When the playoffs end and the season is finally over, the Cubs will have some tough decisions to make. They will have to decide which free agents to let go and which free agents to try and retain. Some will be overpriced, while the Cubs could afford others. Once those decisions have been made, the Cubs will then have to decide which players will be placed on the 40 man roster to avoid being taken in the Rule 5 Draft in early December. They have 60+ players in their system who will be eligible.
Almost 2/3 of the 40 man roster is pretty easy to figure out as more than half of the 40 man is under contract at the major league level for next year.
Who Is Definitely Staying on the 40 Man Roster
Pitchers – Lester, Arrieta, Hendricks, Lackey, Pierce Johnson
Bullpen – Rondon, Strop, Edwards, Grimm, Montgomery, Spencer Patton
Catchers – Montero, Contreras
Infielders – Rizzo, Baez, Zobrist, Russell, Bryant, Candelario, La Stella,
Outfielders – Heyward, Schwarber, Soler, Almora, Szczur
That gives us a subtotal of 25 out of the 40. Two of the players on this list will start the year at AAA. Pierce Johnson is not ready for the majors but Jeimer Candelario is close. Albert Almora, on the other hand, might have a spot on the 25 man roster depending on Dexter Fowler’s decision.
Retirees – David Ross
Hopefully, he will be with the Cubs in some capacity but it won’t be as a player.
Free Agents – Jason Hammel (team option),Travis Wood, Chris Coghlan, Dexter Fowler (Mutual Option), Aroldis Chapman, Trevor Cahill, Christian Villanueva, Gerardo Concepción, and Joe Smith.
I think Hammel’s option will be picked up as cheap as he is. I don’t know about Travis Wood. He should cash in on his last two years, which have been very good. He is going to be a tough sign. In my opinion, he is the player the Cubs should seek out because of the dirth in left-handed pitching in the upper minors.
While Dexter may seem the most essential free agent, his play this year has upped his value tremendously. I am sure the Cubs will be in on talks, but his price tag may be too costly, especially with Almora waiting in the wings.
I don’t think Chapman comes back, In fact, I think he heads back to New York. Smith, on the other hand, could be persuaded at 32 years of age to return. I think with Schwarber’s return, Coghlan is a goner. For Villanueva, he will be coming off a broken leg. That will be a tough choice as the Cubs may not have much of a look at him before making that decision.
Hammel makes #26.
Question Marks – Zac Rosscup,
Lefties don’t grow on trees, but Rosscup’s injury history may work against him as well as his age. He will be 29 in 2017. I think because of the nature of the arm with which he hurls, and the affinity for which pitching coach Chris Bosio likes him, he will be back.
Highly Unlikely – Dallas Beeler, Andury Acevedo, RJ Alvarez, Aaron Brooks, Giovanni Soto
While the Cubs have Beeler under contract for 5 more years, his age is becoming a factor. Do they bring him back or do they send on his way for a shot with another team? All of the others did not work out very well as minor league Cubs and you can kiss them goodbye.
That leaves somewhere between 11 and 13 spots. I would imagine the Cubs front office will leave 5 spots for acquisitions over the winter. So in all, that leaves anywhere 6-8 spots to fill.
Here are players the Cubs have in their system who I think they should place on the 40 man roster. Most of them are no-brainers, but there are a couple of surprises for you.
Rob Zastryzny, Jose Rosario, Ryan McNeil, Bijan Rademacher, Duane Underwood, Victor Caratini, Jordan Pries, Jack Leathersich
These will be interesting selections. The Cubs will have a plethora of spots with a myriad of choices. On the list above, Underwood, Caratini, Leathersich, and Zastryzny (with his newfound cutter) are no brainers. I picked McNeil because he has improved so much this year and is back to his pred-draft level of 95 mph after three years. I am hoping Bijan gets a slot, but he doesn’t profile much beyond a bench player. Jose Rosario has shot up to AAA one year removed from TJS, but he throws in the upper 90s as a reliever. I don’t think the Cubs are ready to give up on that kind of talent. Pries, who was acquired in the Dan Vogelbach trade likely could be given a spot, but that’s only to have some AAA starting pitching depth for next year. However, the Cubs may just go out and find someone else rather than give that slot to a player they could find an equivalence of on the open market.
Last year, lefty Michael Heesch was left off the 40 man. Who could blame the Cubs for doing so? He just finished at Myrtle Beach. Then again, he was left handed, not exactly the Cubs forte. As a result, the Cubs could be protecting assets like Heesch who other teams might covet or might take a chance .
Felix Pena, Brian Matusz, Jose Paulino, David Garner, Jake Hannemann, Armando Rivero, Tim Federowicz, Cael Brockmeyer, and Manny Parra.
To be honest, the Cubs don’t have enough spots to protect all they need to and they likely won’t for the next few years. I think Pena and Garner could get snapped up along with Rivero and Federowicz, and maybe even Cael Brockmeyer. These players are not destined for stardom at the major league level, but they all could play some bench or bullpen role for other teams.
Hannemann is the toughest choice. He is an elite defender, has great speed, but the bat lags behind. Conversely, he has the potential to do well. Yet, he has not lived up to those expectations. If unprotected, I think he gets taken. With the players in front of him and coming up behind, that might be a good thing for him.
Conversely, Jose Paulino might be the biggest risk. He’s only at low A now, but he’s also 21, left-handed, and has a good slider and changeup, Out of all the players who are eligible, I think other teams would find Jose as the most appealing, despite his lack of experience. It’s a tough call to give a 21-year-old kid a 40 man spot when he has not even pitched in advanced A ball.
That’s really the hardest thing to quantify in this instance is, “What players appeal to other teams?” Add in that you really have to project what players in your own system appeal to you right now, and in the future. There will be some hard decisions. And I think we will be surprised by who the Cubs protect and do not protect.