Navigating the Off-Season Roster

5 PM (Eastern) on the 5th day after the final game of the World Series (which was Sunday 11/1 this season) is an important deadline for several reasons. 

You already know about certain unsigned minor leaguers being declared second-contract or 6YFA on that date/time, but it is also the deadline for outrighting certain players. 

This is why you saw so many players get outrighted by MLB clubs prior to that date/time. 

Any player on an MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) who is not eligible to elect free-agency if outrighted (players on the 40 who are eligible to elect free-agency must have Article XX-D or Article XIX-A status, meaning the player either has been outrighted previously in his career or the player has accrued at least three years of MLB Service Time or the player qualifies as a "Super Two" player) but who would have been declared a Rule 55 minor league second-contract or 6YFA this past Sunday if it wasn't that he was on an MLB 40-man roster at the time cannot be sent outright to the minors unless and until the player has signed a 2021 MLB contract or until the player agrees (in advance) to sign a 2021 minor league contract. 

Since MLB contracts are not tendered until 12/2 (that's the MLB contract tender date) and since 2020 MLB contracts cannot be renewed until March 1st, a player in this class is usually advised by his agent not to sign a contract for 2021 until the player reports to Spring Training in February. That way, the player cannot be outrighted to the minors during the off-season (after this past Sunday). 

Players on the Cubs MLB 40-man roster who cannot be sent outright to the minors without the player's permission during the off-season are: 

Javier Baez 
Kris Bryant 
Yu Darvish 
Kyle Hendricks 
Jason Heyward 
Craig Kimbrel 
Anthony Rizzo 
Kyle Schwarber 
Ryan Tepera 
Dan Winkler 

Players on the Cubs MLB 40-man roster who can be sent outright to the minors but can elect free-agency after being outrighted:  

Albert Almora 
Victor Caratini 
Willson Contreras 
Ian Happ 
Jose Martinez 
Colin Rea 
Kyle Ryan 
Rowan Wick (was outrighted previously in his career)

Players on the Cubs MLB 40-man roster who cannot be sent outright to the minors until the player either signs a 2021 MLB contract or agrees (in advance) to sign a 2021 minor league contract: 

Jason Adam 
Adbert Alzolay 
Dillon Maples  
Alec Mills 
Justin Steele 
Duane Underwood Jr 
Ildemaro Vargas 
In addition, any minor league player who has accrued less than three years of MLB Service Time, who is eligible for selection in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, and who had his contract selected and was added to the MLB 40-man roster after August 31st (it was after August 15th in previous seasons) and prior to the 2020 Rule 5 Draft, cannot be sent outright to the minors until 20 days prior to 2021 MLB Opening Day. This is called a "Draft-Excluded Player." 

Briailyn Marquez, LHP 

Also, any Rule 5 Draft-eligible  minor league player with less than three years of MLB Service Time who is added to the 40 by the 11/20 roster filing deadline will have Draft-Excluded Status as well (these players still TBD). 

So this means that very few players on the Cubs MLB 40-man roster can be outrighted to the minors during the off-seasson (after last Sunday) without restriction. 

The only ones who can be outrighted throughout the off-season without any restriction (other than the possibility that the player might get claimed off waivers) are: 

Miguel Amaya 
David Bote (has Rule 55 Status but is signed to a multi-year contract) 
Nico Hoerner 
Tyson Miller 
James Norwood 
Manuel Rodriguez 
Max Strock
Brad Wieck  

In addition, even if the player is one of the eight with "no rrestriction" listed above, an injured player cannot be placed on Outright Assignment Waivers and be sent outright to the minors after 11/20 and up until 15 days prior to MLB Opening Day unless the player accrued no MLB Service Time in 2020. The only such player on the list above is Miguel Amaya. 

And since Norwood, Rodriguez, and Wieck ended the 2020 season on the MLB 60-day IL, there may be issues with the player being medically cleared so that he can be placed on Outright Assignment Waivers during the off-season after 11/20. (Both Rodriguez and Wieck are active at AZ Instructs, and Rodriguez has even been pitching in AZIL games, while Wieck has thrown "live" BP only).   
So that doesn't leave the Cubs much 40-man roster wiggle room during the off-season if they need to open up additional roster slots for MLB free-agents, trades, waiver claims, and/or Rule 5 Draft picks.  

And that's why the MLB contract tender date (December 2nd) is so important.  

Players who cannot be outrighted during the off-season or who can elect free-agency if outrighted can be released at any time (but the player could be claimed off Outright Release Waivers, although a player claimed off Outright Release Waivers can reject the claim and elect free-agency, and once released the player cannot return to that club's MLB 40-man roster until May 15th), but non-tendering the player on 12/2 does not expose the player to waivers - AND - the player can be re-signed by the same club to a minor league contract (normally after the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft, so that the player would not be eligible for selection) and can be added back to the MLB 40-man roster prior to May 15th (perhaps by Opening Day if the player gets an NRI to MLB Spring Training and pitches or plays well enough to make the Opening Day MLB roster).    

So while the 12/2 contract tender date is often presented as the deadline to offer or decline to offer a contract to arbitration-eligible players, it actually isn't just about tendering or non-tendering arbitration-eligible players. 

It's also very important as the one off-season "roster oasis" as far as a club being able to remove a pre-arbitration (auto-renewal) player from the MLB 40-man roster who otherwise cannot be removed from the 40 during the off-season, except by Outright Release. 


I expect the Cubs to make a lot of roster moves during the off-season. 

I expect several non-tenders on 12/2 (they non-tendered Addison Russell and Danny Hultzen last 12/2, although they re-signed Hultzen to a 2020 minor league contract after the conclusion of the Rule 5 Draft). waiver claims (like C. D. Pelham last off-season) and minor trades (like acquiring Jharel Cotton for cash, the Tony Kemp for Alfonso Rivas trade, the Clayton Daniel for Casey Sadler deal, and the Jhonny Pereda for Travis Lakins trade last off-season), one or two Rule 5 selections (like Trevor Megill last December), and maybe a minor FA signing of players non-tendered by other organizations on 12/2 (like Dan Winkler, Ryan Tepera, and Steven Souza Jr last off-season).   

But to do that, the Cubs need to leave multiple 40-man roster slots open during the off-season (especially after 12/2 when they will no longer be able to easily remove players from the 40). 

For example, last off-season the Cubs acquired RHRP Travis Lakins from the Boston Red Sox for a PTBNL (turned out be C Jhonny Pereda) on 1/21 and then lost Lakins off waivers to the Baltimore Orioles ten days later after they signed FA OF Steven Souza and needed a slot on the 40 for him. And then Lakins ended up having a really nice year out of the Orioles bullpen, and the Cubs lost Pereda on top of it. 

That's why I believe the Cubs will add no more than three Rule 5 Draft-eligible minor leaguers to the 40 on 11/20 (and right now I would say those three will most-likely be RHSP Cory Abbott, INF Christopher Morel, and C-INF P. J. Higgins).  

is c.morel injured right now?  i may have missed it, but i don't recall him playing in a while.

CRUNCH: Christopher Morel isn't injured. He participates fully in BP, infield practice, and baserunning drills. He just isn't playing in games. That could be an indication that he is altering his swing and/or approach at the plate, and when players are doing that they usually don't play in games until they have mastered the change(s). 

I believe Ed Howard IV, Edmond Americaan, and Fabian Pertuz might be doing the same thing.

Felix Stevens was working in the cages with coaches for about three weeks before he finally started playing in games last week. (Stevens is a big dude ex-RHP from Cuba with plus-power and a plus-arm from RF). 

Jared Young (lower body) and Yohendrick Pinango (shoulder?) are definitely injured, though, They both got hurt running the bases (Young) or sliding into a base (Pinango) in games a week or so ago  (I can't remember which games). 

thanks phil, and thanks for the update + musings on the other guys.

rizzo wins a gold glove...only cub.

Javy won a gold glove as well. 

my bad, thanks.  crazy it's only his 1st...he should have won last year at the very least.

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  • Charlie 11 min 20 sec ago (view)

    I would be happy to see the Cubs no longer spend DH time on Victor Caratini. Provided there's a Kyle Schwarber or better alternative, of course.


  • Arizona Phil 8 hours 14 min ago (view)

    DJL: I don't think Ildemaro Vargas being out of minor league options is much of a concern to the Cubs because as things stand right now he projects as the team's primary utility infielder in 2021. He can play all four INF positions (1B, 2B, 3B, and SS, plus corner OF, too), and he is switch hitter with some pop, especially from the right side (remember the 9th inning HR he hit off Josh Hader in September?). 


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 8 hours 57 min ago (view)

    I'm a little surprised Ildemaro Vargas was tendered, given that he's out of options. He has value and isn't expensive as he is pre-arb this year, but still a bit surprised. Have to think he's got an inside track to an Opening Day spot at this point


  • waveland 17 hours 42 min ago (view)

    really appreciate the years and years of your updates


  • Arizona Phil 19 hours 37 min ago (view)

    BRADSBEARD: Strumpf was wearing a cast on his hand in Minor League Camp before everything got shut-down in March so his not being at South Bend might have had something to do with that. I don't know why Rivas wasn't at the ATS. 


  • bradsbeard 20 hours 21 min ago (view)

    Do you have any idea why Rivas and Strumpf weren't at the alternate site in South Bend? I thought Rivas especially showed enough in ST games to be viewed as a legitimate depth option, especially with the DH. 


  • Arizona Phil 20 hours 56 min ago (view)

    Alfonso Rivas reminds me a bit of Rafael Palmeiro when Palmeiro first came up to the big leagues and was a "doubles machine" (before he started hitting home runs).   

    Rivas played D-1 baseball at the University of Arizona, so (just like Nico Hoerner, who also played in the PAC-12) I don't think he needs a lot of additional time at AAA before he's ready for MLB. He's a very advanced hitter, as long as you are OK with lots of doubles & lots of walks but not many HR.   


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 21 hours 58 min ago (view)

    I hadn't thought of that but I really like that option


  • bradsbeard 22 hours 3 min ago (view)

    I really hope Rivas has a chance at the LF job. Would ease some of the sting of Schwarber being cut loose. 


  • Arizona Phil 22 hours 4 min ago (view)

    CRUNCH: I got the impression that Ross had seen enough of Schwarber in LF, so implementing the universal DH may be necessary before Schwarber returns to the Cubs in 2021. I think the Cubs would be fine with Schwarber as their main DH going forward. 

    BTW, I strongly suspect that the universal DH will be included in the next CBA, but whether there will be a DH in the National League in 2021 is still TBA (which is really stupid, since clubs need to know right now for sure one way or the other whether or not there will be a DH in the N. L. in 2021). 


  • Arizona Phil 22 hours 15 min ago (view)

    Besides the guys on the 40, Cubs 2021 NRI relievers with a legit chance to win a bullpen slot in Spring Training include LHRPs Josh Osich and Rex Brothers, and RHRPs Jake Jewell, Trevor Megill, Dakota Mekkes, Michael Rucker, and Joe Wieland (presuming they are not taken in the Rule 5 Draft). 

    Brothers and Wieland are out of minor league options, however, so if added to the 40 they could not ride the "Chicago - Des Moines Shuttle" like the others could. 


  • crunch 22 hours 21 min ago (view)

    i am rooting for the cubs to retain schwarber.

    even though he's average on the best of days in LF (except his above average arm), i would like to see him and his work ethic remain in the cubs system...the homers from the left side of the plate are nice, too.


  • Arizona Phil 22 hours 43 min ago (view)

    At least as things stand right now, Kris Bryant is your Cubs de facto 2021 Opening Day LF! (Of course we know he will be traded before then...). 

    Otherwise, minor league NRI outfielders Ian Miller, Michael Hermosillo, and Rafael Ortega will be competing for Opening Day OF slots, with a legit shot to win a job.

    Even Alfonso Rivas (who was hitting rockets from foul line to foul line at AZ Instructs) and/or Eddy Julio Martinez (who has had a very good winter in the Mexican Pacific League) might have a shot.  


  • Arizona Phil 22 hours 46 min ago (view)

    I would think that both Colin Rea and Kyle Ryan must have signed contracts with minor league split salaries, otherwise I doubt very much that they would have been tendered. 


  • Arizona Phil 22 hours 57 min ago (view)

    With Tepera non-tendered and Winkler, Ryan, and Rea signed, the Cubs 2021 Opening Day bullpen (right now) would appear to be Kimbrel (clearly not tradeable), Wick (virtual lock), Winkler (can't be optioned without his consent), Underwood (out of minor league options), and Maples (out of minor league options), and then three from amongst Adam, Norwood, Rea, Ryan, Stock, and Wieck (each of whom can be optioned back & forth to AAA as needed).


  • Arizona Phil 23 hours 16 min ago (view)

    The Cubs have signed RHSP Colin Rea, LHRP Kyle Ryan, and RHRP Dan Winkler to 2021 MLB contracts (terms TBD) and tendered 2021 MLB contracts to all other unsigned players on their MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) except OF Albert Almora, OF-1B Jose Martinez, OF Kyle Schwarber, and RHRP Ryan Tepera.

    So Almora, J. Martinez, Schwarber, and Tepera are now unrestricted free-agents, free to sign an MLB or minor league contract with any club (including the Cubs) without any salary restrictions.   

    The Cubs MLB Reserve List now stands at 34 (six slots are open).