Here is my take on who gets added to the Cubs’ active roster down the stretch, and when. The 25-man can add up to 15 spots on September 1. One of the moves will be counter-weighted, which will be explained at the appropriate time.
Kris Bryant September 1, or so. The Cubs have retained enough of a working margin that he hasn’t needed to be rushed back. That would have probably been a bad idea, anyway. Look for a rehab stint for Bryant sooner than later.
Mike Montgomery September 1, if healthy. I don’t know that there’s an upside to getting one solitary start from him, and losing a reliever for a stretch of days. Bring him back on the first, and hope he has something left.
Brian Duensing This is thorny. I think he is justified in being used in league games in September. I don’t think that Randy Rosario, Justin Wilson, and Jorge De La Rosa have the left side of the bullpen nailed down. The Cubs went more “in bulk” with their July/August bullpen additions, so as to not trade away too much talent. It could well be that Duensing is a better option in late September against the Cardinals for a hitter or two than any lefty reliever on the roster that you name in that spot.
Additionally, Duensing would make sense as a 60-day disabled list target if too many players get added. Memories get rigid. Things tend to be hard to forget, especially when they happened recently. Duensing could either be activated on September 1, or done for the season. My guess is that he pitches again, and is ready for the Phillies series in early-September.
Brandon Morrow He’ll be back shortly after the team doctors give him the green light. Whenever that is.
Addison Russell September 1.
Drew Smyly The same as with Morrow. If Smyly is good to go before the minor league seasons are finished, a rehab stint is in line.
Terrance Gore Now that the “medical concerns are finished, here come the ones that are more time-specific. Gore wasn’t added for his team leadership, or anything like that. He was added to pinch run, late in games, as needed. The wins in early September are mildly more likely to be of value than later wins. Gore should be added on September 1, and not before. That makes him able to help win as many games as possible, without stealing another player’s spot.
That would also give Chili Davis or Andy Haines time to work with him in the batting cages as the Cubs decide if he can hit “enough” to justify a 40-man spot through the winter. I doubt it, but sometimes, as second batch of coaches help a hitter perform better than his original instructors.
The Third Catcher The worst-kept secret going is that the Cubs want a third catcher. The reality is, whoever is chosen might well be the second catcher. Victor Caratini has been scuffling so much that Willson Contreras can’t get a proper day off as often as needed. Which has him slumping some. At any time over the next week, I expect the Cubs to add a veteran catcher to their roster.
Victor Caratini If another catcher is added, Caratini will return to Iowa. If that happens, he will return after the minimum 10 days, or when the minor-league season is over.
(Side note” If a third catcher, Smyly, or Gore are added, an adjustment to the 40-man roster will need to be made as the player is added. In the case of a new catcher, the move would need to be made instantly, before the player saunters into town.
Someone would either needed to be added to the 60-day DL (which could be Duensing, or an Iowa pitcher), or someone would need to be designated for assignment. These decisions would be that much more difficult if Oscar De La Cruz hadn’t been suspended.
The same logistical nightmare applies if the Cubs add another reliever in September, such as Kyle Ryan, Dakota Mekkes, or Allen Webster.)
Question marks to whether they will be added or not: Luke Farrell, Dillon Maples, Cory Mazzoni, Jen-Ho Tseng and Rob Zastryzny . Of the five, Zastryzny and Mazzoni make the most sense.
Alec Mills The starter from the Iowa Cubs makes sense to be added. He is able to pitch multiple innings, and those types are valuable in a stretch like the Cubs face in early September. The Iowa season ends on September 3. Mills should be added on 9/4.
James Norwood It makes sense Norwood gets added on September 4.
Duane Underwood Jr. He could be a valid bullpen piece down the stretch. I expect him to be added on 9/4.
Mark Zagunis He wouldn’t likely get heavy rotation in September, but having a bat off the bench seems better to have than not have. While September 4 is my call here, as well, he might be delayed a bit, depending on the standings and the number against the $197 million limit. The Cubs could probably get away with not activating Zagunis for a few days, if “the number” seems really close. Zagunis costs more on the 40, than off. (The same applies to any Iowa pitchers who “wouldn’t be ready to pitch” on their first day. They might be delayed, as well.)
I think the Cubs might add Ryan or Webster, though not both. To make room for talent after September 3, any player who wasn’t going to get a September invite could be added to the 60-day DL. Unlike Tyler Chatwood, who would likely fight a DL placement, a Maples (for instance) might welcome a DL placement. He would receive MLB money for the last month of the season.
A very realistic option on the August 30 or September 1 or 2 would be to add Tseng, Farrell, Maples, Mazzoni, or Zastryzny to the 60-day DL to create a spot for a player being added. Particularly if they have just made their last pitch of the season, by completing their final season start. That could allow another pitcher to be added to the Iowa roster for a day or two.
Shoulder tightness or a sore calf, and, suddenly, Gore, Ryan, or Webster have a 40-man roster spot. And the player gets paid MLB wages for a month or so.
Who do you think gets added, and when?