Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have stated that the Cubs aren't necessarily done making offseason deals; they could bring in a different backup catcher, are said to be looking for a veteran hitter, and could even continue to look for starting pitching options.
With those moves still in the future, though, let's take a look at what the Cubs' Opening Day 25-man roster could look like given who's currently on the 40-man roster. In this post I'm not considering possible future acquisitions, only choosing from players currently on the 40-man roster.
- No matter how many people would like to see Kris Bryant on the field April 5 against the Cardinals, the reality is that he'll likely start the season at Triple-A Iowa. Incidentally, Bryant isn't on the 40-man and won't need to be added until his major-league debut, whenever that happens, so someone will have to be removed from the 40-man at that time.
- Even though the signings of Jon Lester and Jason Hammel have not been officially announced by the Cubs and they're not currently listed on the 40-man roster, obviously they will be there soon.
- Javier Baez will be the starting second baseman.
- I believe the Cubs will go with the traditional 12-man pitching staff in 2015 instead of the 13-man staff they used most of 2014.
It seems to me as if there will be many fewer competitions for 25-man roster spots this spring. The only spots that appear to be open at this point are: the fifth starting rotation spot, a couple of the back-end bullpen slots (which could be won by the losers of the previous derby) and one or two bench players. Credit to Theo & Jed for acquiring enough depth so that players who might in earlier years been locks for Opening Day who now find themselves fighting for a job.
Here, then, are the 25 (plus six others who might make it) players I see going north from spring training and opening the season with the Cubs.
One of: Travis Wood, Edwin Jackson, Tsuyoshi Wada, Felix Doubront
One of: Brian Schlitter, Jacob Turner, Blake Parker, Dan Straily, or one from the group of starters above
Tommy La Stella
As you can see, there are still some slots up in the air. If the Cubs go after a starting center fielder, Alcantara likely becomes a "supersub" and either Sweeney or Ruggiano could be dealt, or Szczur returns to Iowa. The bullpen situation is a bit more fluid; it's possible Ortiz and Rosscup aren't as much of a lock as I have them.
Further changes could occur if, as is rumored, the Cubs go after a different backup to Montero such as David Ross, or if they sign Jonny Gomes.
Before I turn this over to you for your thoughts, one final note: of the 31 players mentioned above, only 11 (Hammel, Wood, Jackson, Rondon, Strop, Grimm, Rizzo, Castro, Valbuena, Ruggiano and Sweeney) were on the Opening Day roster in 2014. Quite a bit of turnover... and this time, quite a bit of improvement.