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Upcoming Cubs roster moves: Who goes to make room for John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks?

The Cubs will soon have to make some roster decisions.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

With Jose Quintana’s dazzling debut for the Cubs Sunday, he’s established himself at or near the top of the team’s starting rotation.

Jon Lester will go Monday in Atlanta, and John Lackey is scheduled to come off the disabled list to start Tuesday, which means a roster move is necessary.

Currently, the Cubs are carrying 12 pitchers and 13 position players, and that’s a change from earlier this year. They didn’t need the position-player flexibility in the series in Baltimore. With the DH in use, the team used no pinch-hitters all weekend and of the 13 position players, two of them — Victor Caratini and Tommy La Stella — didn’t play at all.

So it’s possible that when Lackey comes off the DL, the Cubs could choose to go back to eight relievers, keep Eddie Butler, and option TLS back to Triple-A Iowa. Personally, I’d keep TLS and option Butler, since the Cubs now return to playing under National League rules for the next eight games and will need more pinch-hitters.

Then there’s the question of who goes off the roster when Kyle Hendricks returns. Hendricks is scheduled to have another rehab start Monday with Double-A Tennessee; he could possibly return to the rotation next weekend. At that point, Mike Montgomery, who’s slated to start Wednesday, should shift back to the bullpen. Here, it gets a bit more complicated.

If Butler is sent down when Lackey returns, then La Stella could go when Hendricks comes back. Or, Justin Grimm could be sent back to Iowa, as his recent appearances haven’t been so good.

This note via AZ Phil at The Cub Reporter has been cited as a reason why Grimm or La Stella can’t be sent down, but note the wording carefully:

Also, any player who has accrued at least three years of MLB Service Time (Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon, plus Kyle Hendricks beginning on 7/1 and Tommy LaStella beginning on 7/24), or who has been outrighted previously in his career (Dylan Floro), or who qualifies as a "Super Two" player after the 2017 season, has the right to elect free-agency if outrighted.

That quote says “outrighted,” and we’re not talking outright assignment here, but instead options. It’s my understanding that Grimm, Butler and La Stella all have options remaining and so this paragraph wouldn’t apply to any situation in which those three were optioned.

Personally, I’d like to see the Cubs keep the extra bench player, especially with N.L. games coming up. There are two upcoming games at the White Sox, but that’s just two A.L. ballpark games over the next two months. The only other DH games will be at Tampa Bay in mid-September.

Next, there’s the situation of Brett Anderson, whose rehab assignment expires next week, on July 24 (pitchers get a maximum of 30 days on rehab assignment and his began June 24). With the acquisition of Quintana and the return of Lackey and Hendricks, Anderson appears to be odd man out.

Anderson signed a one-year deal for $3.5 million base salary, plus incentives that he’s unlikely to meet (the first one is for $500,000 if he makes 11 starts; he’s made six). Thus the Cubs owe him a little over $1 million for the rest of this year. At this point, I suspect Theo & Co. will simply admit this signing was a mistake, release him and eat the money. Or perhaps designate him for assignment, eat the money and try to get a low-level lottery-ticket prospect in trade.

At this point I don’t see the Cubs making any more deals for pitching help until they see Lackey and Hendricks in action and assess whether the rotation needs further help this year. Hopefully, the current rotation (when healthy, and not necessarily in this order) of Quintana, Lester, Lackey, Hendricks and Jake Arrieta will begin pitching the way they’re capable of and lead the Cubs to a successful second half.