Culling the Cubs 2-0-2-3
If they so desire, the Cubs could add as many as 13 minor league Rule 5 Draft-eligible players to the MLB 40-man roster post-2022 (or perhaps even one or two of them during the month of September).
So strictly as a thought-experiment, here is what the Cubs MLB 40-man roster - COULD - look like on November 18th, when off-season reserve lists must be filed with the MLB Commissioner in preparation for the 2022 Rule 5 Draft.
PROJECTED CUBS MLB RESERVE LIST (prior to reserve lists being filed on 11/18)
* bats or throws left
# bats both
27 players (plus one player on Restricted List who doesn't count against the 40)
PITCHERS: 14 (plus one player on Restricted List)
Adbert Alzolay (out of minor league options)
Javier Assad (has post-2022 Draft-Excluded status)
Kyle Hendricks (signed thru 2023 / club option w/buy-out for 2024)
* Brandon Hughes
Caleb Kilian (will get a 4th minor league option in 2025)
* Brailyn Marquez (will get a 4th minor league option in 2024)
Manuel Rodriguez (will get a 4th minor league option in 2023)
Adrian Sampson (probable "Super Two" post-2022 - TBD)
* Justin Steele (out of options in 2023)
Marcus Stroman (signed thru 2024 but has opt-out post-2023)
Alexander Vizcaino (on Restricted List - does not count against 40-man roster - gets a 4th minor league option in 2024 if he is on the 40)
NOTE: Rucker would be outrighted (and he can elect free-agency if outrighted) if the Cubs sign a SP like Carlos Rodon, Sean Manaea, or Chris Bassitt or a RP closer like David Robertson, Sampson would be traded or outrighted if the Cubs sign both a SP AND a closer (and Sampson could elect to be a FA if he is outrighted), Marquez (2022 shoulder surgery) and Roberts (2022 TJS) can be placed on MLB 60-day IL on the first day of 2023 Spring Training (the day pitchers & catcher report) which would open up two additional slots on the 40 for any additional MLB free-agents signed late in the off-season or during Spring Training, and/or for an NRI RP and/or NRI utility position player added to the 40 by Opening Day, and if & when Vizcaino is reinstated from the Restricted List he would be outrighted to the minors (if he isn't claimed off waivers) and if he is outrighted he can NOT elect free-agency.
Miguel Amaya (will get 4th minor league option in 2023)
Yan Gomes (signed thru 2023 wilth club option for 2024)
P. J. Higgins
NOTE: Amaya - MUST - catch on a regular basis at Iowa in 2023 and must master AAA so that he can be ready for MLB in 2024 when he will be out of minor league options
Nico Hoerner (arbitration-eligible)
Nick Madrigal ("Super Two" arb-eligible post-2022)
Christopher Morel (will get a 4th minor league option in 2024)
* Alfonso Rivas
NOTE: Madrigal would be traded, released, or outrighted if Cubs sign a FA SS like Carlos Correra, Xander Bogaerts, Trey Turner, or Dansby Swanson, and Rivas (who can NOT elect free-agency if he is outrighted) would be outrighted if Willson Contreras accepts the QO or if Cubs sign a FA 1B like Josh Bell (I project Matt Mervis as the Cubs future DH, not as the future 1B).
Alexander Canario (will get a 4th minor league option in 2024)
# Ian Happ (arbitration-eligible)
Franmil Reyes (arbitration-eligible post-2022)
Seiya Suzuki (signed thru 2026)
NOTE: Reyes would be traded, released, or outrighted if Contreras accepts QO - AND - Cubs sign a FA 1B like Josh Bell.
So the Cubs could then add as many as 13 Rule 5 Draft-eligibles to the 40 by 11/18. This would (by FAR) be the most players added to the Cubs 40-man roster in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft. However, Rule 5 Draft-eligible minor leaguers added to the 40 after 8/15 have Draft-Excluded ststus, meaning they can't be sent outright to the minors after the reserve lists are filed on 11/18 and up until 20 days prior to MLB Opening Day, so once they are added to he 40 they are essentially locked on the 40 during the last half of November, December, January, February, and the first half of March.
PITCHERS TO BE ADDED TO THE 40: 9
Ben Brown, SP
Danis Correa, RP
Luis Devers, SP (would get a 4th minor league option in 2026)
Jeremiah Estrada, RP
Kohl Franklin, SP
Ryan Jensen, SP
* Brendon Little, RP
Cam Sanders, RP
Hayden Wesneski, SP
NOTE: If not on the Cubs 2023 MLB Opening Day roster, MLB ready or near-MLB ready pitchers like Correa, Estrada, Jensen, B. Little, Sanders and Wesneski would likely be at AAA Iowa and would be available to ride the Des Moines-Chicago "shuttle" whenever needed in 2023, while B. Brown, Devers, and Frankiin would likely be metriculating at AA Tennessee.
INFIELDER TO BE ADDED TO THE 40: 1
NOTE: On Opening Day 2023, Slaughter would likely be at AAA Iowa and would be available to ride the Des Moines-Chicago shuttle in 2023.
OUTFIELDERS TO BE ADDED TO THE 40: 3
Kevin Alcantara (would get a 4th minor league option in 2026)
* Yohendrick Pinango
NOTE: On Opening Day 2023, B. Davis would likely be at AAA Iowa and if he appears to be MLB-ready he could possibly get called up to MLB at some point during 2023, Pinango would likely be at AA Tennessee in 2023, and Alcantara would likely be at Hi-A South Bend in 2023.
MLB ARTICLE XX-B FREE-AGENTS (at 9 AM Eastern on the day after final game of World Series):
Willson Contreras, C (will definitely be extended a QO and he very well might accept it)
* Wade Miley, SP
* Drew Smyly SP
WILL BE RELEASED PRIOR TO 11/18:
* Jason Heyward, OF
WILL BE OUTRIGHTED SOMETIME PRIOR TO 5th DAY AFTER FINAL GAME OF WORLD SERIES
GROUP ONE (can elect free-agency if outrighted):
David Bote, INF (signed through 2024 with club options for 2025-26)
* Steven Brault, RP (arbitration-eligible post-2022)
Luke Farrell, SP (still pre-arbitration but out of minor league options)
Michael Hermosillo, OF (still pre-arbitration but out of minor league options)
Codi Heuer, RP (arbitration-eligible post-2022 - January 2022 TJS)
Mark Leiter Jr, RP (still pre-arbitration but will be out of minor league options in 2023)
Alec Mills, SP (arbitration-eligible post-2022 - out of minor league options)
* Sean Newcomb, RP (arbitration-eligible post-2022 - out of minor league options)
* Rafael Ortega, OF ("Super Two" arb-eligible post-2022 - out of minor league options)
Rowan Wick, RP (arbitation-eligible post-2022)
* Brad Wieck, RP (arbitration-eligible post-2022 - July 2022 TJS - out of minor league options)
NOTE: Bote is signed through 2024 with club options w/buy-out for 2025-26 so he would probably accept an outright assignment and then he would get an NRI to MLB Spring Training, and Heuer and Wieck are TJS rehabbers so they would probably sign a 2023 minor league successor contract to continue rehabbing with Cubs medical & training staff. One or more of the other eight could possibly sign a 2023 minor league contract with an NRI to MLB Spring Training, but it's not very likely.
GROUP TWO (will be declared minor league 6YFA on 5th day after final game of World Series if outrighted)
Kervin Castro, RP (will get a 4th minor league option in 2024 if he is still on the 40 at that time)
Narciso Crook, OF
Anderson Espinoza, SP (will get a 4th minor league option if still on the 40 in 2023)
* Zach McKinstry, INF (will be out of minor league options in 2023)
Frank Schwindel, 1B
Nicholas Padilla, RP
NOTE: These players are the ones most-likely to sign a 2023 minor league successor contract (with an NRI to MLB Spring Training).
Even with 13 additions to the 40, a number of notable Cubs minor leaguers would still be eligible to be a minor league 6YFA and/or eligible for selection in the 2022 Rule 5 Draft.
NOTABLE CUBS MINOR LEAGUE 6YFA FA (if player does not sign a 2023 minor league successor contract):
* Bryan Hudson, RP
# Yonathan Perlaza, OF
NOTE: Player would become eligible for selection in 2022 Rule 5 Draft if he signs a 2023 minor league successor contract
NOTABLE CUBS MINOR LEAGUERS WHO WOULD BE ELIGIBLE FOR SELECTION IN 2022 RULE 5 DRAFT:
Pablo Aliendo, C
* Bryce Ball, 1B
Chris Clarke, SP
Yovanny Cruz, RP
Richard Gallardo, SP
Nelson Maldonado, 1B-OF
* Cole Roederer, OF
* Darius Hill, OF
Levi Jordan, INF
Michael McAvene, RP
Fabian Pertuz, INF
Chase Strumpf, 2B-3B
Riley Thompson, SP
Cayne Ueckert, RP
Luis Vazquez, SS
Luis Verdugo, 3B
* Andy Weber, INF
* Jared Young, INF-OF
So in terms of free-agency, I expect the Cubs will have a limited but expensive shopping list consisting of a big-time SS (Correa, Bogaerts, T. Turner, or Swanson), a 1B (probably Josh Bell), a SP (Rodon, Manaea, or Bassitt), and an established closer (possibly David Robertson). However, there is no guarantee that just because the Cubs might want to sign those guys that they will be able to do it, and if they can't, the Cubs would likely have go full rebuild mode again next season, and therefore 2023 could even be worse than 2022 (but with 2024 and especially 2025 being brighter).