The Chicago Cubs still have a couple of spots open on their roster after a pre-Christmas mini-shopping spree. As expected, the front office went after pitching reinforcements and so the roster is pitcher heavy as they have yet to target a backup catcher or reserve outfielders. There is plenty of money (theoretically, anyway) to make additional moves if they wanted, but if you’re in the camp that says the Cubs are probably making the playoffs as is, then they’re already in good shape and everything else is gravy. Of course, that’s what we said when the Cubs (among other teams) lost out on Shohei Ohtani, but that was a long shot anyway.
Only 25 players can suit up for the Cubs come Opening Day, and there are still over three months until that happens, but in the absence of news, I’m bored and need to do something. So let’s assume the good old Joe Maddon convention of using five starters (with the possibility of a six-man rotation ever looming), seven or eight relievers, two catchers, five or six infielders, and four or five outfielders, depending on who is versatile and what Joe wants to do.
- Jon Lester
- Kyle Hendricks
- Jose Quintana
- Tyler Chatwood
- Unknown fifth starter (who slots in at #4 if they’re better than Chatwood)
The fifth starter could be Mike Montgomery, who has expressed a desire to start. The Cubs are pretty sure he can start, too, but may disagree on how effective he would be as a full time starter. The more likely and probably safer bet is that they trade for or sign another starter, and they have been linked to Yu Darvish more lately.
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The Cubs certainly have the money to do this, and Darvish’s World Series struggles aside, he has been a very good pitcher his entire career in MLB so far. I would expect this (or another) signing before spring training and shift Monty to the bullpen, where he would still be stretched enough to be the occasional sixth man.
- Mike Montgomery
- Steve Cishek
- Carl Edwards Jr
- Justin Grimm
- Brandon Morrow
- Pedro Strop
- Justin Wilson
- As-yet-unknown eighth reliever, if needed (most likely needed)
I realize that if the eighth reliever is needed, then that means the Cubs will only have 12 position players, which they have done with great success recently given the group’s versatility. The eighth reliever is probably necessary because of Monty’s swingman role. This may come in the form of Dillon Maples, Rob Zastryzny, or a younger starter who just needs exposure to big league bats. The Cubs have been linked to certain relievers in trade like Zach Britton, and I say this because the bullpen is leaning righty so could probably use another lefty besides Monty and a recently shaky Wilson. So that’s another move to look out for as the Cubs look to bolster their already solid (on paper) bullpen.
There’s only one lock here, and that’s Willson Contreras. I think Victor Caratini stays in Iowa to get work every day to develop as a legitimate backup, so the Cubs will look to sign a veteran backup. The smart money might be Rene Rivera, who already played with the team this past season and by all accounts is a good defender and clubhouse guy, and should be cheap. They could also try to bring back Alex Avila, who would be more expensive but at least give the Cubs a lefty bat for the platoon advantage against righties who would otherwise make Willson look silly.
The Cubs did tender a contract to La Stella, so he’s most likely the infield backup and bench bat. The others you all know, and Ben Zobrist can shift between infield and outfield spots (although he’s lost a step and would not be ideal defensively). This group is as locked in as you can get.
By virtue of his large contract and his elite glove, Jason Heyward isn’t going anywhere. The Cubs also seem reticent to trade Almora, Happ, or Schwarber for now. They also have a lot of faith in these players, so expect them to set up the starting outfield rotation. There is a possibility that the Cubs decide to bring in a backup outfielder, but they have plans for next year and probably would prefer to save that money.
Given that guys like Bryant, Zobrist, and even Willson Contreras could play in a corner outfield spot if needed, the Cubs are pretty much covered in the outfield anyway. So I think I will go with the consensus, which is that the Cubs’ most likely near-term acquisitions are another starter, another reliever, and a backup catcher. The biggest splash would be the starting pitcher (maybe Darvish), but the roster seems pretty well put together and set before the turn of the calendar. I think our favorite team is in pretty good shape.