We, as Cubs fans, were not expecting a 2021 season where the roster was this gutted. We wanted the team to be competing for a postseason spot, but once the trades happened, the season became an extended stretch of games akin to split-squad games in Mesa. Since games have become cheap enough to to the point where a player being largely responsible for a loss has become either "evaluating tools" or "learning experiences," we might as well all take to assessment. Here's my current look at the Cubs current 40-man roster.
My hope, or expectation, is that the Cubs will have 34-36 players on the 40-man roster over the bulk of winter (after early December). Having more would be a bit odd, all things considered, and might send me back to checking my premises. Having fewer than 34 would be fine, as long as it doesn't expose long-term value pieces.
The first step is to assess the current 40-man roster in a left column/center column/right column fashion. The left column names are to be retained. The right column names are to be purged at season's end. The center column names are up in the air. The players eligible for the Rule 5 Draft will come in a later look. Losing talent because they didn't get a proper examination is as bad as keeping a player who didn't deserve retention.
For me, half the names (23 of 46) are already in the left column. (Players can still move left or right, as will be noted in one case.) Longer-term value is probably the tie-breaker. Short-term flukishness is probably the enemy of the process. If a player (relief pitcher?) plays himself entirely off the roster, that creates a chance to call up another player for a look. Dakota Mekkes and Scott Effross would be the next two.
My left column has few surprises. Adbert Alzolay, Kyle Hendricks, Alec Mills. Justin Steele, and Keegan Thompson head the list. Codi Heuer, Brailyn Marquez, Manuel Rodriguez, Rowan Wick, and Brad Wieck qualify, as well. Recent prospect additions Anderson Espinoza (Jake Marisnick trade) and Alexander Vizcaino (Anthony Rizzo trade) were placed on the 40-man roster when acquired. I've also included Tommy Nance, here, who might be the most controversial name on the pitching side.
Catchers Miguel Amaya and Willson Contreras qualify, as do infielders David Bote, Nico Hoerner, Nick Madrigal, Christopher Morel, and Patrick Wisdom. Only three outfielders make the list so far, and two are prospects, in Greg Deichmann, Alexander Canario (Kris Bryant trade), and Jason Heyward.
Next, I jump to the right column. As the Cubs have five more weeks of games to look at players, there's no real benefit to rush players to the right. Getting the decision proper is more important than immediacy. I'll lean toward patience. Zach Davies, Kohl Stewart, both Romines, Matt Duffy, P.J. Higgins, Jose Lobaton, and Robinson Chirinos don't have to be released presently, but retention over the off-season on the 40-man roster seems unlikely.
Which leads to the lengthy center column. Having long-term usable talent that can be shuttled between Chicago and Des Moines is useful. However, if you're willing to go on record now that a specific player is not and never will be useful, move them right. If they've earned your off-season stamp of approval, move them left.
Cory Abbott is still center column. While he's often struggled in Iowa, the Cubs are awfully short on starting options now. If Abbott displays quality down the stretch, in Chicago or Iowa, retention is possible.
Rex Brothers probably belongs a column to the right, but for.now, he's here. He can be retained if the Cubs want him.
Jonathan Holder was acquired last off-season, and the Cubs can retain him if desired. He's on a rehab stint, and allowed a run for Iowa in an inning on Wednesday. He'd require a 40-man move, as he's on the 60-day Injured List.
Jake Jewell might have wandered into your right-hand column after Wednesday’s game. If "it" were about the next three weeks, moving him right might be easy. However, it's about being virtually sure about July of 2022 or 2023, not the next twenty games.
Dillon Maples is center column for me. Some of you might have him in one of the other columns with a potential even split. His upside is high. His misfires are memorable. I doubt anyone has an applicable trade piece to offer for him to make an easy swap, but it might come to that this winter.
Trevor Megill has velocity and movement, but hasn't mastered command yet. See comments above about 2022 or 2023.
Ryan Meisinger might be my cast-aside piece to look at Holder, Mekkes, or Effross, but I'm chronically patient with developing talent.
Michael Rucker has ugly numbers, but he's the type of player that ought to merit numerous looks. If the light bulb goes on, he becomes useful.
Adrian Sampson has good numbers with the Cubs, and can provide length. He's earned a few more looks.
Adam Morgan had been right column. He's now in the center column. The Cubs hold his rights for 2022, if they want him, and he appears a better option, for now, than Rex Brothers.
Sergio Alcántara might represent a non-tender for you, but if retained until (for instance), mid-January, he'd make a useful discard then for a DFA wire addition. Not all players can be DFAd in the off-season (recently rostered players are largely stuck on the list for most of the winter until spring training), and Alcántara might be a reasonable discard then.
Frank Schwindel keeps hitting. Eventually, I'll accept him as a DH option at league minimum, and kick him left. Until then, his four-figure OPS number stays here.
Ian Happ is a fantastic argument either way. Is his hot streak a fluke, or him remembering the keys to hitting that made him an eight-figure value on Fangraphs the last three years? Stays middle, with a very likely move left.
Michael Hermosillo has been a wonderful story. Emotions don't necessarily justify a 40-man roster spot. He has a bit over a month.
Rafael Ortega should probably be in the left column. Indecision is my friend.
My list is 23/15/8. I've noted the three most likely players needing to be further assessed. Since we're here, we might as well assess the current roster for future value. How does your list look?