Shortly before yesterday’s game against the Giants, the Cubs waived Ã¼ber prospects Kris Bryant and Addison Russell to Triple A Iowa, and optioned Javier Baez to Iowa along with them. Following the game, the Cubs added left handed relief pitcher Phil Coke, who they signed to a minor league free agent contract early this spring training, to the 40 man roster. With these moves, the Cubs’ Opening Day roster has really come into focus.
Guaranteed on Opening Day Roster:
There isn’t much to say about this bunch, although there are questions about who will play at second base and third base among Alcantara, Olt, and La Stella. My bet is that the Cubs will prioritize playing Alcantara, who has the highest ceiling of the bunch, with Olt and La Stella splitting time at the hot corner for a couple of weeks until Bryant is called up.
Guaranteed on Opening Day Roster if not Traded:
Catcher: Welington Castillo
I should initially note that I don’t think any of these three will be traded before Sunday. I debated whether to put Travis Wood in the first category following the injuries to Tsuyoshi Wada and Jacob Turner, but I think the Cubs would still trade Wood if they were absolutely blown away by an offer. That is unlikely to happen. As far as Jackson is concerned, excluding the day he couldn’t find Ho Ho Kam he has been competent enough and continues to be expensive enough to likely get a spot as a long man in the bullpen.
The Cubs reportedly turned down a trade with Orioles to swap Castillo with relief pitcher and former top prospect Brian Matusz, and the Red Sox filled their catching hole resulting from Christian Vasquez‘s injury in a trade with the Nationals. It’s always possible the Cubs and Orioles put together a trade for pieces the Cubs want more, but I find it unlikely that move will happen before Sunday. As such, the Cubs will likely start the season with three catchers on the active roster.
Almost Guaranteed on Opening Day Roster:
Pitcher: Phil Coke
Coke has been excellent this spring, and I doubt the Cubs would have added him to the 40 man roster this late in the spring if they didn’t intend on him starting the season on the north side.
The Question Marks:
Infield: Jonathan Herrera
Only two of these four can make the active roster. One of Szczur or Lake are guaranteed to make it as the right handed caddy to Chris Coghlan in left field until Chris Denorfia returns from injury. I’d give the inside track to Szczur, who has shown more pop this spring than in prior seasons and can handle all three outfield positions defensively. Also, Lake has shown enough improvements in terms of plate discipline over the course of winter ball and spring training that the Cubs may want to prioritize him playing every day, considering Junior’s still considerable ceiling.
Sweeney and Herrera will come down to whether the Cubs would prefer using Alcantara as an emergency fifth outfielder, presuming he’s playing most games at second base to start the season, or an emergency shortstop. If the prior, Herrera will get the roster spot, and if the latter it will be Sweeney. Both primarily provide defensive value, and would be rightly viewed as the 25th man on the roster. I’d lean towards Sweeney since heÂ has at least shown on base skills in spurts in the past, whereas Herrera is an outright offensive negative.