We’re just four days from the Cubs 60-game season opener.
Rosters will be expanded from what’s going to be normal once we get back to a “normal” baseball season, hopefully next year. Teams can carry 30 players for the first two weeks, after which they’ll have to cut to 28. Two weeks after that they’ll go back to the 26-man roster which was scheduled to be standard starting in 2020.
It’s been widely assumed that most teams will go with 15 pitchers and 15 position players for their 30-man roster. Having 15 active pitchers will give teams some flexibility and not have to have starters go too far into games if they’re not completely ready.
Here are the 30 players I think the Cubs will open with this coming Friday.
Starters (5): Tyler Chatwood, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, Alec Mills
Relievers (10): Craig Kimbrel, Jeremy Jeffress, Dillon Maples, Kyle Ryan, Casey Sadler, Ryan Tepera, Duane Underwood Jr., Rowan Wick, Brad Wieck, Dan Winkler
Underwood has been very impressive during “Summer Camp” and is out of options. I confess to having an irrational like for Maples, and think this is the right time for him to have a breakout season. The list of relievers is instructive. Last year the Cubs had quite a few bullpen failures. Of the 10 relievers, four (Jeffress, Sadler, Tepera and Winkler) are new to the organization in 2020.
With the kitchen-knife injury to Jose Quintana, Mills makes the rotation as the fifth starter. Quintana likely isn’t ready to return from this injury until sometime in August. This article in The Athletic talks about Q as an addition sort of like a trade-deadline (this year, that’s August 31) acquisition:
“That might be a safe way to say it,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “He’s such a competitor and he’s going to do every right thing to get back. But at some point, it’s going to come down to how well he feels the ball. Throwing today is not a good way to assess that, right? We’re probably not going to really have a feel for that until he gets off a mound and is throwing all his pitches. The margin for error of pitching in a major-league game is really small.”
Victor Caratini, Willson Contreras, Josh Phegley
With a 30-man roster it makes sense to carry a third catcher. Remember, all teams will be using the DH this year, so it’s possible Contreras could serve there from time to time to give him a break from catching but keep his bat in the lineup. On days like that, it would be useful to have a third catcher.
Phegley isn’t on the 40-man roster so he’d have to be added. The 40-man is currently full.
Javier Baez, David Bote, Kris Bryant, Nico Hoerner, Jason Kipnis, Anthony Rizzo, Hernan Perez
Just as is the case for Phegley, Perez is not on the 40-man roster and would have to be added. He’s versatile and can play multiple positions, and so can Bote and Hoerner.
Some lists of this type have Daniel Descalso on them. I’ve left him off because there are better players here who can do the same thing Descalso can. The Cubs have to pay him regardless; they’re a better team without him. They owe him $925,000 this year (the pro-rated portion of his original $2.5 million) and a $1 million buyout for 2021. They should just pay it and let him go, in my view.
Letting Descalso go would open up a spot on the 40-man roster for Perez, for example.
Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Steven Souza Jr.
Souza has had more time to recover from his injuries of the last couple of years and has been impressive in intrasquad games.
It’s possible that the Cubs don’t keep Hoerner and instead put Ian Miller on the roster. Miller has 243 stolen bases in seven minor-league seasons and last year stole 35 bases in 42 attempts in Triple-A. He could serve as a defensive replacement/pinch-runner, but also would have to be added to the 40-man roster.