Quantcast

mike olt iowaThere are just three days left of Spring Training Games – those two Diamondback games on Friday and Saturday are “exhibition” games – and the Chicago Cubs still have some roster decisions to make. Let’s take a look at where things stand.

The Cubs will presumably carry 12 pitchers, and we know the majority: Samardzija-Wood-Jackson-Hammel-Villanueva-Veras-Strop-Russell-Wright. The other pitchers that are vying for the remaining three spots are Chris Rusin, Alberto Cabrera, Justin Grimm, and Hector Rondon. If Rusin makes the team, it will likely be in the rotation, bumping Villanueva to the pen, and leaving one of Cabrera, Grimm, and Rondon out in the cold. If, however, Rusin heads to AAA to start the year – still my slight guess – then all of Cabrera, Grimm, and Rondon could make the bullpen. If the Rusin bump occurs, my guess is that it’s Grimm who gets bumped (and then maybe slides into the rotation at AAA). But, as I said, I’d guess Rusin heads to AAA Iowa, and all of Cabrera/Rondon/Grimm make the bullpen.

On the positional side, things are a little more complicated.

The Cubs will 13 spots for position players. Castro-Barney-Rizzo-Castillo-Sweeney-Lake-Ruggiano-Schierholtz-Valbuena are locks, if healthy. That leaves four spots, one of which will have to be a back-up catcher. (An interesting wrinkle: According to a Tribune report, citing Cubs sources, the Cubs are considering both utility man Ryan Roberts and catcher John Baker to make the team. Each would surprise me.)

I can’t see the Cubs carrying three catchers, so Baker makes the team only if he beats out George Kottaras, who cannot be optioned, is three years younger, offers an additional year of control, and has far more offensive upside. I really can’t see it. I think Kottaras gets the spot.

As for the other three spots, Emilio Bonifacio is pretty much a lock at this point. That leaves two spots to be divvied up among Mike Olt, Donnie Murphy, Ryan Kalish, Ryan Roberts, and Chris Coghlan. With Bonifacio on the team, the Cubs don’t *have* to carry a fifth outfielder, though Kalish has had a great Spring. Murphy is on a big league deal, so it seems unlikely that he’ll be bounced unless the Cubs decide they simply have to carry Roberts. And if Olt makes the team, Roberts’ chances would drop even further. All in all, I have a hard time seeing Roberts make the team unless Olt is headed to AAA to start the year, and the Cubs aren’t going to carry a traditional fifth outfielder. Otherwise, a spot opens up for Roberts only if there’s a trade or injury. My guess is that the spots go to Bonifacio, Olt, and Murphy, with Kalish coming up at some point soon. Bonifacio’s versatility, in that instance, is what makes that configuration possible.

Of course, Starlin Castro starting the season on the disabled list could throw all of this for a loop. If that happens, you probably see Murphy stick around regardless of the Olt decision. Trades are another bugaboo here, and these are the kinds of guys who do often get swapped around the league at the very end of Spring Training.

The other issue here is the 40-man roster, which is currently full. Kyuji Fujikawa could be transferred to the 60-day DL to open up a spot (though that would guarantee that he couldn’t return until the very end of May). But the Cubs will add Bonifacio, which will eat up that spot. That means, if they want to add any of Roberts, Baker, or Kalish, they’re going to have to drop some guys from the 40-man to make room.

  • Chad

    I’d rather see Grimm get the starts at AAA than Rusin.

    • https://www.facebook.com/AnotherSpaceSong Bret Epic

      Agreed. I think they should keep him stretched out in AAA and bring him up once some of the starting rotation is traded off. I see the potential upside of using him in the bullpen, but I don’t think it’s time to give up on Grimm as a starter, or even prolong stretching him out.

  • BenW

    If Olt makes the team, wouldn’t it be prudent to drop Murphy? He’s 31, below-average on defense, and besides an inflated HR rate last year, doesn’t offer much in terms of offense. Valbuena would back him up, and I’d like to see the Cubs carry Kalish in case Nate is dealt at some point.

    • snakdad

      Last year was a complete dream come true for Murphy power-wise and anyone who expects anything close to that this year is insane. If Olt makes the team (and I for one care about that far more than I probably should) then there’s no need for the 3B platoon and Murphy is just eating up a roster spot at that point since we’ve got a number of utility IF guys.

  • Cornish Heat

    Like the St. Louis situation with Kelly and Martinez, what’s the point of a competition when the “loser” of the competition clearly outperforms the “winner”?

    • Cornish Heat

      (with regards to Rusin out-pitching Villanueva this spring…)

      • https://www.facebook.com/AnotherSpaceSong Bret Epic

        Rusin has done well this spring, but he’s never had mind-blowing stuff. I’m rooting for him to become something along the lines of what Travis Wood was last year, but I just don’t think he will ever reach that level. Realistically, I see him as an effective 7th or 8th inning guy, but I hope I’m wrong. With Villanueva, he’s a guy who has some pretty decent pitches, but doesn’t always put it together. He tends to go from dominating to being dominated and it’s hard to rely on that consistency. If we are talking about pure value, Villanueva makes the rotation for the time being. He can show some value, hopefully bring back something in a trade (if he can be traded that early in a season, considering the desperation of injury ridden teams) and Arrieta can fill in when he comes back. Once some of the other rotation guys are traded, bring Rusin in to fill in some starts, just like we did last year. I don’t see a huge win or loss to either scenario, but it’ll be interesting to see what ends up happening.

    • Funn Dave

      Idk that it was ever really a competition. I mean, I’m sure our FO looks at career numbers and trends more than one spring training, as well as Rusin has performed. Did he earn the spot? Yes. Was it ever really his to earn? I’m not so sure.

      • https://www.facebook.com/AnotherSpaceSong Bret Epic

        Agreed. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rusin doesn’t make the rotation and Olt is sent to AAA. Giving low risk, low reward players like Murphy and Roberts spots to play isn’t completely crazy. It just looks like they’re trying to do the same thing they did last year, which is find fringe guys who have had spurts of success, play them during a year where they have little to no chance of winning anyways, hope they over perform and trade them for more than they’re truly worth. Really, I think that’s all it boils down to. If it isn’t potentially part of the future picture and they have little time left on their contract, why not try to get value for them and replace them once they’re gone pretty easily? Yet another year where gaining value that can be utilized in the future at this point is worth more than fielding the better player.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The Rusin/Villanueva performances are closer than you might think. The ERAs are pretty different, but just about every other number favors Villanueva (including the strength of the batters face, per BR).

    • Kyle

      They aren’t really competitions. That’s just something they say to keep guys working hard.

  • Cornish Heat

    Another thought – I know it rarely happens anymore, and the Cubs will need 5 starters out of the gate… but what if they only carried 6 relievers, thus opening the door for Kalish and/or Roberts to make the team?

    Just an idea.

  • Rebuilding

    Ummmmm…it’s pretty easy to see why they picked Villanueva over Rusin if you think about the goals of the organization this year. Villanueva was originally picked up to be flipped. I’m sure they would like to see him get off to a fast start and flip him as the did Feldman when another Braves pitcher’s arm falls off

  • Big City Mick

    Trade Barney, Kottaras, and Christian Villanueva back to the Rangers for a Luke Jackson and a mix of lower level prospects. Start Olt at 3B and Valbuena at 2B. Problem solved and our team will be better for it.

    • Chad

      Wow. That’s all I can say is wow.

    • MattyNomad

      A non-100 type pitcher with control issues and some random throw in prospects for a Gold Glove second basemen, viable backup cather, and one of the top 3rd base prospects in all of the minors [with a scarcity of talent at 3b mind you]….what does that trade for us?

      Are you a Rangers fan?…….

      • Chad

        No, but Kottaras and Barney do nothing for me. And if Luke Jackson is not that good why should we get him. I am probably higher on Villanueva than most but if Jackson isn’t that good, why trade for him.

        • MattyNomad

          No, lol. I agree with you. That was meant for Big City

      • smackafilieyo

        He must feel really bad about how one sided the garza trade was and wants to do right by the Rangers, lmao

        • C. Steadman

          Fine, instead of Jackson, let’s do Cody Buckel :) Look up his 2013 stats…please they’re comical. Bad case of the yips

          • MattyNomad

            This made me lol

            • C. Steadman

              Hopefully he can rebound because I almost feel bad for the guy, but then I remember he’s a pro baseball player and I’m not so then I don’t feel too bad laughing at his 2013 results but for his case I hope he can turn the page on that season..

          • bnile1

            You may be on to the basis of an idea there but the wrong focus. If Villanueva is essentially a trade chip, as is bonifacio then trade them. Texas is looking for pitching help to cover some injuries, and a middle infielder, Seems like a good fit. Trade Villanueva and Bonifacio for a starting pitching prospect or 2. I’m not familiar enough with Texas’s system to know who, but I bet Theo is…

      • terencemann

        And this is why I hate hypothetical trade proposals.

      • Big City Mick

        Luke Jackson has improved in every statistical category over the last 3 seasons and the fact he’s outside of top-100 prospect rankings in the very reason we might be able to steal him for a bag of shag balls. Jackson’s got improving control, a 97 mph fastball, a ceiling of a #2 SP, and is only 22 years old.

        • Chad

          I’m fine with getting Jackson, I just don’t think that Barney (a 2B they don’t need) and a backup catcher (they don’t need) is going to entice them even by throwing in
          a decent 3B prospect, especially since they gave him to the cubs for Dempsterd (that’s not a typo). I like Villanueva and think he can be a good utility guy if not a starting 3B for the cubs, so why trade him now for an eh minor league pitcher.

          • Big City Mick

            But they do need a 2B and C with Profar and Soto being injured for the next 3 months. I’d say they could also use a little MI depth too considering their predicament so, Villanueva makes sense too. And as much as I like Villanueva, the Cubs have zero room for him now or in the future.

            • aaronb

              Barney and Kottares don’t really qualify as major league help though. They are among the worst position players in MLB baseball.

  • J. L.

    I think the pitching situation comes down to this: right now, would we rather have Rusin in the rotation and Villanueva in the bullpen or Villanueva in the rotation and Grimm in the bullpen? I’d take the first option. Rusin and Villanueva as the #5 are pretty much the same to me, but I feel Villanueva has the edge over Grimm as a reliever.

    • Rebuilding

      Why is everyone looking at this like the FO is trying to maximize wins this year? They are going to showcase Villanueva and try to get a package like Feldman last year (probably receive less obviously). We have Rusin under control for 5 more years. That choice is the difference between winning 71 games and 71.3 games

    • Norm

      I’d rather Villanueva in the rotation to try to boost his July value.

  • http://www.survivingthalia.com Mike Taylor

    I think we’re making a little too much out of the pitching situation… Arrieta will only be on the DL for 15 days, so we’re only going to see Villanueva or Rusin in the rotation for 3 starts and then back to the bullpen they go… where the Cubs aren’t going to carry 3 lefties. Rusin starts in AAA.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      I think they should give Rusin those three starts. It sets a bad precedent to ignore performance.

  • BarryLB

    Trade Barney. Assuming he is healthy, keep Olt at third-base. A platoon of Valbuena and Bonifacio works for me at second. Valbuena is underrated and might even be ready for breakout season. I would like to see them find a way to keep Kalish but barring a trade I don’t see that happening.

  • Mreverything

    As far as Olt is concerned, I think he has proven his value and you need to open the season with him at 3rd for the Cubs. I mean, what else do you need to see? It is true that his strike out totals are too high, but I don’t believe that batting him in AAA will help reduce that stat. He is the better choice than Murphy or Roberts given that his power is far greater than those other two and that is a commodity that the 2014 Cubs lack. Also (apparently) he can play the position better than Murphy, so I cannot see any reason not to start the season with Olt at third.

  • kashbunker

    I see Olt going to AAA to get additional work on his fielding. This would time to guys like Donnie Murphy at MLB level to see what more they can do this year. Hopefully the dominoes will setup nicely for a trade in June which is when we’ll see both Baez and Olt join the big league club

    • willis

      I think we need to pay much more attention to Olt’s fielding vs his at bats these next few days. We know he can play 3B…but he is definitely rusty. He shows he’s ok there this week, he gets the gig. You look to try and trade Barney for something, and if you can’t you send kalish to AAA to begin. I really like Kalish so I’d rather see him up right away, but roster crunch is a bitch.

      As far as the pitching battle, I’d rather it be Villanueva. But, the way Rusin has been pitching, it’s going to him I bet. Grimm needs more AAA time anyway.

  • V23

    Olt’s strength IS fielding! He had one rusty game.

    I’d like to see Olt with a full season at the MLB level this year as the Cubs are going to have decisions to be made.
    To me, it’s Kalish and Olt out of that last squad. If Tigers or someone want Nate….be my guest.

    • snakdad

      Olt’s fielding is not the problem. He’s traditionally been good with the glove. It’s his shoulder that’s iffy (although how a guy who’s not a pitcher gets arm fatigue is beyond me).

  • D-Rock

    Why is Ryan Sweeney a lock? He’s had a terrible spring, so apparently he was a lock going into the season? I’d rather see Kalish than Sweeney at this point.

    • C. Steadman

      ” He’s had a terrible spring”

      Spring Training results mean nothing…Kershaw’s ERA from the past two Springs:4.18 & 9.20…and I think we end up seeing both Kalish and Sweeney on the roster.

      • D-Rock

        Spring Training results don’t mean “nothing”. That’s why guys get invited and have to compete for roster spots. When you have several outfielders and can only keep like 5 then the spring performance does matter unless guys are signed to big contracts.

        Did you really just compare Kershaw to Sweeney?

        • DarthHater

          Whether you show the coaches and scouts what they want to see means plenty. What you’re stats are in spring training games means very little.

          • D-Rock

            That I can agree with. I know Sweeney can play good defense and he’s obviously a better hitter than his .077 spring batting average. I just don’t see why he’s a lock over Bonifacio and Kalish and Olt.

            • C. Steadman

              Because Sweeney has a guaranteed MLB contract and can’t be optioned without his consent(over 5 years of service time). He’s a guy who will be flipped so he’ll make the roster over Olt who can be optioned without consent. I think Kalish and Bonifacio make the roster as the final 2.

              • D-Rock

                Thank you. That is the answer I was looking for.

                • C. Steadman

                  Your welcome, sorry it took so long to arrive at that..I get too flustered when people put too much weight into Spring stats because more times than not they don’t equal similar Regular Season performance.

              • brickhouse

                Kalish hasn’t played since August 2012 – Let him play fulltime in the minors – Bonafacio can be the 5th OF

            • Blackhawks1963

              Sweeney signed a two year contract. Kalish on the other hand is a minor league cast-off and is probably destined for Iowa to prove he can become something actually more than that.

              • Greenroom

                Do you know the extent of the injuries Kalish had in the past? He wasn’t simply a failed, discarded prospect.

                • Blackhawks1963

                  This sounds like me 32 years ago when I was screaming that Scott Thompson wasn’t discarded dog meat !!!

                  • Greenroom

                    In the most respectful way, BH63, I do not think you have looked into Kalish’s injury history or his history as a player.

        • C. Steadman

          Kershaw’s bad Springs were talked about last year and this, so it was the first that came to mind. Spring “competition” is definitely overrated because guys are working on so many different things/approaches. How’s this comparison…Brent Lillibridge OPS’d 889 last Spring, remind me how he fared in 2013 Regular Season?

          • D-Rock

            I don’t care about Brent Lillibridge. I’m just questioning why Brett said Sweeney is a lock to have a roster spot. Did the FO or manager declare this already?

            • Sandberg

              Sweeney is a lock because the marketing department needs some eye candy for the ladies. ;)

            • C. Steadman

              Because Sweeney can’t be optioned without his consent like Olt(options remaining) and Kalish(minor league deal) can.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    I was thinking what if Junior Lake has found his power stroke. With the addition of Olts bat in the middle of the order, combined Rizzo and Castro rebounding and we could well have some much needed offense that we lacked last year.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Rusin is simply a band-aid. Nothing more. As soon as Arrieta is back to health, then Rusin is headed back down to Iowa. He’s a Triple A type insurance policy to use in precisely the manner he will be used. Let Grimm go work on things at Iowa along with Hendricks. They have actual futures.

  • Austin8466

    I think people on here are really underestimating the potential impact of Kalish. He was a rising star in the Boston farm system until he dealt with a few nagging injuries. If he’s 100% healthy right now, he could easily be a big piece for the present and future. I’m probably way too high on him, but I think he can do really really good things in a Cubs uni.

    • Blackhawks1963

      Kalish is what he is. A former quality prospect who eventually became a cast-off of one of the smartest and best run teams in baseball (Boston). I’m not expecting a whole lot. Maybe he can become a decent platoon type for awhile. His former status has no bearing on the present. In same way that statement can be applied to Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters.

      • CubFanBob

        Kalish is all quality. There is a reason now that he is 100% healthy that he is forcing the front office to seriously consider moving higher value veterans in order clear a roster spot for him. 2014 NL come back player of the year,,,,book it.

        • Greenroom

          If he is given an opportunity, I could see this being the case. +1

        • C. Steadman

          I would, but I think Matt Kemp wins that.

        • Blackhawks1963

          Odds are greater that come July 1st Ryan Kalish has entered the land of irrelvance and “where are they now” trivia game. Look, maybe he can become a serviceable spare outfielder. Beyond that people are getting a wee bit carried away.

          • CubFanBob

            I cant wait to drink off your tears when Kalish makes the all star team this year.

            • Blackhawks1963

              Ladies and gentlemen, Micah Hoffpauir is in the house ! Or is that you Brian Dayett?!?

    • C. Steadman

      I haven’t seen any understimating of Kalish, most people here want to keep him, but understand he can still use some seasoning in the minors due to the amount of time he’s missed bc of the injuries.

      • C. Steadman

        nevermind, just saw Blackhawks post above…which I don’t agree with.

      • Blackhawks1963

        I think a final roster spot comes down to Murphy, Coughlan and Kalish. If I had a vote I would go with Coughlan and send Kalish to Iowa. Murphy can be released or accept assignment back down to Iowa.

        • C. Steadman

          I’d rather have Kalish over Coghlan…Kalish is speedy and plays better defense…neither have great power and walk about the same

        • brickhouse

          Isn’t Murphy on the 40 man roster with a major league contract while Kalish & Coghlan would need to be added to the roster and bump someone else off

          • C. Steadman

            Yep

  • Blackhawks1963

    Another thing…Carlos Villenueva is an okay pitcher. Not anything else. He did an admirable job for the Cubs in 2013 in precisely the sort of role he is best at…serving as a long man out of the pen who can also spot start. He goes through stretches of being pretty decent, followed by stretches of getting pounded hard.

    Trade value? Meh. He’s not going to graduate to the level of Scott Feldman in 2013. I think that is very far fetched.

  • Medicos

    Why is Wada pitching for the Cubbies today????

    • papa dunks

      Wada re-signed to a minor league contract with the Cubs.

  • bobdawg78

    I’d like to see the Cubs trade Barney and Schierholtz before the season opener. If both get moved for prospects, then we can add Bonifacio and Kalish to our 40 man, and to our Opening day roster. Olt should start at 3rd, and Valbuena should start at 2nd. Murphy and Bonifacio can backup the IF, and Bonafacio can even backup OF as well, along with Ruggiano.

    Roberts doesn’t have a future with us, unless he’s willing to play in AAA, but I like Alcantara and Baez playing there everyday, and Watkins in there some where as well. As far as pitching goes, Rusin should go to AAA, and be an emergency guy for us, or get called up when we start trading guys like Hammell, Villarreal, and Russell.

  • Kyle

    This might explain the weird John Baker rumor:

    Bruce Levine ‏@MLBBruceLevine 49m
    After losing Geo Soto to injury. Texas taking hard look at Cub catcher George Kottaras .

  • Pingback: Rumor: Rangers Looking at a George Kottaras Trade | Bleacher Nation | Chicago Cubs News, Rumors, and Commentary()

  • Medicos

    Let’s send Kottaras to Texas. Lousy throw to 2nd base and now an error on a pop up down the 1st baseline. John Baker can back up Castillo. Vogelbach should be converted to catcher this year at the minor league level. With Rizzo at 1st base he’ll never get an opportunity at 1st.

    • mjhurdle

      no, lets convert Baez to a catcher, then Rizzo to 3B, move Olt to SS and have Vogelbach start at 1B.
      Then Almora can back up Baez at C.

  • CubsfaninAZ

    Dumb , dumb move if they send down Olt and keep Ryan Roberts. Roberts role should be triple A until and injury kind of depth player , thats all he’s worth. Even then i’d still probably choose Valbuena, Murphy, and Bonificio to play over him so id go ahead and release him. Time to start clearing the hurdles for Baez and Co, cause if they mash they need to be up after the break.

Bleacher Nation Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Bleacher Nation is a private media site, and it is not affiliated in any way with Major League Baseball or the Chicago Cubs. Neither MLB nor the Chicago Cubs have endorsed, supported, directed, or participated in the creation of the content at this site, or in the creation of the site itself. It's just a media site that happens to cover the Chicago Cubs.

Bleacher Nation is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Google+