Cubs announce non-roster invites to Major League camp

Dakota Mekkes

Dakota Mekkes

There were no surprise additions or omissions on the list of non-roster players invited big league camp for the Cubs announced today.

nrisThe 40-man roster currently sits at 39, with the deal for reliever Brad Brach still pending, which would bring the roster to capacity. Since the contract agreement was announced approximately two weeks ago, it is possible the required physical was delayed due to the recent weather or perhaps a minor injury by Brach, or the physical took place and an issue was discovered which required the two sides to hold off and re-examine the issue after a certain amount of time, or perhaps re-negotiate or void the previous agreement. As of right now, we simply don't know.

With the rotation in place (Hendricks, Lester, Darvish, Hamels, Quintana), and closer Brandon Morrow projected to miss the opening month of the season, the main battle this spring is definitely for the final 3-4 spots in the bullpen. If they remain healthy, four of the relievers are set for Opening Day: Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, C.J. Edwards, and Mike Montgomery. Assuming the Brad Brach deal is eventually approved he would make five.

That leaves three (or four depending on Brach) open to competition that will come from some combination of Tyler Chatwood, Brandon Kintzler, Brian Duensing (who are all out of Minor League options and possess guaranteed MLB deals), and then additional 40-man roster options Tony Barnette, Dillon Maples, Rowan Wick, Alec Mills, Duane Underwood, James Norwood as well as lefties Randy Rosario and Kyle Ryan. The 14 relievers on the NRI above will also compete. Allen Webster and George Kontos are the mostly likely in my eye to receive consideration.

Dakota Mekkes is the lone prospect receiving an invite that I could see forcing his way into consideration, but I believe he is more likely to be an in-season addition, after the team sorts through the veterans they are bringing in for looks. If he shows improved control this spring he could force the team's hand though.

Three bench spots are projected to be occupied by Daniel Descalso, Victor Caratini and Albert Almora (or Ian Happ depending on who you view as the starter in CF). I do not believe any of the position players receiving non-roster invites have much of a chance to unseat David Bote for the final bench spot. With off days built into the early schedule a true backup SS for Javier Baez is not an important factor and the team could simply choose to get by with Bote and/or some combination of Descalso and Zobrist. Addison Russell, if he remains with the team by the time his suspension ends would eventually displace Bote in May.

Pitchers and catchers report to Mesa next Tuesday.

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  • fb_avatar

    No true backup for Baez concerns me.

  • In reply to Ray:

    He won't really need many, if any, days off until Russell returns. The Cubs have a scheduled day off in each of the first 5 weeks of the season, and there is usually at least one weather cancellation each April as well. If he develops any kind of nagging injury that requires additional rest they can always change their mind and add someone like Adames or Evans. Bote has two more option years.

  • In reply to Ray:

    Still got the most unpopular guy on the roster coming back after his suspension but yeah until then hopefully Javy stays healthy. I feel like the team is basically so reliant on Russell's presence on this roster that they almost can't release him despite the criticisms from fans. I know Russell hasn't been great lately but let's be honest the team is way better with him the season would essentially be over if Javy got injured for 2 months if Russell weren't on the roster.

  • Was Luke Hagerty invited?

    http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/25893836/inside-37-year-old-pitcher-luke-hagerty-improbable-comeback-story

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    Carlos Ramirez looks pretty good from his stats. Too many walks I guess. Ryan Court seems OK. Can he play short(well)?

  • In reply to Jim Pedigo:

    Court is more of a 3b but he can play SS a bit.

    The primary SS at Iowa figures to be Zack Short with Christian Adames and Philip Evans as the primary backups. Court and Giambrone can also play it a little if needed.

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    No Danny Hultzen?

  • In reply to Jim Pedigo:

    No. Given how little he has pitched in recent years I doubt the club views him as someone that could hold up over the course of an entire season. I expect they take their time with him again and let him slowly build up in EXST again before he considering a Minor League assignment for him.

  • Glad to see Mekkes and Robinson in camp.

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    They are the two prospects not on the 40-man most ready for the Majors so they definitely deserve it.

  • Barring trades &/or injuries, I’d be shocked if Chatwood, Duensing & Kintzler are not on the opening day roster. With Brach, pending his physical & if he’s not injured, I believe there’s only one true opening for the pen & that’s only until Morrow returns. I’m really hoping there’s some sort of move brewing in the works.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Those three have to have decent springs. All are capable, and will likely be given benefit of the doubt, but if any of them are still throwing like they did in the 2nd half of last year I don't think the Cubs will gift them roster spots. They have to show improvement.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I hear ya, but I don’t see the Cubs just releasing them. I don’t think Duensing or Kintzler have options & is being paid well. Chatwood is making $12.5 mil this yr & $13 mil next year. That’s a lot of money to eat.

    In a perfect world I would agree. And Edwards is another guy I’m a little bit concerned about. He’d look good for 1 or 2 batters then the wheels would wobble off.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Kintzler probably most assured of roster spot given need and salary.

    Chatwood might be convinced to go down to Minors to stay stretched out and/or work on control if problems from last year return.

    Duensing's salary is not prohibitive enough where they wouldn't just release him if he pitches poorly in spring.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I don't see Chatwood going to the minors. I think he will veto that option as stay with the major league club.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    If he is still walking guys at the same rate as last year he isn't going to fix himself by pitching once a week in the Majors. It would benefit not just the team, but him, to go down and actually get to pitch in order to right himself.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I would hope that Chatwood has been working on his issues over the offseason and will become at least a decent reliever in 2019. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Cubs include him in a minor deal and pay most of his salary just to move him off the roster.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    I'm sure he has been working on it. But he still needs to prove it in games.

  • I wonder how many of the non-roster players are going
    to make the AAA and AA rosters

  • All of the IFs will.
    A few of the OFs will fill out Iowa roster.
    Mekkes, Robinson and Brooks among the relievers.

    As for the veteran pitchers they will likely be fighting for 1-2 roster spots in Iowa, unless injury opens up more. The Iowa pitching staff is already mostly filled out by 40-man guys. A couple could be convinced to stay back in EXST and wait for an opening. Kyle Ryan did that last year and eventually joined Iowa, then pitched well enough to earn 40-man spot.

  • Which player are FA's after this year'
    Which AAA pitchers should make the team
    as starters or RP next year

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Zobrist, Hamels, Cishek, Strop, Kintzler, Duensing are all in final year of their deals.

    Rizzo, Quintana and Morrow have team options.

    The three prospects that I believe will have the most impact down the stretch for the Cubs are Mekkes, Alzolay and Steele. I could see all three in the bullpen come September. And then Alzolay and Steele could compete to replace Hamels in rotation next year.

    Mills, Ryan, Wick and Rosario all have MLB experience and should be able to help if needed. Who knows what we get out of Maples. Norwood and Underwood have MLB caliber arms if they can harness enough consistency.

    As for position players, Zack Short might be ready in the 2nd half to provide some SS depth in the event of injury or something happens with Russell. Giambrone might be MLB ready sooner, but he is more like Bote in that he is stretched at SS. Evans and Adames have plenty of SS experience and Adames has plenty of MLB experience in the meantime if something happens. Zagunis could obviously help out a bit if OF injuries occur. Taylor Davis is the 3rd catcher for now.

  • Jt realmuto to the phillies

  • In reply to bolla:

    Helps their bryce harper pursuit unfortunately. I honestly think they're a main threat I don't buy Bryce signing with SD or the white sox

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Me neither but several reporters are adamant harper doesn't want to play in philadelphia.I think frisco may be a legit option for harper, he wants the biggest aav/contract

  • In reply to bolla:

    Harper and Boras want everything. The want the biggest AAV/contract and they want to play for a top contending team. But the top teams already have spent their budgeted salary money and the teams with money under the cap are the white sox, padres and phillies who are not top teams right now. Should be interesting where Harper and Machado end up. They have to make a decision between good postseason chance and most money. Boras IMO will choose money. I am not sure what Harper will pick.

  • In reply to bolla:

    That's good news at least I still am calling a mystery team signs Harper. I think teams are just laying low for whatever reason

  • In reply to bolla:

    Harper will go where he gets the best deal.

  • In reply to bolla:

    At least they had to give up sanchez who is easily their best prospect and a borderline top 25 guy. The cardinals trade for Goldschmidt makes me sick give up a loser like Luke Weaver who is a BOR guy and no top prospects really. Dbacks got hosed as they always seem to in trades. I still can't believe that Shelby Miller trade even in the moment it was made.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Totally agree the Diamondbacks got their clocks cleaned on the Goldie trade. They jumped too soon. Would've gotten a much better package if they waited.

  • In reply to AJinLA:

    Exactly if I was another teams GM that had some need for a 1B I would've beat that offer immediately if that's all it takes to get a hall of fame caliber talent. Not only did the dbacks essentially get none of the cards valued young talent but they've basically ruined the balance of power in the NL central in the process. I honestly think Goldschmidt is the best move any team has made this offseason that's a huge pickup all for essentially spare parts.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    I'm sure he was shopped around and this was his best offer.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    LOL

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Well then Dbacks management isn't doing a very good job because they got a guy coming off a 5 ERA season and a catching prospect that is a career .154 hitter. Many analysts also criticized the dbacks for making the trade so quickly at the beginning of the offseason instead of waiting out a better offer. They literally got spare parts that trade was criticized almost as much as the disastrous Shelby Miller trade that everyone also agreed was a fleecing.

  • Frank Robinson passed away =(

  • OT, but anyone see that PECOTA projects Cubs to finish in 3rd place at 82-80 in 2019? Ouch. Where's the love?

  • In reply to Denizen Kane:

    Saw it. They rate the Cubs as an overall bad defensive team (Contreras especially, but also Javy for some reason) and their projections are not kind to older pitchers (and the Cubs staff is the oldest in the league). So those two things drag overall record down.

  • In reply to Denizen Kane:

    For me at least my reasons for optimism is I disagree with their assessments that we have the worst pitching staff and best offense within the division. RIght there that basically contradicts my opinion that this is the best starting rotation in the division. I personally don't care that they expect Lester to mightily regress that guy always pitches his peripherals as does Kyle Hendricks so it's what I've come to expect from both. In division how in the heck are Javy Baez and Albert Almora rated as negative defenders. That shows me major flaws in their system and to me it's why John said Pecota is his least favorite projection system.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    To both of your points, and contrasting PECOTA, Fangraphs Team WAR Projections have Cubs at 44.5 WAR, best in the division and fifth best in baseball.

  • In reply to Denizen Kane:

    Thanks for the info Denizen good to know. For me I wouldn't even be surprised if the brewers and cards are loaded this year. For me the reason I was skeptical at Pecota's projections were the overall low projections for a lot of successful pitchers like Lester and Hamels. And if Baez is a bad defensive player and the cubs are as bad as their defensive projections indicate then they're watching a different team then I am. The funny thing is with all the concern about the offense they project the cubs to score the most runs and they expect them to be the worst of the 3 in terms of run prevention.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    *Outpitches his peripherals

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    What does "Outpitches his peripherals" mean? I do not understand what that means. Thanks.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Stats like BB% and K%, among other stats, are usually good predictors of a pitcher's actual success (and their ERA). The group of stats that are used to build things FIP and xFIP which try to assess the pitcher's actual contribution and eliminate the play of his defense and randomness from fluke events are generally referred to as peripherals.

    So the term outpitch his peripherals means that a pitcher's actual performance in terms of runs and ERA is better than what is expected.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Keep this in mind though with Lester (and why PECOTA's low projection for him may end up accurate).

    Since 2014:
    Lester's fWAR has declined steadily, from 5.6 to 5.0 to 4.3 to. 2.7 to 1.7 last year.
    Lester's xFIP has in turn increased from 3.10 to 3.06 to 3.47 to 3.85 to 4.43 last year.
    But his ERA has not been steady at all: 2.46 to 3.34 to 2.44 to 4.33 to 3.32 last year.

    So it is not actually accurate to say Lester always outpitches his peripherals. In his 4 years with the Cubs he has only done so twice, while providing less value in each successive season. His K rate has dropped every season and his walk rate has increased every season with the Cubs. His first year with the team his K/BB ratio was 4.40, last year it was 2.33. Lester also stopped generating ground balls last year.

    Eventually that is going to haunt him, maybe as soon as this year, especially if the Cubs defense regresses around him.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    What Lester has done is make 32 starts in every single one of those past 5 seasons. His innings pitched has steadily declined though. He used to go 200-220. The past two years he has been just over 180. That is why he is less valuable (and his fWAR drops). He still reliable enough to take his turn in rotation every five days, but he is more often just getting by, and is no longer able to sustain his performance beyond the 6th inning.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Michael touched on the subject well but for example Lester had a 4.43 xFIP last year yet only a 3.32 ERA. Pecota doesn't care that this is Jon Lester we're talking about they think he's going to have a sub 4.50 ERA based off last years peripherals. To me at least some pitchers just know how to outpitch their peripherals I don't know if it's an intelligence thing or not but Kyle Hendricks for example has outpitched his peripheral numbers 3 years in a row so the point is some guys are anomalies to the general rule that FIP is the best predictor of future results for pitchers.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Michael and kkhiavi, thanks for the explanation.

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    Could Eric Leal make the club? He pitched well last year.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    He did pitch well last year at the A+ level. I would guess they wouldn't use a pitcher from down there since they are overloaded with pitching at the AA and AAA levels. But you never know.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    I wouldn't completely rule out a September call up but he is likely ticketed to spend most of the season in AA. THere are just so many guys ahead of him with more upside. He will be a Minor League Free Agent at the end of the year.

  • I note there is no mention of Luke Hagerty in this column. Is that because no one gives him a chance of making a comeback? You would think a left-handed RP who throws 99 mph would be a good thing to have. ESPN had an excellent article about how the Cubs edged-out the Brewers to sign him last month.

  • In reply to HoosierCub76:

    I think they want him to go to the minors 1st. He can still appear in games in ST while in the minor league camp. Things could change if he’s dominating.

  • In reply to HoosierCub76:

    Hagerty has not pitched in a competitive game in over a decade. He will be in spring training, but not big league camp. He will likely not even get assigned to Minor League team for some time. He is most likely to be treated like a pitcher rehabbing from injury and will stay back in EXST once the season starts as they get him used to working against live hitters and build up his stamina. If he is able to maintain the stuff he showed in his workout and is able to throw strikes with it (remember his career was ended by the yips) he could get assigned to a Minor League team in the second half, and then from there, who knows.

  • In reply to HoosierCub76:

    I have to believe that if he demonstrates he can control his upper 90's fastball and has command of at least one secondary pitch, he'll find his way to the MLB bullpen quickly. It's a great story and will make a great movie if he pulls it off, but he's gotta earn it.

  • Will hayward be traded? to free up money

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I do not see that happening. It's possible, but Cubs would have to take a lot of money back, and a lot of the "bad contracts" they would be expected to take back from around baseball are guys whose performance has declined worse than Heyward or come with significant injury risks.

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