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A way-too-early look at the Cubs’ Opening Day 26-man roster

It might be January. But that doesn’t mean we can’t speculate.

Photo by Matt Dirksen/Getty Images

Opening Day 2023 is still 80 days away, Thursday, March 30 when the Cubs will take on the Brewers at Wrigley Field. We’ve still got Spring Training ahead and Jed Hoyer has said he’s not done putting together this year’s roster — hopefully relief help and maybe another hitter.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t begin to speculate about which 26 men will line up along the third-base line at Wrigley just before that game against Milwaukee.

This is guesswork, to be sure, and yes, the Cubs are probably going to add players between now and Spring Training who will come north with the team for the 2023 season. Remember that new MLB rules require no more than 13 pitchers, so I’m going to split this with 13 position players and 13 pitchers.

Based on who’s on the 40-man roster as of today — and in the organization but not on the 40-man — here’s who I would put on the Opening Day roster:

Catchers (2)

Tucker Barnhart, Yan Gomes

COMMENT: Pretty obvious, these two plus Miguel Amaya are the only catchers on the 40-man, and Amaya is definitely ticketed for Iowa.

Infielders (6)

Matt Mervis, Nico Hoerner, Dansby Swanson, Patrick Wisdom, Miles Mastrobuoni, Eric Hosmer

COMMENT: I’m going to say Mervis makes the team and starts at first base, with Hosmer as DH, and Mastrobuoni makes the team ahead of Zach McKinstry as the utility infielder. Nick Madrigal, who has options, heads to Iowa.

Outfielders (5)

Ian Happ, Cody Bellinger, Seiya Suzuki, Christopher Morel, Nelson Velázquez

COMMENT: Morel, of course, can also play second base and third base, I’m listing him here simply for convenience. Velázquez becomes the backup at all three outfield positions, though Morel can do the same (except, most likely, for right field — Morel didn’t play there at all in 2022).

Starting pitchers (5)

Drew Smyly, Justin Steele, Marcus Stroman, Jameson Taillon, Hayden Wesneski

COMMENT: I am operating here under the assumption that Kyle Hendricks will not be available Opening Day. If he is, Wesneski starts at Iowa. Or, it’s possible Adrian Sampson gets the fifth rotation spot in that case.

I listed the pitchers above in alphabetical order, because if it’s those five I honestly do not know what order they’ll be placed in — nor does that make a huge difference, in my opinion.

Relief pitchers (8)

Adbert Alzolay, Brad Boxberger, Brandon Hughes, Mark Leiter Jr., Michael Rucker, Adrian Sampson, Keegan Thompson, Rowan Wick

COMMENT: Here’s where the biggest changes could be. As noted above, Sampson could find himself in the Opening Day rotation and in that case, someone else (Manuel Rodriguez, perhaps?) is in the pen for the opener. Or, Hoyer could sign someone who isn’t currently in the organization and in that case, Rucker is probably odd-man-out. Rucker, in fact, could wind up being DFA when the Hosmer signing is officially announced.

That’s how I see it as of now. As always, we await developments.