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Sergio Alcántara likely gets recalled to replace Nico Hoerner today. Who gets moved off the 40-man?

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The Cubs’ 40-man roster is full, so they’ll have to make a move to make room for Alcántara. What should it be?

Sergio Alcántara
Photo by Harrison Barden/MLB Photos via Getty Images

As you know by now, Nico Hoerner suffered a hamstring injury in Tuesday’s game in Pittsburgh. Infielder Sergio Alcántara was pulled from Iowa’s game, apparently not for any injury reason, so he’s likely headed to Pittsburgh to replace Hoerner on the active roster. There is also this report, though:

Regardless of whether Alcántara or Ortega is the guy to be added to the 26-man, the 40-man roster is now full, so the Cubs will need to make another 40-man move, as they did yesterday to make room for Patrick Wisdom when Matt Duffy went to the IL.

What will that move be?

Three primary options exist. An immediate trade/release is plausible. Neither is likely, especially unless the majority of the pre-trade posturing and bartering have happened. As much as anyone thinks “trade (insert player here)” should happen, it would have happened overnight. Since it didn’t, an immediate trade is unlikely.

The second option is a designation for assignment. A few options on the 26-man roster or the Injured List might be popular DFAs, but no one stands out. When you reach this far, you’re checking on realistic expectations, much as I recommend when a trade happens. Let’s say there’s a one-for-one trade, and two players swap teams with two years before free agency. I’d try to look at it this way: Which player will do better, and which reserves will be given a chance to do better? If one team gets a likely seven wins from the piece they add, and create three more WAR from secondary depth, they look like a clear winner if the other team is getting three wins and one. 10>4. And if I’m wrong, I criticize myself for misreading reality.

Which move is least likely to cause any significant move in the present or future? When I looked at non-injured players on the 40-man but off the 26-man (I still am lacking a term for that premise) I saw seven names. Christopher Morel might be two months from taking the 26-man spot himself. (He’s not ready yet, but tough situations create odd choices.) It won’t be Brailyn Marquez nor Miguel Amaya. Despite a rugged outing/month, I don’t see it being Cory Abbott. Which leaves Tyson Miller, Manny Rodriguez, and Kohl Stewart. Slow the process down, and Rodriguez, a reliever doing fairly well in Double-A, seemed the best dismissal.

The more I thought about DFAing Rodriguez, the less I liked the idea. It’s not that he’s a cinch to pitch in MLB. It’s not his upper-90s velocity. It’s that I loathe surrendering value unnecessarily. Rodriguez could figure it out, and would be quite unlikely to clear waivers. He shouldn’t get past the Pirates. Nor would a DFA trade satisfy the goal of a reasonable return. Is there a way the Cubs could make a choice that would have a reasonable expectation for a lower value of loss?

Then I looked at the third option: Booting a player from the 10-day Injured List to the 60-day list. I obviously don’t have complete injury details for any of the current 10-day IL players; I’m guessing along with everyone else. However, it seems an apt time to look at players on the short list to see if any could be booted to the longer list with few long-term snags,

Alphabetically:

Matt Duffy: Has been huge recently. Should be back within two weeks or so. Bumping him to 60 days would be absurd.

Jason Heyward: He has his detractors, but unless his hand problem is really severe, he should be back relatively soon.

Jake Marisnick: Should be back relatively soon, and was fantastic as a bench lefty-masher until injured.

Shelby Miller: His Iowa ERA is 1.74. He should be back to the MLB roster soon. He’s been great with the I-Cubs, and should be eased back in rather soon.

Alec Mills: It’s easy to remember his more recent struggling appearances, but some of those struggles could have been brought on by his injury. Bumping Mills back would be foolish and wrong, as would releasing him.

Justin Steele: I expect he’ll be out a month. If he was the only option versus designating Rodriguez, that would be tough. 60 days without Steele, or DFA Rodriguez. Run those numbers, and the averages might be close.

Trevor Megill: Okay, so mostly in alphabetical order. He was placed on the list in late April; pushing him back would push him back to late June. Megill sounds reasonably close to a return, and that’s already being reported as a possibility:

What value do you place on roughly three weeks of Trevor Megill in 2021? Whatever your assessment is, is fine with me as long as you’re honest about your assessment regardless of how it plays out. If you think he’d be worth three-quarters of a win, your thoughts on him have likely spiked up greatly since late March. Over an entire June, if allowed to pitch when healthy? I’d project him at about 0.1 WAR, with a potential variance of plus or minus three-tenths. Because I don’t “like” him, or don’t trust him?

No, because relief pitcher.

The only DFA that makes a lick of sense to me is Rodriguez, but I hate seeing players doing well getting kicked out of the organization. It happened already with James Norwood and Duane Underwood Jr. In this case, delaying Megill’s return seems less critical, especially with Mills and Miller likely back soon. (Those returns would likely send Keegan Thompson back to Iowa, to get in their rotation.) If players get healthy more than they get injured, a few easier decisions may be made later. However, sometimes injuries continue.

Here’s to Alcántara impressing. After a late night check, Arizona Phil at The Cub Reporter agrees with me. Move Megill to the 60-day. He’ll still get his MLB pay.