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Now here’s a head-scratcher that seemingly suggests a flurry of roster moves are on the way.

Today, the Chicago Cubs claimed infielder Luis Valbuena off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays. Valbuena, 26, was out of options, and the Blue Jays were probably trying to stash him at AAA. As you can see, Valbuena hasn’t had much offensive success in the bigs, but he’s almost always put up excellent numbers in the high minors.

The Cubs do have an open spot on the 40-man roster, so adding Valbuena isn’t a problem right now, but there are two things I’m trying to sort out: (1) several guys still have to be added to the 40-man, including Blake DeWitt, Joe Mather, Rodrigo Lopez, and another reliever, at a minimum. That’s four spots that would then have to be opened up (three, if you count Frankie De La Cruz as already off the 40-man, which he will be); (2) if Valbuena is out of options, and the Cubs claimed him, are they putting him on the 25-man roster to open the year? Given that he can play shortstop, it would be nice to have him on the bench, but who then gets the boot? Blake DeWitt? Is Jeff Baker being traded? Some other trade?

It’s hard to say what this might be the precursor to. But it certainly feels like a precursor (even if not a hugely important precursor).

I’ll update this post as the immediate implications become more clear.

UPDATE: Wow – according to Carrie Muskat, the plan is to start the season with just 11 pitchers (6-man pen, as opposed to 7, which has become customary). I’m fine with adding Valbuena, and I’m glad to have a true back-up middle-infielder on the roster, but the bullpen isn’t exactly deep as it is. Now we’re just waiting to see who actually makes the pen.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    The Cubs could use him in Iowa.  I’m not sure who the shortstop in Iowa will be just yet.

  • Fishin Phil

    There is definitely another shoe that will drop soon. Wish I knew what the heck it was.

  • John

    RE: Luke

    Did you read the story? He’s out of options. He either stays in the bigs or they use him as part of a trade package.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I know.  He’s going to be staying in Chicago, but the Cubs could in fact use him in Iowa.

  • MichiganGoat

    Can’t Dewitt start the season in AAA since he signed a minor league deal? What about Mather? Same for Lopez? Maybe they will do that until a move can be made, giving them more at bats/innings at Iowa while holding on to the players they can’t cut. I agree a move must be in the works, but maybe sending some of these players to Iowa will be where we start.

    As for this signing I guess its all about depth for SS, but an odd pick up for sure.

  • Steve

    I know it would have no effect on the 40 man roster, but could this be an indication that Bryan LaHair is heading to the DL after all? If DeWitt and Baker are sharing 1B for the first 2 weeks, having Valbuena on the 25-man makes more sense.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yes, it definitely could be related to that.

  • MaxM1908

    Twitter’s a-twitter with news on the roster. 14 position players, 11 pitchers. Does that still make room for Valbuena and Campana as some are reporting? Wouldn’t that still mean DeWitt or Mather wouldn’t be on the 25-man?

    • Kyle

      Okay, here’s how it seems to be

      Soriano/Byrd/DeJesus (Johnson, Mather)
      Stewart/Castro/Barney/LaHair (Baker, Dewitt, Valbuena)
      Soto (Clevenger)

      Dempster/Garza/Samardzija/Volstad/Maholm

      Marmol/Wood/Russell/Dolis/Castillo/Camp

      That’s the 25-man roster to start opening day.

      Rodrigo Lopez is in Chicago and will not be on the Opening Day roster but should be called up “soon” according to Hoyer, and Campana is also in Chicago in case LaHair’s back puts him on the DL.

      • MaxM1908

        Thanks, Kyle. Good stuff.

        • Serio

          Yes…gooood

      • Andrew

        You mean clevenger

      • Smitty

        Lopez called up soon implies that somebody is getting traded. Interesting.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Well, not necessarily. Could just be that Cubs feel they can go without long-man due to off-day in the first couple weeks.

        • Kyle

          Dewitt is really, really redudant now. I mean, he was already redundant, but now he’s like mega-redundant. I would really, really not be surprised if he wasn’t on a plane to somewhere that needs a backup infielder by the end of the day.

          Until then, we’ve really cornered the market on backup infielders. Mather, Barney, Baker, Valbuena, Dewitt. That’s five on one roster.

          • CubFan Paul

            agreed. the suspense is killing me. there’s 43 players for 40 spots

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              I could take a decent stab at it now from the flurry of tweets, but I’m going to wait until everything is officially official.

              • WGNstatic

                Well that’s boring!

                C’mon, speculate! jump to conclusions! say it with certainty! this is the internet!!

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                  I guarantee the Cubs open the season with A-Rod at third base.

                  • Kyle

                    That’s disappointing! Did something happen to Ian?

                    • http://Cubbie4life.weebly.com Tonycampanathebasethief

                      hat a-rod?

                    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                      Unnatural platoon.

          • MichiganGoat

            I agree, Dewitt (or others) seem expendable now.

            • Fishin Phil

              Agree as well. Dewitt isn’t even scrappy for Pete’s sake!

            • MaxM1908

              I agree. I just hope somebody wants him.

          • When the Music’s Over

            Exactly what I was thinking. How many more AAA quality backup infielders are the Cubs going to sign off waivers, carry on the roster, etc?

  • Kyle

    Fixed, thanks.

  • Andrew

    Campana staying in Chicago seems the most omenous for Byrd going. We’ve now got three backup left handed second basemen which is really odd. Who knew the 25 man roster was going to be up in the air with less than 24 hours until the first pitch.

    • Bric

      True that. At least Theo Jedstein has proven he can make just about anything interesting. I wonder if he does card tricks.

  • Brian

    This isn’t leading to something bad with Castro and the Police, is it?

  • gocatsgo2003

    How about claiming Valbuena so that the Phillies couldn’t, thereby forcing them to look at the trade market to fill their back-up utility infielder spot (e.g. Baker and DeWitt)?

    The net effect would be (i) the Cubs’ two back-up infielders are a middle infielder (Valbuena) and more of a corner infielder (DeWitt or Baker) rather than two corner players and (ii) the Cubs pick up a prospect or two in flipping DeWitt or Baker.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Dig that crafty angle. Not inconceivable.

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  • Evolution

    Could they have claimed Valbuena to trade him back to Toronto Brett Lawrie and Travis D’Arnaud?

    Unless I hear otherwise, I’m going to wait for the forthcoming press release.

    Thanks!

    • Joepoe123

      Lol and Kyle draybek?!!!!!!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      You’re really supposed to keep stuff like that under your hat. Now you’ve gummed up the works.

      • KJ

        Is it possible that Campana is in Chicago because maybe Byrd will be traded to the Nationals and they want to save on airfare when recalling Campana?

        • MaxM1908

          Nah, there’s always MegaBus between Des Moines and Chicago…

  • Cheryl

    Seems like Byrd and Dewitt will be moved, maybe Baker too. If they wanta southpaw whose on the Nationals and Phillies minor league rosters that might fill the bill?

  • npnovak

    Honestly, I’d just keep DeWitt at AAA now. He already cleared waivers and Baker/Mather can play the positions he can (and Valbuena’s defense at 2B/SS is most likely better). Then if Mather doesn’t work out, the Cubs could call up DeWitt and cut Mather.

  • TWC

    As long as we’re stocking up on infield depth, I’m pretty sure that Aaron Miles is still a free agent….

    • MaxM1908

      Too funny. Mike Fontenot is also a free agent…

  • JasonB

    Valbuena is anything but a defensive mastermind. I like the bat though – he’s a bit of a sabermetric darling. In a message board post from late last year, I said that this is a guy I wanted the Cubs to target this offseason. Low risk, high reward. Apparently, I’m a genius :)

    • FromFenwayPahk

      Would you mind breaking down what makes him a sabermetric darling? I’m really curious what you see.

      • JasonB

        Don’t have any specific numbers in front of me but he has power and he draws walks. I think his isop was about a .160 or .180 which is pretty solid for a MI. Castro didn’t even have a isop that high last year. The walks allow him to get on base quite a bit (and importantly, not make outs) and he’s always done that very well. A MI with power and the ability to draw walks can be very helpful for an offense. Finally, he’s hit everywhere he’s been – when discussing LaHair very early in his tenure, Theo said that he doesn’t believe in AAAA players and he has a soft spot for players who can hit. Valbuena hasn’t translated his minor league numbers to the bigs yet, but if/when he can, then he can be an offensive weapon. Anthpolos likely acquired him for these same reasons – he’s a pretty good GM in his own right.

        • MichiganGoat

          Good insight Jason

        • FromFenwayPahk

          Thanks, dude. Good stuff.

        • MichiganGoat
          • JasonB

            Thanks guys – may not ultimately work out because his success hasn’t translated to the bigs yet, but I completely understand why they made the claim. There is potential for something really good here.

            Then again, I’m also cautiously optistic about Barney after his spring (even though it was in Arizona). A little pop, even if its only gap power, can go a long way for his offensive game because he is selective despite low walk rate and extra base power will make pitchers be more cautious with him.

            • FromFenwayPahk

              The value of your posts for me as a fan is primarily in how they help me build an understanding of the Cubs’ organizational rationale. Secondarily it helps me feel less like either a fool or a dork when I read (and am beginning to follow) “isop.” Then, in third place, it helps me follow Valbuena.
              Are my priorities backwards?

              Edit: And thanks, MG, for locating and posting original here.

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