We know that the Cubs set their reserve lists yesterday and protected Dallas Beeler and Arismendy Alcantara. We were waffling a bit on Beeler, but Alcantara was, as they say, a no-brainer. Someone was gonna take him if the Cubs didn’t 40-man him up. Presently, Chicago-North is at 39 filled on the 40-man roster, so barring any signings, designations for assignment, etc., that’s only one player they can try to stash at the MLB level for the 2014 season a la Lendy Castillo or Hector Rondon.
Baseball America published a list of very interesting names that were left unprotected in advance of the Rule 5 Draft. Based on what we’ve been wrestling with over the past couple days, it is not surprising that several of the names are of Cubs players. While some of them may not end up sticking on MLB rosters the entire season, a few of them could potentially be taken in the minor league portion of the Rule 5, like what happened with Matt Cerda last year. The names of note are:
Jae-Hoon Ha, OF: The sentiment is that if someone really wanted to, they could just have Ha on the roster as a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Marco Hernandez, SS: Hernandez isn’t exactly major-league ready, and like Baseball America I’m not sure teams will just have him stashed on the bench wasting a roster spot. But the minor league phase looms, since he’s only at Single-A right now.
Matt Loosen, RHP: To me, this one is probably going to hurt the most because Loosen, like Hatley, has decent stuff and held his own at Double-A and the Arizona Fall League. Just like Hatley, I’d be surprised if a team didn’t snatch him up. He DID throw a no-hitter, and almost got another one later on this past season. He’s got enough potential that some team is going to bite.
The fact that there are four guys worthy of Baseball America’s attention (and our own over here at WSD) is not terrible news. It means that the Cubs have decent prospect depth now that is forcing their hand as to whom to keep. There are pitchers currently on the 40-man that are simply better or currently have more utility than the guys who were left unprotected. And in the minors, there is a ton of position player depth as well. Some of the 40-man spots can’t be easily dealt with, as Matt Szczur and Jorge Soler had weird split contracts when they signed that I don’t even understand, so they cannot be removed from the roster.
So what will the Cubs do with their one open spot? Or will there be more when they decide to DFA a few guys? There are quite a few pitchers on the list, and the past two offseasons have seen the Cubs pick two pitchers that they apparently liked enough to stash. So my guess is that they again go with a pitcher that they can plug into the MLB Cubs’ bullpen. The days leading up to the non-tender deadline and the Rule 5 draft will be very telling. Given that the Cubs still need to find a backup catcher and maybe a couple random pitchers, I would expect a bit of movement before December’s winter meetings.