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An updated early look at the Cubs’ 2021 Opening Day roster

The roster is now taking shape.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

About three weeks ago I posted this preliminary look at the Cubs’ Opening Day roster for the upcoming season. It contained a bit of snark (like listing only one catcher, because that’s all the Cubs had at the time, knowing that Miguel Amaya was definitely going to start 2021 in the minor leagues.

The Cubs have made several signings since then, and although the most recent (the two Jakes, Arrieta and Marisnick) have not yet been officially announced by the team, we can now see the Opening Day 26-man roster taking better shape. Players are listed by position and then in alphabetical order.

Catchers (2)

Willson Contreras, Austin Romine

This is about a wash from the last couple of years. Romine is not quite as good defensively as the departed Victor Caratini, but he’s a better hitter.

Infielders (6)

Javier Baez, David Bote, Kris Bryant, Nico Hoerner, Anthony Rizzo, Ildemaro Vargas

This list hasn’t changed since last month’s article. It is still possible that Nico could start the year in Triple-A, but that would leave the Cubs without a true backup shortstop for Javier Baez. Both Bote and Vargas have played some — though not very much — shortstop. With a number of off days early in the season, the Cubs might be able to go without a true backup for Javy while Hoerner gets some Triple-A at-bats.

Outfielders (5)

Phillip Ervin, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, Jake Marisnick, Joc Pederson

That’s actually... not a bad list of outfielders. Presuming the starters are Pederson, Happ and Heyward, they’ve got two pretty good defensive backups in Ervin and Marisnick, and Ervin, at least, hits lefthanders pretty well.

Starting pitchers (6)

Adbert Alzolay, Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies, Kyle Hendricks, Alec Mills, Trevor Williams

As I wrote here Sunday, I think the Cubs will at least start the season with a six-man rotation. Of the six listed here, I believe Mills would be the most likely one to eventually go to a long relief/spot start role.

The Cubs have some depth at starting pitcher, including Kohl Stewart, Rule 5 acquisition Gray Fenter and non-roster invitee Shelby Miller.

Relief pitchers (7)

Jason Adam, Jonathan Holder, Craig Kimbrel, Kyle Ryan, Rowan Wick, Brad Wieck, Dan Winkler

There are several other candidates for the bullpen, including Andrew Chafin and Duane Underwood Jr., both of whom played for the Cubs in 2020. They could also choose to go with an eight-man bullpen and only five starters. Or, an eight-man bullpen, six starters, and only 12 position players — that’s allowed this year.

Jed Hoyer has hinted that he might not be done signing players, and the Cubs might be interested in David Robertson, a free agent who threw for teams last week.

When the signings of Arrieta and Marisnick are officially announced, two players will have to be removed from the 40-man roster. Candidates include James Norwood, Dillon Maples and recently-acquired Sergio Alcantara, who the Cubs would probably try to get through waivers so they could keep him at Iowa.

The official pitcher and catcher report date is this Wednesday, and we are two weeks from the Cubs’ first scheduled spring game against the Padres, March 1 at Peoria. There could be more changes to this list by the time we get to Opening Day, but that’s how I see it as of this morning.