As you know if you’ve followed along with my 2022-23 MLB offseason calendar, two important roster deadlines are approaching.
On Tuesday, November 15 (tomorrow!) teams must add eligible minor leaguers to their 40-man rosters or risk losing them in the Rule 5 Draft. College players drafted no later than 2019 and high school players drafted no later than 2018 are Rule 5 Draft eligible this year, as well as players signed internationally no later than 2018.
Friday, November 18 is the deadline for tendering 2023 contracts to all arbitration-eligible and pre-arb players.
In practice, what I believe these two deadlines will cause is for teams to tender contracts, or not, by tomorrow — because many, including the Cubs, will have to free up space for protecting prospects from the Rule 5 Draft.
As of today, the Cubs’ 40-man roster stands at 35 players after a flurry of moves made at the end of last week.
Last month, I speculated that the Cubs would protect five players from their system:
Note that Matt Mervis and most of the Cubs in the Arizona Fall League right now do not HAVE to be protected and so won’t be. Among AFL Cubs, only Brennen Davis is Rule 5-eligible and MUST be protected.
Davis, Ben Brown and Kevin Alcántara are locks to get added, so that’s three. Ryan Jensen was the Cubs’ No. 1 pick (27th overall) in 2018, and even though he had a mediocre year at Double-A Tennessee, he’d be exactly the kind of guy another team would take a chance on. That makes four.
I’m going to add Yonathan Perlaza as my fifth protectee. He hit .255/.358/.492 with 36 doubles and 23 home runs at Double-A Tennessee last year and the Cubs did invite him to their Wrigley mini-camp for prospects last week. There’s one caveat to Perlaza, though — he is actually a minor league free agent at the end of the World Series. So if the Cubs want to keep him, they’d have to sign him to a new deal first. Perlaza would likely ask for a 40-man spot to re-sign. But, he could leave and go elsewhere just because he thought he’d have a better chance of making the majors in a different organization with fewer good outfielders.
If Perlaza isn’t the guy, it could be Cam Sanders, a righthander who was the Cubs’ 12th-round pick out of LSU in 2018.
I have also seen the name Chris Clarke, a right-handed pitcher, batted around for possible protection — he was the Cubs’ fourth-round pick out of USC in 2019 and spent 2022 split between South Bend and Tennessee.
If the Cubs want to protect five (or more!) players, they’re going to have to let some guys go because they won’t want to leave the 40-man roster full entering trade/waiver claim/free agent signing season.
So who’s going to go of the 35 currently on the roster?
We already know that Jason Heyward is going to be released; we were told that in August. There’s no reason to wait any longer to do that.
I’d think Rafael Ortega will be non-tendered. Alfonso Rivas could also be non-tendered, given the rise of Matt Mervis and the rumored signing of José Abreu.
The Cubs could also let Michael Rucker and/or Mark Leiter Jr. go, and perhaps re-sign them to minor league deals. It’s also possible the team could make some trades before tomorrow’s roster protection deadline.
I’d also like to know why the Cubs are still wasting a 40-man spot on Alexander Vizcaino, who was acquired from the Yankees in July 2021 (along with Kevin Alcantara) in the Anthony Rizzo deal. Vizcaino pitched in six games for South Bend after the deal (and not well), and then failed to report to Spring Training. He spent the entire year on the restricted list, but had to be returned to the active 40-man roster after the World Series. I don’t see why the Cubs would waste a 40-man spot on a 25-year-old minor leaguer (26 in May) who’s pitched in 12 games since 2019.
If that’s the case, the Cubs could open as many as six more 40-man roster spots before the end of this week.
As always, we await developments.