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.
Arizona Phil 5 hours 54 min ago (view)
You can pretty much figure out from my AZIL game reports who the Cubs will likely target if they trade Kyle Hendricks to the Angels during the off-season (which I believe is a distinct possibility).
crunch 9 hours 14 min ago (view)
"On Wednesday, and again on Friday, manager Joe Maddon said the Angels needed to land two front-line starters or risk perpetual mediocrity. On Saturday, Mike Trout said the Angels had “a lot of money to spend” and the offseason was “going to be big.”"
$180.3m payroll and the star player + manager softly demanding more talent.
wait. you can do that?
hey d.ross and...umm...hold up...do you have to have a star player to make this kind of demand? sigh.
tim815 1 day 7 hours ago (view)
Exactly. Teams realized that under-playing the rest of the season, and assessing what's currently on-hand, works. At least, better than pickung three or four spots lower on the draft board with less spending space.
Dolorous Jon Lester 1 day 8 hours ago (view)
It required a good amount of luck, and the other hard part is like a third of the league are tanking now too. Last time it was basically us and Houston.
crunch 1 day 9 hours ago (view)
this team is very hard to watch. i can't take this for 1-2 more years. i hope the 2022 plan is at least hybrid-competitive (team built to compete, but trade-ready if failing mid-season).
rebuilding on total destruction for a slew of 1st round picks for years is/was lame even if those 1st round picks was pretty much all that worked for the cubs in the theo-era drafts.
K Dub 2 days 7 hours ago (view)
PHIL: Thanks for the update on Devers. Are you able to give us some more context (velocity, pitch mix, etc)? Also, was Drew Gray included in the group you compared Devers to when you said Devers was "by far" the ACL Cubs best pitching prospect? I ask because I know Gray only pitched 4 innings this season.
crunch 2 days 9 hours ago (view)
cards 15 wins a row...franchise record
Hagsag 2 days 20 hours ago (view)
The Cubs have no starting pitching right now with Carl in a funk.
Eric S 3 days 3 hours ago (view)
Cubs were Nootbaar'ed to the tune of 12-4 in Game 2
Cubster 3 days 4 hours ago (view)
With a Doubleheader loss, the Cubs are back on track for a better draft choice. Right now at 67 wins they pick #7, just ahead of KC and Minnesota who have 68-69 wins.
crunch 3 days 5 hours ago (view)
the shit sandwich that is zach davies is a 6 foot party sub.
Dolorous Jon Lester 3 days 5 hours ago (view)
I am celebrating the day he signs with another team this offseason. I didn't know I could hate him more than I did when he was in Milwaukee but here we are!
crunch 3 days 6 hours ago (view)
wisdom can hit some bombs when he does connect..wow.
also davies still sucks.
tim815 3 days 6 hours ago (view)
McAvene is struggling against hitters in Instructs. He's not ready for the AZ Fall League. I'd expect to see Juan Gamez otr Aneuris Rosario first. Vazquez, I agree with, entirely.
bradsbeard 3 days 8 hours ago (view)
On the position player side, Amaya if he's healthy. Chase Strumpf makes a lot of sense (missed some time early and late, missed all of last year). Nelson Velazquez maybe as a Rule 5 guy if they're on the fence. Cam Balego and Andy Weber are two other candidates if healthy. Luis Vazquez could also use more upper level PAs and would make sense.
Lots of potential pitchers. Ideally Marquez but not sure they'll let him pitch this year. McAvene is probably another one. Would be awesome if Kohl Franklin could participate.
First.Pitch.120 3 days 9 hours ago (view)