Where We Stand: Cubs Roster Reset

In Commentary And Analysis, Major League Baseball by Rice Cube32 Comments

As you all saw the other day, the Cubs reportedly agreed to a contract with sort-of-consolation-prize shortshop Dansby Swanson, and now have a few more things they need to do if they want to at least pretend to contend. So let’s see what we’ve got!

The 40-Man Roster

If you look on the official website’s roster page, there are 38 names on the list with two spots open that are theoretically there for Jameson Taillon and Dansby Swanson, plus probably a few extra things they’ll try to do before all is said and done since there are a few fringe guys on there I’d prefer not clutter up the joint. The Cubs have officially announced the deals for Cody Bellinger and Brad Boxberger so that’s why they’re on there now.

Bryan at BN has a cool Excel of the organizational depth chart as well, but I’ll just stick with the 40-man as is until further notice. It’s here if you’re intrigued:

Tentative Roster Construction

I also, like many other denizens of the Cubs blogosphere, rely heavily on Arizona Phil to tell me what’s going on with service time and options and what not, so here’s his breakdown of the roster. The reason I mention this is because the most recent roster rules 1) cap the total number of pitchers on a roster at 13 (14 during roster expansion in September); 2) have a three-batter minimum (or ends the inning, whichever comes first) for each pitcher appearing in the game; and 3) the total number of times an individual player can be optioned to the minors in a given season is capped at five, so the taxi squad isn’t as flexible as it used to be, not to mention the 15 days they have to stay down per option. Note that there is plenty of pitching depth and I’m sure the Cubs will figure out some kind of rotation so their taxi squad guys can accrue frequent flyer miles or Greyhound points, but it does make things a bit trickier than before.

Starting Pitchers

We will start (ha) with the starting rotation, and this bit of news:

Assuming a five-man rotation with the occasional spot start, we can set up this order:

  • #1: Marcus Stroman (who shouldn’t be #1 on a contender, but it is what it is, I like him though)
  • #2: Jameson Taillon
  • #3: Justin Steele
  • #4: Drew Smyly (penciled in)
  • #5: Kyle Hendricks (assuming his shoulder works again)

The #5 spot is probably going to be mostly piggyback and spot starters so let’s take a look at the roster again to see the hierarchy (my opinion only with no actual research but I think it’s about right):

  • Adrian Sampson
  • Hayden Wesneski
  • Keegan Thompson
  • Javier Assad
  • Mark Leiter Jr
  • Adbert Alzolay (I think they probably keep him in the bullpen at this point)
  • Ben Brown
  • Caleb Kilian

By the time they get beyond Assad on the depth chart, either the guys below him have taken a step forward or something disastrous has happened. I looked at the free agent starters chart after Carlos Rodon came off the board and it’s full of guys who are old, suck, are broken, or all of the above, so I am in agreement with AC that the Cubs should probably just save their money.


  • Long relievers – Adbert Alzolay, Keegan Thompson
  • Setup guys – Brad Boxberger, Jeremiah Estrada, Mark Leiter Jr., Michael Rucker, Erich Uelmen, Ethan Roberts (if he’s healthy post rehab), Codi Heuer (ditto)
  • Closer-types – Rowan Wick, Brandon Hughes (doesn’t really give you a whole lot of confidence but they seemed more capable than anecdotes would show, plus if they suck probably just have Boxberger try it)

The 13-pitcher limit means 5 starters and 8 relievers standard, so let’s just go with the five main starters I listed above (pending Kyle Hendricks’ health, with the rest waiting in Iowa to stay stretched out just in case) and I prioritized these eight bullpen arms:

  • Adbert Alzolay
  • Keegan Thompson
  • Adrian Sampson
  • Jeremiah Estrada
  • Michael Rucker
  • Brad Boxberger
  • Brandon Hughes
  • Rowan Wick

In this you have the top three as long relievers and potential spot starters, the middle three setting up with Boxberger ready to close if the Cubs have no other options and Hughes and Wick suck. With the 13 pitchers locked in (theoretically, anyway), that leaves 13 position players to contend with, including some spots I think should be filled by trade or free agency. I’ll try to set up the starting eight as of today pending more transactions, plus a five-man bench.


It’s no secret I don’t think Yan Gomes should be the primary starter, but with Sean Murphy traded to the not-Cubs and Christian Vázquez and Omar Narvaez (and Willson Contreras, sigh) signing with also the not-Cubs, that does not leave many solid bat options. I guess they could sign one of Tucker Barnhart, Curt Casali, or Roberto Perez, but each of them has their own set of concerns although I’m at least certain they’ll hit better than poor Yan.

  • Primary catcher (via trade for one of the Toronto catchers the Blue Jays don’t want, probably Danny Jansen, or free agency)
  • Yan Gomes as the backup

Starting Infield

  • First base – I know the consensus is they’re just going to give this job to Matt Mervis when he launches dozens of baseball into space in Arizona this spring training, but I think this is probably a free agent signing on a pillow contract (see below)
  • Second base – with the big signing we were talking about, Nico Hoerner moves to the other side of the bag
  • Shortstop – Dansby Swanson (my plan D but I guess the Cubs’ plan A all along)
  • Third base – in a tank year, you’d just have Patrick Wisdom over here platooning with Zack McKinstry or that new Miles Mastrobuoni guy, but this is allegedly not a tank year, so let’s say this is also a free agent

For free agent pieces that I might not object to, let’s look at guys who are relatively affordable (what, in this economy?) and/or who want a bounceback contract.

  • Brandon Drury – plays pretty much everywhere you ask him to, has obvious power potential that he’s displayed plenty of in the past when healthy.
  • Justin Turner – a bit older and probably lost a step, but always seemed to hit well regardless so maybe make him play first?
  • Michael Conforto – I feel like the outfield is pretty much taken care of (see below) but a rotation of the guys through those positions plus DH and maybe seeing if Conforto can also play 1B?
  • Trey Mancini – had a crappy time after his trade to Houston, but always seemed like a good guy

Starting Outfield

  • Left field – Gold Glove winner Ian Happ (assuming they do not trade him)
  • Center field – Gold Glove winner Cody Bellinger
  • Right field – Seiya Suzuki

Given those two Gold Glove caliber options and Seiya’s bat, this is as locked in as you can get.


I’m going to move Nick Madrigal (assuming he isn’t traded or left to figure stuff out in Iowa), the Mastrobuoni/McKinstry tandem (ditto re: Iowa), Patrick Wisdom, and Christopher Morel to the bench. They can even sign some bench guy but if nothing else, the Cubs system seems to be full of bench guys, so the free agent dollars should go to actual starters and these guys can just soak up service time.

So you can agree or disagree, I can’t tell you what to do.

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  1. Author
    Rice Cube

    After looking at the catching free agents since Jed and friends screwed the pooch on the good ones, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Cubs should just trade for a catcher

      Quote  Reply


  2. Smokestack Lightning

    fwiw, fg on ds: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/dansby-swanson-heads-to-the-windy-city/

    I think it’s fair to say that Swanson is the fourth-best shortstop out of the top four who were on the market this year. Turner, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts all have meaningfully higher offensive ceilings. But I’ll level with you: the more I looked into Swanson while preparing to write this article, the more I revised my opinion of him higher.

    May all our opinions of Mr. Swanson undergo a similar revision.

      Quote  Reply


  3. Author
    Rice Cube

    I had this all storyboarded out along with Clark the Cub as the Ghost of Baseball Future and them singing “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” at the end but a parody a la “Get some players who can start”…but since the Cubs have slightly unfucked their offseason, I’ll just save this for the future when they piss me off again

      Quote  Reply


  4. BVS

    So 26 on total roster, right? On position side:
    1 @ 2 Gomes
    2. @ 3 Mervis
    3. @ 4 Nico
    4. @ 5 FA
    5. @ 6 Swanson
    6. @ 7 Happ
    7. @ 8 Bellinger
    8. @ 9 Suzuki

    9. Wisdom 5/3
    10. Morell 5/6/4/8
    11. Higgins 2/3/5 or FA
    12. Madrigal 4/dh
    13. FA C/OF

      Quote  Reply


  5. berselius

    Rice Cube,

    It’s too bad that our billion dollar DOE fusion facility finally delivering ignition a decade after we said it would happened too late in the year to compete (dying laughing).

      Quote  Reply


  6. andcounting

    How much should we read into the fact that the Red Sox appear unable to extend 2023 free-agent third baseman Rafael Devers and just signed 2022 free-agent third baseman Justin Turner to a two-year contract?

      Quote  Reply


  7. andcounting

    Rice Cube,

    I would just encourage the Red Sox to look at what the Cubs got back from Contreras and look at what they got back in return for Javy Baez and let them make the call.

      Quote  Reply



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