Tomorrow night, the Chicago Cubs begin the “second half” of the season with a somewhat in complete roster. While the Major League roster currently sits at 25, there are only three starting pitchers currently on the big league club. Those would be Travis Wood, Jake Arrieta, and (despite what most fans think of him) Edwin Jackson who will open the second half. Thankfully for them, thanks to the All Star Break, the Cubs will not need a fourth starter until Monday, which is when I predict the moves will start being made.
Before you get too excited, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez will not be a part of my predicted run of roster moves. But there will be some other names returning to the big league club. For starters, there is Emilo Bonifacio who is currently rehabbing from his injury at AA West Tennessee. Most people believe that he will be activated on Tuesday when the Cubs return to Wrigley Field after a three game set against the Arizona Diamondbacks. That is also when the Cubs will need a fourth starter, who will be either Kyle Hendricks, Dallas Beeler or Tsuyoshi Wada. With two players slated to return, two more have to go down.
My best guess as far as who will go down (and yes, all this is would be a guess) would be Zac Rosscup and Junior Lake. Rosscup is the third lefty in the pen, so in my eyes he would be an obvious choice. As far as Lake goes, he has been struggling lately, maybe due to the lack of playing time, and if the Cubs want to see him rebound he needs to be able to play every day. With the emergence of Arismendy Alcantara and the return of Bonifacio, that playing time will get even more limited. With how well Chris Coghlan and Justin Ruggiano have been playing recently, I think he will be doing more than warming the bench if he stays in the majors.
Because of Monday’s off day, the Cubs do not need a fifth starter until Saturday when they host the St. Louis Cardinals. While the Cubs could realistically promote their fifth starter for Wednesday’s game, they have the option to wait. When that move is eventually made, the Cubs will have a tough choice to make. Send down one of the talented young relief pitchers, or return to having a short bench. I am not sure about you, but I do not know which of the bullpen arms should be sent down. Brian Schlitter, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez and Hector Rondon have all been very good this season and deserve to stay in the majors.
That would leave sending down a position player, and as scary as this may sound, Alcantara might be the one sent down (though I deem that very unlikely with how he has performed).
Of course, by the time the Cubs decide to activate their fifth starter, or even by the time they activate their fourth, the Cubs might have made a trade. Teams have been calling the Cubs on Bonifacio, but Darwin Barney or Luis Valbuena could also be moved before the July 31 deadline or even beffore the Cubs need to promote a new pitcher. Another name that could go to open a roster spot would be Carlos Villanueva, which would allow the Cubs to keep their young bullpen and actually have a full bench.
This is, of course, all speculation as I have no say in what the Cubs will do when the time comes to bring players back to the Majors. The last move will be the one to watch, as that will cause debates over whether or not they made the right move.