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Who’s going to be the Cubs’ 26th man?

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Rosters are expanding this year.

Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

New roster rules for Major League Baseball teams in 2020 permit a 26th man to be carried from Opening Day through the end of August.

The rule change mandates that of the 26 men, only 13 can be pitchers. In recent years, most teams have done this and carried only 12 position players. Thus, the 26th man is almost certainly going to be a position player for most teams, including the Cubs.

The Cubs have several candidates, noted in this Tribune article by Mark Gonzales. Gonzales cites Ian Miller, Daniel Descalso, David Bote and Josh Phegley.

So let’s look at those four men, plus one other.

Miller has impressed during spring training, leading all players this spring with eight stolen bases and hitting .375/.459/.469 (12-for-33).

Let’s not get carried away. Miller spent seven years in the Mariners system without ever getting a callup, and though he stole 243 bases in 294 attempts, he posted just a .697 OPS in the Seattle system. The Twins claimed him on waivers in August and he went 3-for-17 in a few brief September appearances. He’s 28 and his ceiling is probably “fifth outfielder.”

The problem for Miller is that the Cubs already have five outfielders likely to make the roster (Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, Albert Almora Jr. and Steven Souza Jr.). Thus Miller’s probably headed to Triple-A Iowa as an injury replacement.

Descalso is someone we’ve discussed here often. He is in this conversation for 3.5 million reasons — that’s the dollar amount he’s owed by the Cubs. Descalso has been used all over the infield (except shortstop) and left field this spring, and his problem is that the lack of hitting he showed last year is continuing. He’s 3-for-23 this spring with nine strikeouts. Please, just cut him already.

Of David Bote, Gonzales writes:

David Bote made an exceptional stop at third base against the White Sox on Friday, and he will get playing time at shortstop soon.

Bote has played some shortstop in the big leagues, but not much: 11 total games, two starts. Besides, Bote likely counts as one of the first 25 on the roster, as he seems likely to be a platoon partner for Jason Kipnis at second base.

Phegley has had a good spring (.350/.381/.700, 7-for-20 with two homers) and has been a capable major-league catcher for seven seasons with the White Sox and Athletics. I just can’t see the Cubs carrying three catchers, even though Victor Caratini and Willson Contreras can both play other positions.

Bote and Descalso are both on the 40-man roster. Miller and Phegley aren’t. The Cubs will need one 40-man spot for Kipnis. Letting Descalso go would be the easiest way to open up that spot.

The one player who isn’t mentioned in Gonzales’ article is the man I think should get consideration — Hernan Perez. Like Descalso, Perez has also hit poorly this spring, just 2-for-20 with seven strikeouts. He is, among all these players, the only one with significant time at shortstop. Presuming Nico Hoerner is sent to Iowa to start the season, Perez is the only guy who could be a true backup to Javier Baez at shortstop. Perez has previously played all over the infield and outfield.

The Cubs made one round of roster cuts Friday, leaving 51 players in camp. None of the cuts was a surprise at all. They’ll likely get to a second round of cuts later this week.

Who’s the guy who should stick as the 26th man?

Poll

The Cubs’ 26th man should be...

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    David Bote
    (438 votes)
  • 1%
    Daniel Descalso
    (12 votes)
  • 15%
    Ian Miller
    (111 votes)
  • 9%
    Hernan Perez
    (70 votes)
  • 8%
    Josh Phegley
    (59 votes)
  • 4%
    Someone else (leave in comments)
    (31 votes)
721 votes total Vote Now