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.
Dolorous Jon Lester 18 hours 51 min ago (view)
I think, in relation to the higher profile guys like Javy or Contreras, they're trying to put some pressure on to sign extensions.
That said I do think they're listening on everyone with the only name I haven't seen being Rizzo.
crunch 1 day 11 hours ago (view)
i wonder where the cubs will go with things.
there's a lot pointing to the cubs being expected to listen to offers on almost anyone. as it is, on paper, the cubs could roll right into 2020 with no changes whatsoever and still field a very competitive team. the whole "shakeup" thing seems to be a very hot topic from a variety of sources, though.
bryant, contreras, schwarber have all been linked to "cubs may be listening" rumors...probably listening to anything on happ, bote, almora, russell, too...
Hagsag 1 day 11 hours ago (view)
Even the Cubs should be able to out bid the Marlins!
crunch 1 day 11 hours ago (view)
"According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, the Marlins are "believed" to have interest in free agent outfielder Nicholas Castellanos."
by interest, i assume they mean they'd like to have some baseball rookie cards or his or maybe a hug from him. i can't imagine they actually want to spend money on someone they could use to make their team better because that makes no sense.
Arizona Phil 2 days 4 hours ago (view)
Prior to joining the Cubs in 2012 Scott Harris was Director of Baseball Operations in the MLB office, which means he received, reviewed, and approved all major league and minor league contracts and transactions, as well as providing MLB clubs with schedules, rules updates, and draft information.
Cubster 2 days 12 hours ago (view)
Giants hire Scott Harris, from Cubs front office, as GM
Charlie 3 days 14 hours ago (view)
For anyone else who immediately wonders but is not invested enough to look it up, this is not Chris (Ryan) Young, former Padres starter and fisticuffs partner of Derrek Lee, but rather the two-years younger Chris Matthew Young.
crunch 4 days 1 hour ago (view)
rev up those off-season rumor fryers...
Jeff Passan @JeffPassan
Multiple teams in search of catching help believe Cubs catcher Willson Contreras will be available this winter. The Cubs will get creative this winter, and with a deep catching free agent market, they could trade Contreras and begin retooling under new manager David Ross.
crunch 4 days 6 hours ago (view)
former padres manager andy green is gonna be ross's bench coach.
green was c.rea's manager in SD, btw.
Arizona Phil 4 days 12 hours ago (view)
Last year the Cubs signed four free-agents to minor league contracts prior to the Rule 5 Draft: LHP Alberto Baldonado, OF Wynton Bernard, RHP Corey Black, and RHP Jose Rosario. All four were members of the Cubs organization in 2018 but declined to sign a 2019 minor league successor contract prior to being declared a free-agent, but then came back to the Cubs after briefly testing the free-agent waters.
crunch 4 days 16 hours ago (view)
chris young to be named new bullpen coach (former phillies pitching coach)
mixed messages on whether lester strode will have a new cubs role or leaving the cubs...
crunch 5 days 10 hours ago (view)
t.clifton straight up falling off a cliff sucked to watch happen last year.
i had a lot of faith in the guy to at least hold his own in AAA, even if he needed another season or 2 after to get ready for prime time.
he ended up giving out homers like candy on halloween while retaining his high walk and injury rate.
that said, his career is far from done. most likely many other teams willing to give him a minor league deal.
Arizona Phil 5 days 14 hours ago (view)
Keep in mind that most free-agents who sign a 2020 minor league contract prior to the Rule 5 Draft are eligible for selection. (The only exception would be a free-agent who is not yet eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft, such as a player whose only previous pro experience was in a foreign major league or in an independent minor league, or a player who was released by another MLB organization but is still not yet eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft).
Arizona Phil 5 days 15 hours ago (view)
If you're wondering if players who sign minor league successor contracts ever get taken in the Rule 5 Draft, the answer is most definitely - YES -.
The Cubs selected RHP Hector Rondon in the 2012 Rule 5 Draft after the Indians signed him to a minor league successor contract, and the Baltimore Orioles selected RHP Pedro Araujo in the 2017 Rule 5 Draft after the Cubs signed him to a minor league successor contract.
Hagsag 5 days 15 hours ago (view)
Got to get Taylor Davis back.
Arizona Phil 5 days 15 hours ago (view)
So the Cubs were ultimately able to retain five of their seven most-valuable post-2019 minor league free-agent eligibles (Rea, Pereda, de la Cruz, Lugo, and Burks), losing only Clifton and Leal (both of whom are probably looking for a fresh start in another organization after maybe feeling stalled in the Cubs system).