We are just three weeks away from September 1st, the day Major League teams are eligible to expand their active roster beyond 25 players. With that in mind, lets take a look ahead at how the Cubs roster figures to take shape down the stretch.
One interesting element to the roster decisions this season is the majority of the players that figure into the plans will be those returning from injury rather than young players being summoned from the Minors. The Cubs currently have an ace, a closer and an MVP sitting on the disabled list. There are no guarantees when it comes to injuries, but according to reports, all three are targeting returns before season end. The team has three additional veteran bullpen arms, two of them left-handed, that could be reinstated from the disabled list as well.
Rotation: Lester, Hendricks, Quintana, Hamels, Montgomery
Injury additions: Darvish (60-DL)
Yu Darvish is on track to return later this month or early September. The team may choose to wait until after September 1st but I think if Darvish is ready before then they will get him back on the mound as it will give him additional time to round into form before the playoffs role around.
Right-handed bullpen: Strop, Edwards, Cishek, Kintzler, Chavez, Chatwood
Inj. adds: Morrow (10-DL), Bass (10-DL),
Sept adds: Maples, potentially Norwood, Underwood, Farrell, Mills
Left-handed bullpen: Wilson, De La Rosa
Inj. adds: Duensing (10-DL), Smyly (60-DL)
Sept adds: Rosario
The acquisition of Jorge De La Rosa gives the team another veteran option from the left side as they try to supplement the stable of right-handed arms they have collected, which will only get deeper once Brandon Morrow and Anthony Bass return from the disabled list. De La Rosa cannot be considered a sure thing, Brian Duensing has struggled for months, and Randy Rosario been vulnerable in recent outings, so the club will undoubtedly continue to scour the trade market. They do have two additional internal options available, but both rely on a player returning from a long-term injury in order to play out.
The most likely reinforcement comes from Mike Montgomery. He has been a savior in the rotation this season, but assuming Darvish recovers, Montgomery will get pushed back to the pen. Even if Darvish doesn't make it back, Monty figures to be the second lefty out of the pen come playoff time as the team will only require four starters. The second scenario involves Drew Smyly returning to the mound once his rehab from TJS concludes. The Cubs had targeted late August or early September during spring training and Smyly threw a simulated game earlier this week.
Potential 40-Man Roster Victims: Farrell, Mills, Tseng, Zastryzny, Mazzoni
Reinstating both Darvish and Smyly from the 60-day disabled list will require making room on the 40-man roster which puts the players on the fringes in jeopardy of being placed on waivers. In my opinion, Cory Mazzoni is the most vulnerable given the Cubs right-handed relief depth. It is difficult to see how Rob Zastryzny fits into the picture once Smyly makes it back because it would give the Cubs six options for left handed relievers (including Montgomery, Duensing and Rosario) ahead of him. If Smyly is unable to return in 2018 then Zastryzny could survive the cut.
It is a virtual lock that the Cubs will add a third catcher to the roster. Both Joe Maddon and the front office have also preferred to carry a pinch runner capable of being a defensive replacement as well. Such a player has little value on a 25-man roster, but with expanded benches in September those abilities can potentially win important games down the stretch which could impact home field advantage, or perhaps even make the difference between winning the division or dropping into the wild card round.
Catchers: Contreras, Caratini
Sept. adds: +Gimenez/Davis/Outside Addition
Those moves will require opening up one to two additional 40-man spots, which likely comes at the expense of the Alec Mills, Luke Farrell, Jen-Ho Tseng trio. Those three represent the core of the Iowa starting staff this season, but with Adbert Alzolay set to return in 2019, and a strong group ready to graduate from Tennessee, it is difficult to project any of them to be a regular member of the Iowa rotation next season.
Infield: Rizzo, Baez, Russell, Zobrist, Happ, La Stella, Bote
Inj. adds: Bryant (10-DL)
Outfield: Schwarber, Almora, Heyward
Sept. adds: Zagunis, +Hannemann/Outside Addition
If Kris Bryant fails to make it back or an additional injury crops up, the Cubs would have the option to add an additional position player, which would potentially come at the expense of the pinch runner luxury, or it could be in addition to it. Internal options for such an opening would include Chris Coghlan, Jason Vosler or Ryan Court.
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