The Cubs have completed the official Cactus League slate, with two more random exhibitions against the White Sox (allegedly still at Sloan Park per the ticket buying thingy on the Cubs dot com website) as the final tuneup before Opening Day on Thursday. I think most of the decisions have been made by now, and while rosters aren’t due in until Thursday morning, I feel like we will know who’s going to Chicago. Consider this the last attempt to nail the 26-man roster (minus Seiya Suzuki, who will start the season on the backdated injured list) before we get more clarification or an official announcement sometime Monday or Tuesday, most likely.
Now that it is officially official, we can nail down the starting rotation:
- Marcus Stroman
- Jameson Taillon
- Justin Steele
- Drew Smyly
- Hayden Wesneski
I wouldn’t say any of them was a true “ace,” but they all seem to have their share of deception, generating tons of ground balls, and mostly appearing competent, which with the defense can go a long way, so I’m probably happiest with this part of the team.
Here’s the bullpen situations, with my notes:
- Adbert Alzolay – no options remaining (all contractual quirks courtesy of Arizona Phil), but he’s been solid all spring, so this seems a no-brainer for the multi-inning guy
- Javier Assad – had an excellent spring and WBC, also likely a multi-inning guy UPDATE: he’s in!
- Brad Boxberger – they gave him actual multimillions (like, two million and change, but still), so here’s your setup guy and backup closer to start the season
- Michael Fulmer – another guy who got not-smallish money, and the de facto closer for now
- Julian Merryweather – no options remaining but has been solid in spring as well so they’ll probably let him go a bit to justify the claim
- Token lefty – if Brandon Hughes is healthy, I think he gets this spot, otherwise they’re probably going to carry Anthony Kay (who would need a roster spot, see below), because even if some of these guys are split-neutral, having no lefties in the bullpen seems kind of weird
- Keegan Thompson – he had been experiencing a drop in velocity but recently jumped a couple mph and also did a multi-inning stint after mostly single inning appearances, so this seems a good bet
- One more guy – now that Adrian Sampson has been optioned, this spot falls to Michael Rucker (UPDATE: yup) or Rowan Wick, probably Wick for the fact that he holds the higher salary unless they just elect to cut him and eat the money (or only a portion of it per the non-guaranteed contract rules for arbitration guys); the other one is Mark Leiter Jr., but he would need someone else to get bumped from the 40-man roster first, and there’s a non-zero chance that is Wick…and if they also carry Kay, then they’d need two spots and at that point I’m not sure who they DFA, but I have some ideas (see below).
The catchers are pretty simple:
- Tucker Barnhart
- Yan Gomes
I’m leaning towards this now for the remaining non-catcher guys, especially to appease BVS who has a vendetta against a guy…
- Nico Hoerner (2B, SS)
- Dansby Swanson (SS)
- Trey Mancini (1B, RF, DH)
- Cody Bellinger (CF)
- Ian Happ (LF)
- Eric Hosmer (1B) – at least until they feel they have to get rid of him
- Patrick Wisdom (3B, 1B, LF, RF, maybe CF in an emergency, DH of course) – especially because he’s hit the snot out of the ball despite the swing-and-miss, and he plays decent defense
- Edwin Rios (3B, 1B, DH) – also hits the snot out of the ball despite swing-and-miss, happens to be left-handed
- Nick Madrigal (3B, 2B, DH) – has appeared competent at 3B, should probably hit better to justify this spot but a contact bat can play if he stops hitting it right at people
- Christopher Morel (2B, SS, OF, basically wherever David Ross tells him to stand) – he has swing and miss in his game too, but he’s so versatile that he seems like the ideal utility guy, and he would be the easiest one to ship to Iowa for consistent playing time when Seiya Suzuki returns after his rehab assignment or whatever in Arizona or elsewhere (UPDATE: replace with Luis Torrens – see comment below for official announcement – and we’ll sort out the other 40-man moves later when we know)
- Miles Mastrobuoni (basically a utility guy) – he’s done everything he can to be noticed and also be markedly better in the opportunities he’s had than Zach McKinstry, who at this point seems like a good bet to be outrighted or DFA to make room for another reliever as stated above (UPDATE: or traded, see comments later)
The rapid recovery time by Seiya makes it less likely for nonroster guys like Mike Tauchman to eat up a roster spot for a short period of time, especially if that roster spot is probably going to be prioritized for a reliever (UPDATE: he’s out). And if anyone of the position player group is getting bounced, it’s probably McKinstry because he has no options remaining and he unfortunately has stunk up the joint all spring, so let’s see if they attempt to outright him (I didn’t see him in the notes on AZ Phil’s page, so I don’t think he can refuse an outright, and I also doubt anyone claims him off waivers at this point).
Again, this will likely be finalized by the time the jabronis record the next Dreamcast, barring any technical difficulties or wrath of God, but whenever that information is known, I’ll post in the comments and update this main post whenever I have time.