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2022 Cubs Roster Analysis and Spring Training Home Stretch Preview

MLB: Spring Training-Seattle Mariners at Chicago Cubs Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Now that opening day is less than a week away, it’s time to get caught up with the other teams the Cards will be facing in the National League Central. It’s been tough enough to keep up with the Cardinal moves, and the wheels have been spinning fast with signings since the lockout was lifted. As with most clubs, the rosters that closed out the 2021 season look much different than they do today. I’m going to post two of these per day over the weekend, because I want to get you caught up with our division rivals and I don’t want the information to be obsolete by opening day. We’ll start with the Chicago Cubs.

TRANSACTIONS

*The Cubs started the off-season with a full 40-man roster, 8 players on the 60-day IL, and 5 players on the COVID-19 Related IL.

10/4/21: IF Andrew Romine elected free agency in lieu of an outright assignment.

10/18/21: Designated C Erick Castillo and C Tyler Payne for assignment. Returned OF Johneshwy Fargas, IF Tyler Ladendorf and RHP Joe Biagini, who were selected as COVID-19 injury replacement players, to AAA Iowa. Activated RHP Tommy Nance, C Austin Romine, IF David Bote, IF Patrick Wisdom and OF Nick Martini from the COVID-19 Related IL. 40-man roster full.

10/20/21: Outrighted C Erick Castillo and C Tyler Payne to AAA Iowa.

11/3/21: RHP Zach Davies, C Austin Romine, C Robinson Chirinos, C Jose Lobaton and IF Matt Duffy declared Article XX-B free agents. Outrighted RHP Jonathan Holder, RHP Kohl Stewart, OF Nick Martini and OF Trayce Thompson to AAA Iowa. 40-man roster at 34.

11/4/21: RHP Jonathan Holder and OF Nick Martini elected free agency in lieu of an outright assignment. LHP Adam Morgan elected free agency in lieu of an outright assignment. 40-man roster at 33.

11/5/21: Claimed LHP Wade Miley on outright assignment waivers from the Cincinnati Reds. Outrighted RHP Adrian Sampson, C P.J. Higgins and IF Trent Giambrone to AAA Iowa. OF Trayce Thompson elected free agency in lieu of an outright assignment. 40-man roster at 32.

11/6/21: Outrighted LHP Rex Brothers to AAA Iowa. 40-man roster at 31.

11/7/21: Exercised the $10 million 2022 club option on LHP Wade Miley. Activated LHP Brad Wieck, IF Nick Madrigal, IF Alfonso Rivas and OF Michael Hermosillo from the 60-day IL. LHP and Rex Brothers and RHP Adrian Sampson elected free agency in lieu of an outright assignment. 40-man roster at 35.

11/10/21: RHP Kohl Stewart elected free agency in lieu of an outright assignment.

11/19/21: Selected the contract of RHP Ethan Roberts from AAA Iowa. Selected the contract of OF Nelson Velazquez from AA Tennessee. Signed RHP Jonathan Holder and C P.J. Higgins to minor league deals and invited them to spring training. 40-man roster at 37.

11/22/21: Traded cash considerations to the Cleveland Guardians for OF Harold Ramirez. 40-man roster at 38.

11/28/21: Signed LHP Locke St. John to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training.

11/30/21: Noted the loss of RHP Trevor Megill to the Minnesota Twins on an outright assignment waiver claim. Non-tendered RHP Jason Adam and OF Michael Hermosillo. 40-man roster at 35.

12/1/21: Signed RHP Marcus Stroman to a 3-year, $71 million major league contract. Signed C Yan Gomes to a 2-year, $13 million major league contract with a club option for 2024. Signed OF Clint Frazier to a 1-year, $1.5 million major league contract. Signed OF Michael Hermosillo to a 1-year, $600,000 split major league contract. 40-man roster at 39.

12/3/211: Signed LHP Stephen Gonsalves to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training.

12/15/21: Signed RHP Mark Leiter, Jr. to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training.

12/17/21: Signed IF Dixon Machado and IF Ildemaro Vargas to minor league deals and invited them to spring training.

1/24/22: Signed RHP Eric Yardley to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training.

1/31/22: Signed C John Hicks to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training.

3/13/22: Invited 54 players to spring training, including 39 40-man roster players and 15 NRIs.

3/14/22: Signed RHP Jesse Chavez to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. 55 players in camp (39 40-man roster players + 16 NRIs).

3/15/22: Signed SS Andrelton Simmons to a 1-year, $4 million major league contract. 40-man roster full. 56 players in camp (40 40-man roster players + 16 NRIs).

3/16/22: Signed RHP David Robertson to a 1-year, $3.5 million major league contract. To make room on the 40-man roster, placed RHP Codi Heuer on the 60-day IL (recovery from Tommy John surgery). 40-man roster still full, still 56 players in camp.

3/17/22: Signed RHP Chris Martin to a 1-year, $2.5 million major league contract. To make room on the 40-man roster, placed LHP Brad Wieck on the 60-day IL (left elbow strain). 40-man roster still full. Signed RHP Robert Gsellman and RHP Adrian Sampson to minor league deals and invited them to spring training. 58 players in camp (40 40-man roster players + 18 NRIs).

3/18/22: Signed OF Seiya Suzuki to a 5-year, $85 million major league contract. To make room on the 40-man roster, placed RHP Adbert Alzolay on the 60-day IL (right shoulder strain). 40-man roster still full. Optioned RHP Alexander Vizcaino and IF Christopher Morel to AA Tennessee. Optioned OF Alexander Canario to High-A South Bend. Optioned OF Nelson Velazquez to AAA Iowa. 54 players left in camp. (36 40-man roster players + 18 NRIs).

Suzuki is one of the best players to come out of the Japanese leagues in a long time. He played parts of nine seasons with Hiroshima, and he won’t turn 28 until August. He slashed .317/.433/.636 with 38 home runs, led the league in homers and on-base percentage and won his 5th gold glove.

3/19/22: Signed LHP Daniel Norris to a 1-year, $1.75 million major league contract. Signed LHP Drew Smyly to a 1-year, $5.25 million major league contract with a 2023 mutual option. Signed IF Jonathan Villar to a 1-year, $6 million major league contract with a 2023 mutual option. To make room on the 40-man roster, placed IF David Bote on the 60-day IL (recovery from left shoulder surgery), placed RHP Tommy Nance on the COVID-19 Related IL, and placed RHP Alexander Vizcaino on the Restricted List. 40-man roster still full. 55 players in camp (37 40-man roster players + 18 NRIs).

We don’t know why Vizcaino landed on the restricted list. Hat tip to Jordan Bastian, the Cubs beat writer for MLB.com for pointing it out and keeping my numbers straight.

3/21/22: Signed LHP Steven Brault to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. 56 players in camp (37 40-man roster players + 19 NRIs).

Brault was supposed to get a major league contract and compete for a rotation job, but the deal was converted to a minor league deal when he suffered an injury setback.

3/22/22: Agreed to a 1-year, $6.85 million contract with OF Ian Happ, avoiding arbitration.

The only remaining arbitration case the Cubs have is with C Willson Contreras. He wants $10.25 million, while the club has offered $9 million. RHP Rowan Wick missed the Super Two cutoff by 2 days.

3/23/22: Signed RHP Mychal Givens to a 1-year, $5 million deal with a 2023 mutual option. To make room on the 40-man roster, designated IF Sergio Alcantara for assignment. 40-man roster still full, still 56 players in camp.

3/25/22: Traded OF Harold Ramirez to the Tampa Bay Rays for minor league IF Esteban Quiroz. Activated RHP Tommy Nance from the COVID-19 Related IL and designated him for assignment. 40-man roster at 39. Optioned RHP Cory Abbott and OF Greg Deichmann to AAA Iowa. Optioned RHP Anderson Espinoza and LHP Brailyn Marquez to AA Tennessee. Re-assigned RHP Ben Leeper, LHP Conner Menez, LHP Locke St. John, IF Dixon Machado, IF Chase Strumpf, IF Andy Weber and OF Brennen Davis to minor league camp. 44 players in camp (32 40-man roster players + 12 NRIs).

3/27/22: Noted the loss of RHP Tommy Nance to the Miami Marlins on an outright assignment waiver claim. Traded IF Sergio Alcantara to the Arizona Diamondbacks for cash considerations.

3/28/22: Optioned C Miguel Amaya to AA Tennessee. 43 players in camp (31 40-man roster players + 12 NRIs).

Amaya is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Optioning him is legal, even though he is injured, because he has less than 3 years of major league service time and none last season. The old collective bargaining agreement said that this type of move had to take place 15 days before opening day, which would have put the deadline at March 23rd. I’m not sure if the new agreement changed the deadline to 10 days, because I haven’t seen a copy. Other possibilities include that the MLB and the union temporarily agreed to such a rule or that the option happened earlier but wasn’t announced until the 28th for some reason.

40-MAN ROSTER (39)

PITCHERS (19)

Cory Abbott (R, 2), Scott Effross (R, 3), Anderson Espinoza (R, 1), Mychal Givens (R, N/A), Kyle Hendricks (R, N/A), Brailyn Marquez (L, 2), Chris Martin (R, 1), Wade Miley (L, N/A), Alec Mills (R), Daniel Norris (L, N/A), Ethan Roberts (R, 3), David Robertson (R, N/A), Manuel Rodriguez (R, 1), Michael Rucker (R, 3), Drew Smyly (L, N/A), Justin Steele (L, 1), Marcus Stroman (R, N/A), Keegan Thompson (R, 2), Rowan Wick (R, 1)

CATCHERS (3)

Miguel Amaya (1), Willson Contreras (N/A), Yan Gomes (N/A)

INFIELDERS (8)

Nico Hoerner (2), Nick Madrigal (3), Christopher Morel (2), Alfonso Rivas (3), Frank Schwindel (2), Andrelton Simmons (N/A), Jonathan Villar, Patrick Wisdom (1)

OUTFIELDERS (9)

Alexander Canario (2), Greg Deichmann (2), Clint Frazier (1), Ian Happ (2), Michael Hermosillo, Jason Heyward (N/A), Rafael Ortega, Seiya Suzuki (N/A), Nelson Velazquez (3)

60-DAY IL (4)

RHP Adbert Alzolay, RHP Codi Heuer (3), LHP Brad Wieck, IF David Bote (2)

RESTRICTED LIST (1)

RHP Alexander Vizcaino (2)

NOTES

Justin Steele is eligible for a fourth minor league option this season. Anderson Espinoza, Manuel Rodriguez and Miguel Amaya will be eligible for a fourth minor league option in 2023 if their third option year is burned this season. Brailyn Marquez, Keegan Thompson, Alexander Vizcaino, Alexander Canario, Greg Deichmann and Christopher Morel will be eligible for fourth minor league options in 2024 if their 2022 and 2023 options are burned.

Seiya Suzuki is a special case, having been signed as a free agent after being posted by his Japanese club. He has the contractual right to flat out refuse any assignment to the minor leagues, whether optional our outright, or elect free agency at his option. I can’t imagine it happening, but somehow if he were to agree to be optioned three times before his contract expired and all three options were burned, he would be eligible for a fourth minor league option in 2025 or 2026.

HOME STRETCH AND FINAL JOBS

PITCHING

The top three starters were supposed to be Kyle Hendricks, Marcus Stroman and Wade Miley. The club just learned that Miley will be shut down for a minimum of 10 days due to left elbow inflammation, and will open the season on the IL. Adbert Alzolay, another rotation candidate, has been placed on the 60-day IL with a right shoulder strain. Right now, the rotation looks like Hendricks, Stroman, Justin Steele and Drew Smyly, with the final spot going to either Alec Mills or Keegan Thompson. The club doesn’t technically need a 5th starter until April 16th, and at least for now, they’re making it sound like Miley could be back by then.

There are 16 40-man roster pitchers in camp with the Cubs right now, which will be knocked down to 15 by opening day with the Miley IL move. They could just go with who they’ve got right there, which would mean the bullpen would be Scott Effross, Mychal Givens, Chris Martin, either Mills or Thompson, Daniel Norris, rookie Ethan Roberts, David Robertson, Manuel Rodriguez, Michael Rucker and Rowan Wick. Another pitcher to keep an eye on is Jesse Chavez, who has to be told by today if he’s making the club because he’s got more than 6 years of MLB service time. If the club doesn’t release him by today, they’ve either got to add him to the 40-man roster or send him to AAA Iowa with a $100,000 retention bonus and a June 1st opt-out on his minor league deal. If he gets added, one of the other players will have to be optioned. The Cubs have a 40-man spot available for Chavez, if necessary.

POSITION PLAYERS

The Cubs have 15 40-man roster position players left in camp. Andrelton Simmons, who was signed to play shortstop, has been slowed by right shoulder soreness and has not played since March 24th. It looks like he will open the season on the injured list. Alfonso Rivas will probably be the final player optioned. With those two moves, here’s how the Cubs position players look:

Willson Contreras is the catcher, with Yan Gomes as the backup. Frank Schwindel is the first baseman, and Patrick Wisdom still looks to get the majority of looks at third base With David Bote and Andrelton Simmons on the IL, look for Nick Madrigal and Nico Hoerner to get the lion’s share of the starts at second base and shortstop, respectively, with Jonathan Villar in reserve at all the non-first base positions. Hoerner was pressed into service as the starting shortstop due to injuries at the tail end of the 2019 season, but since then has played mostly second base. But he might be a bench player when Simmons comes back

As far as the outfielders go, the club is talking about making Ian Happ the primary DH, and using him in left on the days he doesn’t DH. Seiya Suzuki is slated for right, which moves Jason Heyward to center. That makes Clint Frazier the primary left fielder. At the moment, the club will likely carry both Rafael Ortega and Michael Hermosillo on the opening day roster. But when Simmons comes back, one of the two will almost certainly be cut, and they’re both out of options. I would give Ortega the nod because he’s the only other left-handed bench bat aside from Villar and he had a very nice year as a 4th outfielder for the Cubs in 2021.