This topic came up the other day here in the comment section, so while we wait for the season to resume Saturday evening in Cincinnati, I thought it would be a useful thing to discuss.
The 2023 Cubs are likely to look quite different from the version we see on the field now in August 2022. First, there have been hints from the front office and ownership that the team will spend in free agency. Second, there are several players currently on the 40-man roster who don’t seem to fit into future Cubs plans.
Jed Hoyer and his baseball ops team have been described as “unsentimental” in the way they approach building a team. Note! This isn’t referring to using analytics over scouting. What I believe it refers to is that Hoyer & Co. don’t take the popularity of players into account when deciding a player’s future with the team. It’s one reason why Willson Contreras, good as he might be going forward, might not be back as a Cub in 2023 and beyond.
That said, who are the candidates for dropping from the 40-man roster? One of the reasons to clear space is that there are players in the system who must be added to protect them from being lost in the Rule 5 Draft this winter. Contreras, incidentally, was famously left unprotected in 2014, when he would have needed to be added. No one chose him and he had a breakout season at Double-A in 2015 and was in the big leagues to stay in 2016. It’s one reason Justin Steele was placed on the 40-man after 2019, even after a bad year in Double-A; that decision to keep Steele has now paid off.
Here is the Cubs’ current 40-man roster, which also shows players on the 60-day injured list.
The Cubs have two free agents following this year: Contreras and Wade Miley. Everyone else currently on the 40-man roster is either arbitration-eligible or pre-arb.
The Cubs currently have six players on the 60-day IL. When rosters need to be set five days after the World Series ends, those players either need to be reinstated to the 40-man roster or let go. They are: Adbert Alzolay, Michael Hermosillo, Codi Heuer, Ethan Roberts, Manuel Rodriguez and Brad Wieck.
All but Hermosillo are likely going to be returned to the 40-man. Hermosillo turns 28 in January. It would seem to me that others in the system have passed him by and the Cubs will likely let him go. The others, all pitchers, could be contributors in 2023 (though Roberts, probably not until mid-season). There are still questions about Wieck’s health and it’s possible, at age 31 in October, that he might be done.
So, with Contreras and Miley subtracted and five added, that’s 43. We’ve still got work to do!
Drew Smyly has a mutual option with the Cubs for 2022. I think it’s about 50/50 that this option (for $4.25 million) gets exercised. That could make 44.
I believe the following pitchers will definitely be removed: Steven Brault, Mark Leiter Jr., Alec Mills, Sean Newcomb and Alexander Vizcaino.
Vizcaino, who was acquired in the Anthony Rizzo trade, hasn’t pitched all year. Here’s why:
A note on RHP Alexander Vizcaino: He's home in Dominican Republic after being put on restricted list during spring training for failure to report.— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) August 4, 2022
Vizcaino, 25, acquired from NYY as part of Rizzo trade last year. He had 5.27 ERA in 6 games (5 GS) at High-A South Bend last year.
Can’t imagine the Cubs need to retain a pitcher who’ll be 26 in 2023 and who hasn’t pitched above A-ball.
So now we’re down to 39.
It will cost the Cubs about $12 million, but I think it’s time to say goodbye to David Bote. He never developed as a hitter the way many thought he would, and he’ll be 30 next year. There will be cheaper options. Frank Schwindel, too, might have played his last game as a Cub. I think Schwindel should investigate playing in Japan. He might hit for power there and his affable, friendly personality would probably make him a fan favorite.
That leaves 37.
We’ve already been told that Jason Heyward won’t be back in 2023, and I’m pretty sure Rafael Ortega won’t, either.
So if those are all the drops from the 40-man roster, it will stand at 35 entering the free-agent season. There will be some players added for protection from the Rule 5 Draft. Among players who might be considered for addition: Kevin Alcantara, Ben Brown, Brennen Davis, Kohl Franklin, Darius Hill, Ryan Jensen and Yohendrick Penango. A longer list can be found here.
Others who I didn’t list above who might be on the 40-man bubble: Kervin Castro, Narciso Crook, Anderson Espinoza, Michael Rucker and Adrian Sampson.
Those are my 40-man thoughts as of mid-August. What say you?