We are just a couple of weeks away from September 1, when MLB teams can expand their active rosters to up to 40 players, though in reality most teams stop at about 33 or 34 active for the month.
The Cubs and other teams will draw from their 40-man rosters to do so.
There is currently one open spot on the Cubs’ 40-man roster. That likely goes to just-acquired Terrance Gore, who is currently assigned to Triple-A Iowa. Gore is a pinch-running/defensive specialist who will be useful during September, and also has a very good chance of being on the Cubs’ postseason roster.
Yu Darvish is scheduled to make a rehab start Sunday, probably at Class A South Bend. There’s a possibility of a couple more rehab starts, although Joe Maddon suggested Darvish could return after that one if it’s good enough:
Maddon confirmed that pitcher Yu Darvish will make a rehab start Sunday, likely for Class A South Bend. He wasn’t sure how many rehab starts Darvish would need before returning.
“One start, if he kills it, who knows?” Maddon said. “Two starts, might feel great. I’d say three would be the maximum.”
Pitching coach Jim Hickey had stated the other day on his radio show that Darvish could also make rehab starts August 24 and 29:
In a perfect world, Yu Darvish could throw again on Aug. 19, Aug. 24 and Aug. 29 and then be ready to join the #Cubs right at the start of September, Jim Hickey says. Hickey was really encouraged by Darvish's simulated game yesterday.— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) August 15, 2018
South Bend is home on all those dates. That would push back any 40-man roster decision past September 1, and also it would mean that no one would have to be taken off the 25-man roster to activate Darvish.
In my view, the most likely thing that will happen to the 40-man roster to make room for Darvish, whenever he’s activated, will be for Brian Duensing to be placed on the 60-day DL. It doesn’t seem that Duensing will pitch again this year, particularly with the acquisition of Jorge De La Rosa, who seems to have been assigned the same role Duensing had.
There’s one more 40-man roster move that might have to be made soon. The Cubs seem likely to add a third catcher for September, to give Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini a break, as they did last year when they acquired Rene Rivera. Heck, they could probably pick up Rivera again; he’s with the Angels, who are far out of contention, and Rivera just returned from a three-month stint on the DL. Drew Butera of the Royals is another backup catcher who is certainly available. Butera can’t hit at all but is a good defensive catcher. Of course, if they wanted someone like that, Chris Gimenez is still at Iowa.
If they do this, they’d need another 40-man spot for that. In that case they’d probably have to run one of the Iowa Shuttle guys, likely Luke Farrell or Cory Mazzoni, through waivers. Timing is the key in that situation, if they do that at a time when other teams’ 40-man rosters are full, they’d probably clear.
I’ll have further thoughts next week on who I think the Cubs will add to the active roster for September, beyond Darvish. Obviously, Kris Bryant and Brandon Morrow would be two key additions off the disabled list, and September 1 seems like a good target for both of them.