Tomorrow, Saturday, September 1, major-league teams can expand their active rosters to as many as the full 40-man contingent. In reality, most teams add from seven to 10 players, because there simply isn’t enough playing time for 15 additional players.
The Cubs have another thing holding them back from a huge roster expansion — the luxury tax limit. Every player added means another major-league salary for a month, in this case approximately $90,000 per player added (one-sixth of the minimum of $545,000). That might not sound like much in today’s market, but the Cubs are very, very close to the limit after adding Daniel Murphy.
So, activations will likely include players currently on the disabled list as well as a few arms that have already been up and down on the Iowa Shuttle this year.
It’s possible the Cubs will make a roster move before Friday’s game after Jason Heyward had a hamstring injury Thursday night:
“Let’s wait till [Friday] to really call it,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s seen a doctor here, but I’m sure they’re going to have to do some tests, and then we’ll be more specific. But you’re not going to see him play tomorrow or the next day.”
If Heyward goes on the 10-day DL, the Cubs can add a player Friday before rosters expand Saturday.
Although Kris Bryant is expected to join the team Friday in Philadelphia after finishing his minor-league rehab assignment Thursday, the Cubs more likely would look to add a pitcher to reinforce a bullpen that pitched 10 2/3 innings the last two days.
The problem with doing this is that if Heyward is placed on the DL, he has to stay out 10 days. If the Cubs can manage one day playing a man short, they could add a pitcher, or pitchers, on Saturday and then Heyward could come back before the 10-day period if he’s ready.
Also a factor is the 40-man roster, which is currently full. There are players who might be added who will need a 40-man spot, which means some roster Jenga will have to happen.
Let’s take a look by position.
Dillon Maples, Luke Farrell and James Norwood seem locks to be added to the roster. They’re all on the 40-man and currently have options. Brian Duensing will likely be activated from the disabled list. That alone would give Joe Maddon a 12-man bullpen.
Drew Smyly had a successful rehab outing for South Bend Thursday. If he has another one, or two, perhaps he’d be activated as well. He’d need a 40-man spot. One of those could be obtained by temporarily moving Brandon Morrow to the 60-day DL, since Morrow is not likely to return till mid-September. He’d still need a 40-man spot when he returns, but that moves the decision down the road a couple of weeks.
Alec Mills is expected to be recalled to start Tuesday in Milwaukee.
Bobby Wilson was acquired from the Twins Thursday, and there’s no other reason to do that unless he’s being added to the active roster Saturday. He’s already on the 40-man with the DFA of Cory Mazzoni.
Bryant is expected to be activated Saturday from the disabled list. Addison Russell will also be activated from the DL at some point, though there has been no specific date indicated.
Terrance Gore was acquired from the Royals earlier in August, and as with Bobby Wilson, there’s no other reason to do that unless he’s being added to the active roster for September. At that point Gore will also need a 40-man spot. Nothing’s been stated specifically, but I would not be surprised if at that point Tyler Chatwood is placed on the 60-day DL. With the addition of the five other pitchers noted above, there probably wouldn’t be enough innings available for Chatwood and he’s the most logical removal from the 40-man.
So if things go as I’ve postulated here, the Cubs will add nine players to the 25 currently active (Maples, Farrell, Norwood, Smyly, Mills, Wilson, Bryant, Russell and Gore). That 34-man active roster sounds about right for September. Some of the pitchers might be added after Iowa’s season ends on Monday.
We’ll find out in around 24 hours!