A few weeks ago, I took a first look at a potential roster and “taxi squad” for the Cubs in a shortened 2020 season. Back then I was operating under the assumption of the time, that teams would have a 30-man roster and 20-man “taxi squad.”
Now, roster rules have been codified. Teams will have 60 players available for play in major-league games this year — their 40-man roster and 20 others who will be part of a “taxi squad.” That “squad” will be headquartered at a place other than a team’s home park. There’s been at least one report about that being headquartered at Four Winds Field in South Bend, since they have a large workout facility that could handle such things.
Beyond those rules, teams will be permitted 30 active players for the first two weeks of the season, 28 active players for the two weeks following, and 26 players for the rest of the season. Clubs will be able to take three extra players on the road, but if they do, one of them must be a catcher. There was supposed to be a 13-pitcher limit on rosters this year, but that’s been waived for 2020 due to the circumstances.
In my earlier look at the Cubs’ roster, I noted that there were 39 players left in camp when Spring Training 1.0 was suspended. Of those, 31 were on the 40-man roster and eight were non-roster invitees.
Here is the Cubs’ current 40-man roster, which is full. Of those, there are only two who I can see with possible 40-man implications: Trevor Megill, who is a Rule 5 pick (and will likely be kept) and Duane Underwood Jr., who is out of options. I am uncertain how options will be handled in this weird season, but for now I’ll go under the assumption that the option rules won’t be changed.
In the article from last month, I posted a potential 30-man roster. I don’t see any reason it would be any different, so here it is, the 30 men I think the Cubs will begin the 2020 season with (Jason Kipnis is the only non-roster guy listed, noted in italics, someone would have to be removed from the 40-man to make room):
Starters: Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Tyler Chatwood
Relievers: Craig Kimbrel, Jeremy Jeffress, Dan Winkler, Ryan Tepera, Kyle Ryan, Rowan Wick, Brad Wieck, Dillon Maples, Trevor Megill, Alec Mills
Miguel Amaya, Victor Caratini, Willson Contreras
Javier Baez, David Bote, Kris Bryant, Daniel Descalso, Nico Hoerner, Jason Kipnis, Anthony Rizzo
Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Steven Souza Jr.
At this time, the only possible change the Cubs might make to that list is to have Josh Phegley as a third catcher. If they do that, again, someone would have to be removed from the 40-man to make room, as Phegley was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training 1.0.
That leaves 30 other spots for the “taxi squad.” This would consist of the remainder of the 40-man roster, some invitees to spring training, and some other players from within the organization who the club would like to see get some playing time this year, even if it’s only in intrasquad games.
Here’s who I see on that list (Spring Training 1.0 non-roster invitees in italics):
Jason Adam, Adbert Alzolay, Craig Brooks, Rex Brothers, Jharel Cotton, Danny Hultzen, Ryan Jensen, Brailyn Marquez, Dakota Mekkes, Tyson Miller, Brandon Morrow, James Norwood, Tyler Olson, CD Pelham, Colin Rea, Michael Rucker, Wyatt Short, Justin Steele, Matt Swarmer
P.J. Higgins, Josh Phegley
Robel Garcia, Hernan Perez, Trent Giambrone, Zack Short, Chase Strumpf
Donnie Dewees, Ian Miller, Brennen Davis, Mark Zagunis
The 30-man “taxi squad” above consists of a few players with MLB experience as well as some of the Cubs’ better prospects. There could be a couple of tweaks; as I noted above, maybe the Cubs carry Phegley instead of Amaya, though as noted the team would have to make a 40-man roster move to do that. There’s also going to be this interesting twist:
So, with the minor leagues dormant, MLB plans to obtain scouting video and data from independent leagues that plan to operate around the country. The Triple A Nashville Sounds are talking about organizing a “league” for their ballpark. The league would sign players, stage games, sell tickets, the works. Plenty of minor-league free agents, some with major-league experience, are looking for work.
MLB expects other minor-league teams to do something similar to Nashville and allow major-league teams to sign their players for a fee, operating the same way independent leagues normally do.
One of the indy leagues operating will be the American Association, where the Chicago Dogs just announced Wednesday that they’ll be playing their home games at their home ballpark, Impact Field in Rosemont. Note that they can do this because Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced Phase 4 of the state’s reopening, which permits those things outside the city of Chicago. In the city, spectator sports are still closed and in my view, they likely will remain closed this year. There won’t be any fans allowed in Wrigley Field.
That’s how I see the Cubs being constituted this year. The MLB transaction freeze that was placed on MLB back in March will be lifted at 11 a.m. CT tomorrow, Friday, June 26, and teams’ lists of the 60 men who will be eligible to participate must be submitted by 3 p.m. CT Sunday, June 28. Be ready to hear lots of names change places.