for the 25 man roster Jokisch and Beeler have to be feeling like the loneliest guys alive joining Villanueva and Vogalbach

Very well written article though lots of facts and stats.

Olmos will probably get through. Wait until just before camp opens. He almost got through twice. The Cardinals are Pirates are the question marks, now.

Thank you for your thoughtful reply. The jist of my post was to illustrate how a roster at this time and place is being constructed next to two measurements, zWAR and $$$ within the groupings. Sure as a season goes along things might change, Schwarber with his offensive prowess and work ethic might emerge as a core/impact player and effectively manning LF and Soler might surprise me and everyone else including a few scouts I know that he could field his position and also become a super hitter like in the playoffs while Heyward mans CF like Edmonds and Dale Murphy. That all might come to light.

But I look at redundancies throughout an organization and see how things play out. Cubs have them and they appear in the $$ and purposes for a roster. Wood has value for other clubs as the season approaches. He still can start for a club like SD with a larger OF and probably log some innings, other clubs might be KC, Miami, even the Yankees (who need to start cutting payroll) even back to Cincinnati or Milw. What is the difference between Cahill and Richard and Wood, esp when you place outs/IP and $$ next to each other.

But what I am seeing is two things, a closer who can move Rondon down to a dominate late game set up or even close out 3 run games. Rondon as Maddon discovered cannot go three games in a row. Strop is quite effective but it is a swing and miss with his gigantic breaking slider and when there is a puppy on 3B it can get loose from the catcher and we have seen what happens. Rather have Rondon there, with Grimm, Warren and others.

We are talking role players where a few million here make a helleva a difference not in the season so to speak but during the playoffs. Like to have a better closer and a more experienced OF'er who can play CF at $2M, his bat is not consequential.

I agree the Cubs are VERY redundant in the relief pitching. The problem with Wood is when he started the arbitration process he was a SP and so he was not getting paid like a RP which he is now, but a SP. Cahill had his big contract with ARZ/ATL but was cut and had to start all over in value with minor league contract, Richard was bought for pocket change due to a clause in his contract about minor league service time. When the Cubs acquired Grimm, Ramirez, and Edwards from TEX they were all starting still viewed (especially Edwards) as SP possibilities. Ramirez and Grimm have seem to found a home in the bullpen, time will tell with Edwards.

Schwarber due to his size will always have to put in extra work in LF plus it's not the position he grew up playing. Soler is raw still, one week he won't strike out once and look like an all star the next he'll strike 3x 6 out of 7 days. He does take awkward routes to balls, but so does Coghlan (who somehow always sem to end up making the catch). Maybe Coghlan just likes to take the Ryan Freel approach of "I don't have to dive and end up on ESPN, but I'll slow up a little so I can." But Soler is got a cannon for an arm too.

I think Heyward will do fine in CF especially in a smaller park, and there's always a chance of Almora or McKinney or somebody other non roster invite journeyman vet at Iowa in spring training that will make the statement you can't keep me off this roster like Bonifacio did a couple years ago. Time will tell, Maddon always seems to get the best out of his players and Theo has proven, obviously, he knows what he's doing.

I will be blessed to be in attendance at the Cubs Convention next weekend!

I feel everyone is overlooking Logan Watkins return & possibly making the 2016 roster. He can play 7 positions, and all very well. Left-handed bat returning from injury. I think he is the only possible non-roster invitee that has a chance to make this ball club, especially if he is more impressive than Alcantara. However, I do like both of them very much.

I watched Logan much in AAA and he defines what a AAA Replacement player is with fWAR. He is a fine 26-30 emergency player you need for depth. The actual AAA player that has the potential to impact the club on the field and during the game is Alcantara if he solves his 2 strike swing and miss on off speed junk out off the plate. If he finds that eye, Mendy can play 6 positions on the diamond in spot duty, plus 'man' CF in a platoon situation as an IF'er his defense defines utility/bench capabilities.
'

Agreed. Alcantara is much more intriguing than Watkins, who is basically Ryan Theriot with a lot more strikeouts.

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  • The Cubs have sent LHRP C. J. Riefenhauser outright to Iowa. 

    Cubs MLB 40-man roster now stands at 37 (three slots open). 

    Arizona Phil 18 min 21 sec ago view
  • yow...the a.gordon/m.moustakas collision now makes the schwarb collision look minor in scope.

    gordon broke his wrist, expected to miss 4+ weeks...and today moosetacos has been diagnosed with a torn ACL. fun times in KC.

    crunch 1 hour 51 min ago view
  • dodgers calling up julio urias for tommorow's game. neat.

    fernando-mania might have a new heir...dude is 19 (turns 20 in august) and he's got a legit argument for being MLB-ready.

    crunch 2 hours 42 min ago view
  • jacos 4 hours 2 min ago view
  • Happ was the #9 pick last year, and he moved from OF to 2B in the same offseason that Castro was traded.

    Gleyber also in the picture at second.

    VirginiaPhil 7 hours 31 min ago view
  • jacos 7 hours 50 min ago view
  • Co-sign

    Ryno 7 hours 51 min ago view
  • Transmission 8 hours 47 sec ago view
  • O&B: I think D. J. Wilson is a legit MLB prospect.

    He is a hyperactive dynamo on the field, a protypical lead-off hitter who is looking to get on base any way he can, a triple machine (if there is such a thing) when he does make solid contact, a daring baserunner who goes berserk once he is on base, and a CF who plays a "no fear" crash & burn style of defense.

    Guys like that sometimes get injured more-often than the average player, but if he can stay healthy and continue to progress, I believe he will be an MLB CF, or at worst a 4th OF. 

    Arizona Phil 8 hours 12 min ago view
  • The hot start was nice, but it won't always come easy. It's nice to see them have to work for it every once in a while.

    Ryno 10 hours 19 min ago view
  • Hey, AZ, are you as high on DJ Wilson as your pal John Arguello is?

    Old and Blue 10 hours 36 min ago view
  • Phil, I just wanted to say thank you for diligently tracking the Cubs prospects in extended spring training and sharing your knowledge with us. It's remarkable how you're able to keep box scores for multiple games at once. I, and I'm sure others here, appreciate the data and insight you provide for us.

    K Dub 13 hours 30 min ago view
  • Thanks PHIL.

    Boy, that is a nifty K:BB ratio Hudson has going at almost 4:1!

    I hope he continues improving.

    The E-Man 19 hours 27 min ago view
  • And of course the Bucs won again playing AZ (not PHIL). They dont seem to have a problem yet with the bottom feeders.

    They picked up 3 games this last week.

    I'm looking forward to them coming to the Chi.

    The E-Man 19 hours 55 min ago view
  • Don't mess with the SI jinx. Since the Javy/Cubs cover came out, he is 2-for-20 with no walks.

    billybucks 20 hours 6 min ago view
  • BRADSBEARD: If all three are assigned to Eugene, the Cubs can play Galindo, Paredes, and Paniagua at the same time by moving Paredes between SS-3B-DH, Galindo between 3B-1B-DH, and Paniagua between 1B-LF-DH. 

    The Cubs like to have their players (including their minor leaguers) learn to play more than one position even if they eventually are projected to settle at one spot, and I suspect that will be reflected at Eugene, with just about everybody who will be assigned there able to play at least two positions. 

    Arizona Phil 20 hours 26 min ago view