With a week to go until Opening Day, Cubs manager David Ross is faced with some tough decisions in choosing the 26 players that will break camp with the big club. Let’s take a quick gander where things stand:
I took the easy one first. With Austin Romine still hurt, Willson Contreras will start and PJ Higgins will get some time with the big club.
Another easy one. Joc Pederson, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward with Jake Marisnick and probably Cameron Maybin – he’s such a great clubhouse guy, and if he decides it’s something he wants to do, he’ll make a good manager some day.
So now we’re at seven guys, 19 to go.
Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Zach Davies and Trevor Williams are all set. Then you’ve got Alec Mills, who doesn’t have an option. And Adbert Alzolay, who does. If Iowa started in early April as originally planned, AA would bumslay in AAA until they needed him. But since they’re not starting until May, the best move here is to let him enjoy the nice weather in the extended spring training in Arizona so he’ll have more in the tank late in the season. The big question mark becomes Shelby Miller. Miller’s been good this spring, striking out 12 in 9 innings. He really hasn’t been stretched out though, and might be a swing guy if Ross decides against the 6 man rotation. So let’s pencil him in.
So now we’re at 13 guys and where it gets tricky.
Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are 75% of the Cubs’ infield. David Bote will be there to do something, and he’s part of the second base clown car that also has Nico Hoerner, Eric Sogard and Ildemaro Vargas. Hoerner is the big decision here. His numbers look good overall, but it’s because he started so hot that his cold snap didn’t drag his numbers down far enough to look bad. He’s the best glove at the position, but he might get caught in the same numbers shuffle as Alzolay because of his options being left. But seriously – would you farm him out for Eric Sogard??? I’d think Vargas vs Sogard is the decision here. Both can kinda/sorta move around the infield, and Vargas is a switch hitter while Sogard is a lefty bat. Vargas is better against LHP, so I guess that’s something. But you’d think a lineup with Bryant, Contreras and Baez shouldn’t need any help in that department. My guess is Vargas makes the team and Nico gets shuffled to Iowa until someone gets hurt. Bote will start the year at second base and Sogard will explore his options. So with an infield of Rizzo, Bote, Baez, Bryant and Vargas, that gives us 18 guys. 8 to go.
Shelby Miller will get the long man/spot starter gig, and we already counted him. Add him to automatics Craig Kimbrel, Brandon Workman, Andrew Chafin and Dan Winkler. That leaves three spots. Dillon Maples is out of options, but last night was pretty much what you’re going to get out of Maples. Plenty of walks, plenty of Ks, plenty of gray hair. I think the Cubs are on the verge of ending the Dillon Maples Experience. They will DFA him, but his stuff is so good that he won’t get through waivers. Ryan Tepera and Jason Adam were both good last year and should make the team. That leaves one more spot, which I’d imagine Ross will want to use for another lefty arm. Brad Wieck and Rex Brothers have both had good springs, but the Cubs would have to make room on the 40-man for Brothers.
So where Ross and Jed Hoyer will have to chat, is if they decide to keep Brothers, Miller, Higgins and Maybin, they have to clear four spots off the 40 man. If they’re truly done with Maples, that’s one. Remember Jonathan Holder? He’s had a brutal spring, and hasn’t pitched in a week. And his contract isn’t guaranteed. That’s two.
What we don’t know is who, if anybody, will be put on the 60 day injured list. But Ross and Hoyer definitely have some tough decisions in the next week.
Now let’s sit back and see how wrong I am.