Looking at the 40 man Roster: Who are the locks? Who gets another chance? Who gets shown the door?

Looking at the 40 man Roster: Who are the locks? Who gets another chance? Who gets shown the door?

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.

Position Players

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.

Position Players

  • 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.

Position Players

  • 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


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  • fb_avatar

    This is partly instinct -- which along with $10 will get you a coffee at Starbucks -- but I'm not sure the new FO is that high on Junior Lake. We're starting to hit the point where you worry about shortstop being blocked, and yet he starts 72 games at shortstop and 29 at third base. That seems more like showcasing him at a better position than developing him for the majors. I don't think there's a chance they just release him, but I can see them packaging him with another player -- Carlos Marmol, perhaps -- for highly regarded non-40 man guys.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I agree he doesn't fit the FO mold (other than having the athleticism they like), though Sveum seems to like him a lot. The vibe I got from the people I've talked to (now that the hype has cooled down), that he has a legit shot at being a useful MLB player, but not a star and probably not even a regular.

    He's not an everyday SS, but I think he'll be the SS at Iowa. I'd also like to see him play 3B and the three OF positions on occasion. Keep his value as high as possible by mostly playing him at SS while grooming him to be a versatile bench player if you keep him. There are worse things to have on your roster than a cost-controlled reserve who can give your SS an occasional break while providing some speed and extra base power off the bench.

    If some other team falls in love with him enough to significantly upgrade an offer, then maybe he gets dealt in a package deal. He is by no means an untouchable prospect, but like you said, they won't give him up either.

  • Walk rate @ 8% and a .341 OBP, can't say I know one way or the other, but he's fairly likeable.

    Definitely a 3B prospect if he stays with the Cubs. If he can up his SLG, he'd be a solid with that arm.

    Fell off a bit in the second half, but 1st half was very good at the plate. I hope to see him do well at Iowa next year.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    He's improved his approach enough to where I think more people are starting to think he has more viability as a hitter than they did last year. The fact that he did it at AA, the biggest jump in the minors, is also encouraging.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Didn't someone say earlier on here Jr. had a cannon for a arm . If he didn't workout they try him as a pitcher?

  • In reply to vinniethefixer:

    Absolute cannon for an arm. There is more value if he can make it as a position player, especially one who can play up the middle. I think making him a pitcher would be a last resort, Think about Lendy Castillo -- he made that transition 2-3 years ago and he's still not there yet.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Don't forget that Junior is still growing into his body. He had a growth spurt earlier this season that may have stressed his back, but once that was healed, AND once he adapted his stance (good coaching and development there), he hit with more power and consistency in the last two months.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Agreed. I think the jury still has to be out for Lake. Passed a big test this season and next year may determine whether he has a chance to start somewhere down the road.

  • fb_avatar

    So the locks, likely's and the 60 day DL people come up to 38. Are all of the 60-day people definitely going to stay, assuming they recover from their injuries? I count 6 starters, which means Berken or Coleman might get a chance? Although I guess all 8 of your depth guys don't need to start the season on the 40.

    I suppose the real question is how many people need to be moved off the 40 to protect the players who are eligible for the Rule 5? Another article, I know, but I'm wondering how space constrained they are.

  • In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    Some of the "likely's" will get bumped if the Cubs have to make room or acquisitions and once they have to activate guys off the 60 day DL. Some likely's, like Camp, can be re-signed later (that is, closer to the spring), so there's really a lot of flexibility there. I wouldn't count it as a firm 38.

    As for the 60 day guys, Parker or Mateo are not locks by any means. The Cubs stashed them for now because they have good arms but they'll have to fight for spots if healthy. And if the Cubs wind up picking up a few arms this offseason, they may end up being the odd men out before they get the chance.

    Always a chance Coleman and/or Berken get a shot too, even if it's just as ST invites, but I think at least one FA addition (and maybe 2 or 3) will address the starting rotation so they could get squeezed out.

    Remember too, that you also will have to add guys like McNutt and Struck. I think the Cubs may be more willing to try someone like Struck as AAA depth at this point rather than Coleman.

  • They will have to draft 2-4 in order to have a chance at a player
    in the Rule V draft.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I certainly don't think the Cubs need concern themselves with draft position on the Rule V. Those guys are not going to be impact players, they're more along the lines of filler.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Unless you strike gold like happened with Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista and Johan Santana!

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Of course! Remember, though, that a lot of the best picks came from a different era when you couldn't protect as many guys --except for maybe Hamilton, not sure on that one. But he was a huge longshot after missing a season and not playing above short season ball, not to mention his history of substance issues.

    Striking gold is still possible, but a lot harder these days -- and you need a little luck.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    You could also trade for #1 picks if you really want somebody. It usually only costs cash.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Cubs got Hamilton in Rule 5 draft...then sold him to the Reds for $50,000.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Any team could have had him $50M and only the Reds did it. That should tell you everything you need to know about what people thought of Josh Hamilton's chances at the time.

  • fb_avatar

    None of those players actually did anything for the team that selected them in the Rule V draft so "striking gold" isn't likely. Bautista was selected by the Orioles in the 2003 rule V draft and passed through the Rays, Royals, Mets & Pirates (second go around) before he went to Jays in a 2008 trade. Sanatana & Hamilton were selected by the Marlins and Cubs respectively before being traded away immediately.

  • In reply to Ken Roucka:

    Nice observation. It shows that even the best Rule 5 picks require a lot of patience, often more than the team that selects them in the first place.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Dan Uggla?......did everyone forget about him?

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    There's been a few guys here and there. Almost all of them were picked before the rules were changed. Much harder to get those kinds of guys nowadays.

  • Not only is Samardzija a lock, but he has the biggest locks on the team. Saves on barber bills.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    That makes their payroll even more efficient! Every little bit counts.

  • Wish the Cubs had traded LaHair in June. 5 years down the road, someone will mention his name around me, I'll be reminded he was an All Star, and we'll have a hearty laugh over it.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    I'm old enough to remember when Steve Swisher made the all-star game in '76. He ended the year with a line of .236/.275/.326 -- that's a .601 OPS.

    Still have a good laugh about that one.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And he never played in the game......the network had the camera on him at the end of the game....both managers used all the players, except Swisher (only Cubs player)........Sparky Anderson thought it was a joke for Swisher to be selected.......Swisher single handed beat the Reds the following week when the Reds were at Wrigley.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    Ha! Swisher's revenge!!

    Thanks for the detail, I didn't remember it quite that clearly!

  • fb_avatar

    Keep in mind as you look at the 40-man, the Cubs have many players eligible for the Rule 5 draft that will need to be added to 40-man in order to be protected. Here are some notable candidates for Rule 5, if we don't add to 40-man:

    Christian Villanueva (probably a lock for a 40-man spot)

    Trey McNutt and Nick Struck (maybe....)

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I think Villanueva is probably a lock based on his talent even though he's just in A ball. McNutt, Struck, and Watkins may not rank as high as prospects but I think it's likely they'll be taken if they're exposed too, so probably need to protect them too.

    Another interesting case is Starlin Peralta. He's way down in low A, but consistently throws 96 as a starter with a developing slider. Not hard to imagine him contributing to someone's bullpen.

    Definitely some interesting decisions to be made.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello: between McNutt and Struck. They are opposites!

    One has great arm, and not so great results (though McNutt did improve in bullpen late in year), and the other one squeezes good results out of a very middling array of pitches.

    Peralta is interesting, sometimes those kind of guys get taken, and stashed at the end of a bullpen

    I also wouldn't discount the Cubs doing exactly that, since we are really hurting for arms, and figure to stink next year.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    The key with Struck is he has average stuff across the board, which gives him a shot. Lack of that one plus-plus out pitch though probably makes him a 5th guy or a reliever. But I do think he can be an MLB pitcher, so the Cubs might as well keep him. It's not like he's going to take away a spot from a potential star. Have a hunch Sveum and Bosio will like him because of the way he attacks the strike zone.

    He's in the fall league so he's definitely someone they are strongly considering keeping. If he gets knocked in front of everyone's scouts around like Hatley did last year, maybe you can sneak him through.

    McNutt was throwing 96 out of the pen and has an occasionally very good slurvy sort of breaking ball. No way you let him go. It'd be great if we can combine the two guys.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Also, forgot about Watkins. They might decide to bump Cardenas in favor of him. Cardenas might clear an outright assignment, not sure what his value is long-term if he can only play one position, and that pretty poorly. That's why the A's cut him.

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Aside from 2B, Cardenas has also played 3B, LF, and RF in the minors for the A's, though he's not going to win any gold gloves at any of them. That versatility, though, gives him a slight edge over LaHair, in my opinion. LaHair is an OF in name only. He catches what he gets to, but his range is slightly better than the Billy William's statue outside the park.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    "his range is slightly better than the Billy William's statue outside the park"...... lmao

  • In reply to Zonk:

    I look to seeing some of the rule 5 eligibles to maybe get bundled for another prospect or 2.

  • fb_avatar

    John, I think your list and the maybe's is pretty good.

    RE: LaHair, I think at this point he is a legit ML player, just not a starter. An AL team should be interested, as a LH bat on bench, or DH, or cheap hope they can catch lightning in a bottle like the Cubs did.

    RE: The bullpen mob.....Socolvich and Berken, etc, we can always outright them, invite to Spring training, and see if they earn a spot. If someone else claims them, no big deal.....they were available in the first place because they are basically fodder. IIRC, they can elect to become FA, but Cubs are a a great place to land a bullpen spot, IMO, for lack of competition. You are right that Bowden seems like the most likely keeper of all the Waiver pickups this year.

    RE: Dolis, I am kind of done with him, but I suppose he has an arm, so we'll keep him around to see if something happens with him....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Thanks. I agree that LaHair needs to be in the AL. They can get his bat in the lineup a bit more. May fit Tampa's budget as a cheap bat with good OBP skills.

    The bullpen guys are interchangeable. If you can't re-sign Socolovich later, there is someone similar to him likely to be available somewhere.

    Dolis has been very disappointing. Wouldn't be surprised to see him start down in AAA again. The offseason and spring are going to be huge for some guys.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    Though his bat tailed off, I was surprised by LaHair's OK defense in RF. I thought he was passable. That likely enhances his trade value to the AL as a DH/1B/RF/LF kind of guy.

  • fb_avatar

    It's not a 40-man decision, but what do we do about 3B next year?

    I don't think we are contending, and with Vitters at AAA and several potential options further down the minors (Villanueva, Baez, Candelario,etc), it doesn't make sense to acquire a long-term solution at 3B. The FA market is really really thin as well. What do we do there?

    I guess sign a marginal vet for awhile....

  • In reply to Zonk:

    Prob sign a vet like Stewart... If he works out, we got trade bait at the deadline when Vitters should be ready. If he doesn't work out, call-up Vitters when he's ready.

  • What happened to Concepcion this year? Did he get hurt? I don't remember hearing anything about him after his first couple starts, which were bad.

  • In reply to Diggs:

    He got mono and was out for most of the season.

  • By mid Nov every team has to turn their list of 40-man players
    protected. So begins the fun (1) which major league players
    to cut and (2) which minor leaguers with potential to protect.
    No an easy job. I still hope we get the 2 or 3 pick to have a
    chance to pick a player from the Rule V draft.

  • John, It's good to see that someone else liked something LaHair did. I believe he's out with the cubs but the in and out of the line-up routine didn't help him there. If he could somehow adjust to LH pitching he'd be great for some club IMO. But there's a big question on whether he can. He needs to get into a routine where he builds up his stregth and conditioning so he has more range, but I'm probably hoping for too much in the way of changes for him.

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