It's at the end of the season and you can bet the front office is already busy evaluating the 40 man roster and deciding who (barring trade) is going to be a part of 2013 and beyond, who they'll consider giving another shot, and who is likely on his way out. The Cubs will need to make some room for acquisitions as well as prospects who are due to be added to the 40 man roster this season, players such as Trey McNutt, Logan Watkins, and Nick Struck. There are a few others who will get consideration to get added to the 40 man roster, but that's for a future article.
I'm sure there will be some disagreement and debate on a few of the guys, but that's what this stuff is for...right? I'm sure there will even be debate internally within the Cubs.
First of all, there are a few pitchers who are on the 60 day DL including staff ace Matt Garza. They will not take up a 40 man roster spot until they are activated, so the Cubs don't need to make that decision right away. Others include Arodys Vizcaino, Marcus Mateo, and Blake Parker.
- Jeff Samardzija: His age, contract status, production, and potential make him the biggest lock in this group.
- Travis Wood: He's been up and down but he's shown enough to stick. Long term he's probably a bottom of the rotation guy and possibly a reliever if the Cubs upgrade the rotation significantly in the next couple of years.
- Brooks Raley: He showed flashes and the Cubs thought enough of him to shut him down early to save him for next season. He's young, he's lefty, he has a starter's repertoire.
- Chris Rusin: Another up and down guy. Such is life for young, finesse pitchers. He'll at least be kept for depth purposes with a shot at cracking the staff as either a starter or reliever.
- Carlos Marmol: If he's not traded, he'll be back for opening day.
- James Russell: He's been the most productive of the bullpen pitchers who figure long term.
- Alberto Cabrera: Though he hasn't shown it in his audition this year, he may have the best combination of stuff and command of all the Cubs relievers.
- Rafael Dolis: A power arm who is more of a groundball pitcher than a swing and miss guy. Needs better command.
- Lendy Castillo: He'll be back, but it will probably be in AA. Was hitting 96 in his last outing. They may even try him as a starter in the minors.
- Jeff Beliveau: The last of the Cubs 3 young LH relievers, he has options and potential to be a solid reliever, but probably not a closer or set-up man.
- Gerardo Concepcion: The Cubs made too large an investment to give up after one year. He gets a mulligan, maybe two.
- Jacob Brigham: A live arm whom the Cubs acquired for Geovany Soto. He'll start in either AA or AAA.
Ian Stewart is on the 60 day DL.
- Welington Castillo: He's the best catcher the Cubs have and he's young, inexpensive, and cost-controlled.
- Steve Clevenger: Has disappointed in the 2nd half but he's a lefty hitter with solid defensive skills. No reason to dump him right now.
- Anthony Rizzo: Do I need to say why?
- Darwin Barney: Still inexpensive (not arb eligible until 2014) and entering his peak years. Top-notch defender.
- Starlin Castro: Just signed extension buying him out of 2 free agent years. Get used to him media, he'll be here for a while.
- Josh Vitters: Struggled mightily...but he's just 23. Probably goes back to AAA.
- Junior Lake: Toolsy, but raw. He'll probably go to AAA as well and I'd like to see him move around defensively.
- Luis Valbuena He's lefty with a solid approach, plays solid D, and can move around the IF if necessary. Solid utility type who is starting out of necessity.
- David DeJesus: The most steady, consistent players the Cubs have had all season. Not a star, but a valuable guy to have on a growing team.
- Alfonso Soriano: If they get value in a trade, he's gone, but he's the Cubs only RH power threat right now and he's developed into a veteran leader.
- Brett Jackson: He's going to start in CF whether it's for the Cubs or Iowa.
- Jorge Soler: A $30M investment and one of the Cubs top 3 prospects. Yeah, I'd say he's safe.
- Matt Szczur: Szczur scuffled in AA but is still one of the Cubs top 10 prospects. He's the internal backup CF plan for Jackson until Albert Almora is ready and has enough tools (speed, defense, OBP) to eventually find a bench role if he can't be a starter.
Not 100% locks, but these guys are likely to get another chance...
- Chris Volstad. Yes, he was awful. But he's 25 and throws a 93-94 mph two seamer. The Cubs don't have anyone in AAA who can claim that. It's a great place to start, but Volstad needs to build on that.At worst he'll provide depth. The only reason he isn't a lock is because he's arb eligible. The only way he's gone is if he prices himself beyond the point where he offers any kind of value.
- Michael Bowden: He showed some improvement down in Iowa and has been better since his recall (1.98 ERA in last 10 appearances). But he looks like a middle relief guy and those guys are rarely locks on a rebuilding team.
- Shawn Camp: He was arguably the Cubs most reliable reliever but he is not a long term guy. Sveum will want him back and the Cubs front office may relent if he comes back on a friendly deal.
- Jaye Chapman: There's nothing that stands out about Chapman, but he has out-pitched the other borderline guys in his brief audition.
- Anthony Recker. You need 3 catchers on your 40 man roster and there is nobody in AA or AAA to seriously challenge Recker for that spot. But I really have a hard time putting down a 3rd string catcher as a "lock". That said, he is not only likely to be here, but he also has a shot to overtake Clevenger for the 2nd spot if he shows he can play well defensively, but the likelihood is that he provides depth at AAA.
- Adrian Cardenas: Cardenas can hit but can't play well enough defensively to get consistent ABs. He's an inexpensive lefty bat off the bench, so he'll get a good chance to make the team. I think the Cubs should give him some reps in the OF to give him some versatility and let him compete with Sappelt, Campana, and Mather for an extra OF spot. He may offer a better option than Bryan LaHair as a LH pinch-hitter because of his ability to play more positions.
- Dave Sappelt: Another near lock and the only reason he isn't is because Sveum seems to heart Joe Mather -- and Sappelt's gaffe on the bases stuck on Sveum mind for 2 days. But realistically, the Cubs have parted ways with Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson and lack RH bats off the bench. Sappelt had a mediocre year at AAA, but hit well the previous two years in the tougher IL, rebounded in the 2nd half in the PCL this year, and then has hit well in his audition. It's likely that the first half this season is the outlier in all of this. There may be some debate on this one but I think the FO not only keeps him, but an extra OF spot is his to lose this spring.
- Tony Campana: His speed can be a game changer on the bases. He doesn't get on base enough, so it's something he'll continue to work on this offseason. He can carve out a niche as 5th outfielder/late inning player if he learns to utilize his strengths better.
I think these players are likely on the way out...
A few of these guys may stick initially but as Cubs bring in new players, they'll be the first on the bubble..
- Miguel Socolovich: He's a victim of the "last in, first out" rule of thumb when it comes to rosters. When you are one of those last guys in, you really have to stand out. Socolovich hasn't. The Cubs picked him up when they needed arms, but he's not worth keeping when the Cubs need to protect guys like McNutt. Socolovich is replaceable and it's likely the Cubs can find someone equal or better this offseason if they choose to go that route.
- Jason Berken: See above. Berken has the advantage in that he can also start, but he'll have to show something to stick on the 40 man roster.
- Casey Coleman: The Cubs have given him numerous chances in various roles. The Cubs may give his Iowa-Cubs shuttle role to someone like Chapman next year.
- Manny Corpas: A nice story but he has really faded down the stretch and his stuff is a shadow of what it once was. Throws some strikes and may stick around if Cubs part ways with Camp, but I don't see the Cubs keeping both for 2013.
- Justin Germano: Germano is 30 and though this was his first real shot, he's not a guy with upside. You can pick up a Justin Germano type as you need them, much as the Cubs did last year.
- Bryan LaHair: I really like LaHair and I don't like putting him in this category but realistically, he's a LH bat off the bench who plays the same position as one of your top young hitters -- who is also lefty. If he were in the AL, he'd have a better shot but NL rosters need their players to be a bit more versatile. I really hope LaHair gets a shot somewhere next season. I just don't think it will be here.
- Joe Mather: Another nice story this spring, Mather has been below replacement level and while his versatility has some value, it probably isn't enough to save his job. Sveum won the battle to put him on the 25 man roster last spring, but I think he'll lose this one to keep him on the 40 man roster. If internal candidates like Sappelt falter, you can always find another Joe Mather in the bargain bin.
This is an early look, of course, and things can certainly change -- not just in September, but performances in the fall and winter leagues may alter some plans.
What about your opinion? How would you rearrange this list?
Filed under: Roster decisions