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An updated look at the Cubs’ offseason 40-man roster

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Who should stay and who should go when the 2021 season is over?

Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Checking the Cubs’ 40-man roster for who belongs and who doesn’t is something I’m doing more of as the 2021 season comes to an end.

One of the really refreshing things to see is the number of entirely valid relievers who will be able to ride the Des Moines-to-Chicago (and back) shuttle in 2022. For too many years the number of players who couldn’t be returned to Des Moines (for instance, Dillon Maples) was far higher than desired. With a recent influx of internally-developed bullpen talent, that’s less of a concern. For the middle of September, here’s my list.

Instead of what I did last time, I will actually split the names into three columns: Left (retain), right (let go) and center (still up in the air).

Some players won’t require much comment. Others might. From the current roster, I have 29 players in the “left column.” I still have assessing to do. There are more than 40 players listed here because guys currently on the 60-day injured list will have to be either added back to the 40-man, or sent through waivers to try to keep them, or let go.

Left column (29): Likely to be retained all offseason

Adbert Alzolay
Miguel Amaya
David Bote
Alexander Canario (Kris Bryant trade)
Willson Contreras
Greg Deichmann (Andrew Chafin trade)
Scott Effross
Anderson Espinoza (Jake Marisnick trade)
Ian Happ
Jason Heyward
Christopher Morel
Kyle Hendricks
Codi Heuer
Nico Hoerner
Nick Madrigal
Brailyn Marquez
Alec Mills
Tommy Nance
Rafael Ortega
Alfonso Rivas
Manuel Rodriguez
Michael Rucker
Frank Schwindel
Justin Steele
Keegan Thompson
Alexander Vizcaino (Anthony Rizzo trade)
Rowan Wick
Brad Wieck
Patrick Wisdom

Aside from a few details to be explained below, there shouldn’t be too much argument on most of these. Fire away as needed.

Right column (12): Will become free agents (or possible non-tenders) at season’s end, or shortly after.

Rex Brothers
Robinson Chirinos
Zach Davies
Matt Duffy
Michael Hermosillo
PJ Higgins
Jonathan Holder
Jose Lobaton
Nick Martini
Austin Romine
Kohl Stewart
Trayce Thompson

Some of these (Chirinos, Hermosillo, Higgins, Duffy, Stewart, Holder, Brothers, and Thompson among them) might make sense as offseason minor-league signings. Keeping them on the 40-man roster all offseason, though, seems a bit unnecessary. If Duffy signs a 40-man roster spot with another team? Congratulations. However, he doesn’t seem essential on a team as the Cubs will be comprised. Chirinos in January might be entirely acceptable.

Center column (6): Still up in the air, with fuller commentary on each

Cory Abbott: I was hoping he would fill the “Des Moines rotation plant” role, in other words, that starting pitcher in Triple-A who, as needed, could fill in for a rotation spot. Recently, Colin Rea, Alec Mills and even Shelby Miller (albeit briefly) held that role. If a starter is going to be out a month, calling someone up to take the spot, to be promptly returned as needed, is the entire idea. That is a valid roster spot use. On occasion, a team might have three pitchers filling that role. I’m not sold on Abbott filling that role in 2022.

Dillon Maples: He is who he is, but I don’t want anything to do with him being non-tendered in December. There ought to be some team that would offer some level of value for him, but I have no idea who. I’m not looking forward to him being a leverage reliever for the Rays (for example) for three or four years. Still a very problematic “undecided.”

Trevor Megill: As with Michael Rucker, both have upside well beyond their current numbers. Keeping one or the other seems like an adequate compromise. Some might pound the table for one. Or both. Or neither. It’s about 2022 and 2023, not 2021.

Adam Morgan: Morgan seems a more likely retention, now, than non-tendering him. He’s done well. He should be reasonably priced. Center column, still, for now.

Adrian Sampson: Everything I said about Abbott? Sampson fills the role. Three option seasons remaining. Can pitch in Iowa, get called up, and sent down on a whim or on convenience. League minimum rate. If terrible, he gets non-tendered. He’s given up more hard contact than I’d prefer, but someone ought to fill the “plant in Des Moines” role.

Sergio Alcántara: I’d prefer him on a minor-league deal. If Hoyer is brining in an actual MLB free agent shortstop, Alcántara can be non-tendered.

Rule 5 additions on November 19

Danis Correa (righthanded relief pitcher)
Brendon Little (lefthanded relief pitcher)
Nelson Velazquez (outfield)
Jared Young (first base/outfield/designated hitter)

Adding four more puts the number at 33. I wouldn’t want the 40-man filled beyond 36 heading into December 6 or so.

As the months roll into January and February, someone might need to be designated for assignment. Of the players who can be DFA’d, Maples (if retained) and Morel seem some of those more likely options. Neither is ideal, however.

With the overload (Amaya, Morel, Canario, Vizcaino, Marquez, and Espinoza) of players unlikely to contribute early in the season for the Cubs at all, I’m largely opposed to adding a player in the Rule 5 Draft. Ever a scouting question, if “that guy” is available when the Cubs are on the board, by all means. However, the Cubs are gorged with fourth to ninth relievers. Adding a 10th reliever type who takes a roster spot until mid-March seems absurd.

Roll with the 29, add the four in November, and up to three more. Including one starting pitcher to plant in Des Moines, a possible flip-flop on Megill and Rucker, and hopefully to find a trade outlet for Maples for someone not needing a 40-man spot.