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Who's the 40th man on the Cubs’ 40-man roster?

The Cubs are going to need room on the 40-man soon. Who will be the first to go?

Justin Steele pitches for Myrtle Beach in 2017
Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans

The Cubs’ recent signings of Steven Souza Jr. and Jeremy Jeffress, both to major-league contracts, will put them one over the 40-man roster limit once the Jeffress deal is officially announced. Souza’s was done Tuesday and officially announced by the team:

As such, it's informative to assess the team’s 40-man roster to figure out who qualifies as the low-hanging fruit. This is particularly useful when a number of reasons could be used as justification. The Cubs have added a few previously less-than-familiar names to the roster this off-season. Who do you think will be the player bounced from the big league roster now that the Cubs apparently will need the 40-man space?

Jharel Cotton is new to the roster since last season. So are Trevor Megill, Travis Lakins, Casey Sadler, Ryan Tepera, Dan Winkler, and some prospects added to prevent them from being selected in December’s Rule 5 Draft. A few names on the 40 are unfamiliar, due to them still being prospects, even though they were added over a year ago. As a note, this is an attempt to figure out who will be next to go, not so much who you dislike the most. There is a difference.

Here are some notes about players I think might be the next man out.

Robel Garcia, infielder. Age 26. Two option seasons remaining.

Among the Cubs’ 2019 highlights was Garcia’s arrival to the parent club from obscurity. Nonetheless, he struggled adjusting to offspeed pitches, and with defense in general. Garcia seems the only valid offensive option to make much of a case for designating at the present time, all things considered.

Travis Lakins, right-handed pitcher. Age 25. Two option seasons remaining

A sixth-round choice out of Ohio State University in 2015, Lakins reached MLB for the first time in 2019. He fanned 18, walking 10, in 23⅓ innings, surrendering 23 hits. Mainly a starter at the Double-A or lower levels, he seems a reliever, now. A bit like Dakota Mekkes, he did well in 2018 at the Triple-A level. but struggled with the “MLB baseballs” in Triple-A in 2019. The Cubs traded the ever-popular PTBNL or cash recently to acquire Lakins.

Dillon Maples, right-handed pitcher. Age 27. One option season remaining.

Many of us have seen Maples when he pitches well. He’s also misfired a bit. The upside is worth retaining, but it becomes less likely as time progresses. Choosing upside is a very popular option, but sometimes, wildness is what it is.

James Norwood, right-handed pitcher. Age 26. One option season remaining.

Over the past two seasons, Norwood has parsed together 20⅓ MLB innings with 21 strikeouts. He’s also allowed 23 hits and 13 walks. Selected by the Cubs in the 2014 draft, he’s a perfectly useful rider on the Chicago<——>Des Moines shuttle. However, if the right name ends up on the waiver wire, Norwood could be a non-catastrophic roster casualty.

Casey Sadler, right-handed pitcher. Age 29. No option seasons remaining.

A 25th-rounder (Pirates) in 2010 out of Western Oklahoma State College, he debuted with the Pirates, and struggled in MLB under their watch. He was better with Tampa Bay in 2019, and the Rays traded him to the Dodgers. For the NL West champs, he tossed 27 innings, posting good numbers, and recording a save. Designated for assignment this winter, the Cubs sent prospect Clayton Daniel to the Dodgers to acquire Sadler.

Justin Steele, left-handed pitcher. Age 24. Two option seasons remaining.

In the 2015 draft, the Cubs selected three prep arms in the early rounds. Steele is the only one still in the organization. (Carson Sands, a 2017 Midwest League All-Star, was released after a bad string of injuries. Dylan Cease went to the Chicago White Sox in the Jose Quintana trade.) Steele returned from Tommy John surgery in 2018 with a flourish, but struggled in 2019. He has a lively arm from the left side, but a case could be made for Steele being nearing the plank.

Ryan Tepera, right-handed pitcher. Age 32. One option season remaining.

Drafted out of Sam Houston State in 2009 by the Blue Jays, Tepera will play for his first new organization this season. Tepera shouldn’t be near the top of the list of players to be designated. I’m not assuming he’ll be anything special, but he seems to have earned a look. It’s not like a thirty-plus type was acquired to solidify the Iowa bullpen.

Duane Underwood Jr., right-handed pitcher. Age 25. No option seasons remaining.

A Cubs draft selection in 2012, his rise through the system was anything but meteoric. His numbers over 15⅔ MLB innings have been a bit ordinary, though with over a strikeout per inning. That he has no option seasons remaining figures to be a potential reason he might be cut loose.

Dan Winkler, right-handed reliever. Age 29. Two option seasons remaining.

Selected in a round that no longer exists (43rd) in 2010, Winkler hits 30 years of age on Groundhog Day. An Illinois native (Effingham), the Braves added him in the Rule 5 Draft in 2014. Traded to the Giants in late July in the Mark Melancon trade, his excellence in Triple-A Sacramento (14 innings, six hits and five walks) wasn’t rewarded with an MLB contract from the Giants for 2020.

Who’s your choice? As usual, thanks to Arizona Phil and The Cub Reporter for options information.


Who’s the next player the Cubs will remove from the 40-man roster?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Robel Garcia
    (87 votes)
  • 7%
    Travis Lakins
    (28 votes)
  • 4%
    Dillon Maples
    (17 votes)
  • 8%
    James Norwood
    (30 votes)
  • 7%
    Casey Sadler
    (28 votes)
  • 4%
    Justin Steele
    (17 votes)
  • 8%
    Ryan Tepera
    (31 votes)
  • 22%
    Duane Underwood Jr.
    (83 votes)
  • 7%
    Dan Winkler
    (27 votes)
  • 4%
    Someone else (note who and why in the comments)
    (15 votes)
363 votes total Vote Now