The Cubs have a really weird roster at present, thanks to a trade that sent away two of their five starting pitchers, a double-header almost immediately thereafter, and then an All-Star break that obviated the need to make a number of immediate decisions.
Which is where things stand now.
At present, the Cubs have 12 pitchers on the roster, only three of whom are starters. Eventually, the Cubs will need to add two starting pitchers to the roster, and, if they want to stay at their previous mix of eight relievers and twelve position players, the Cubs will have to send out a reliever and a position player. On the reliever side, if it’s a last-in-first-out situation, Zac Rosscup would be the guy sent back to Iowa (but possibly only until the Cubs move one of their other lefty relievers). On the positional side, you know the big question: will it be Arismendy Alcantara?
The Cubs have not yet announced what is to be of Alcantara coming out of the break, even as most speculate that he’s played his way into a continued spot with the big club (at least until Emilio Bonifacio returns, at which point the Cubs may need to showcase him a little bit before July 31). If you’re looking for a tea leaf, the AAA All-Star Game was yesterday – to which Alcantara was selected – and he was not there (because he’d not yet been optioned back to AAA Iowa). If the Cubs were going to option Alcantara back immediately after the break, they’d likely have done it before the AS Game so that Alcantara could play. The rub there, obviously, is that a guy can’t return for 10 days after being optioned, but, with the big league break mixed in, it would have been just five or so games before he could have returned. Of course, that’s just about the time the Cubs would have had to send somebody out, which would have made things tricky.
As it stands, I’m thinking Alcantara is with the big team for now – and the next question is whether he stays up when the Cubs bring back up whichever two pitchers will be filling in at the back of the rotation. That comes early next week. If Alcantara stays for good, the Cubs could option one of Mike Olt or Junior Lake to Iowa, or could trade Darwin Barney to make room. Eventually, it does seem like someone will go to make room for Alcantara.
Complicating that decision is the impending return of Emilio Bonifacio. The Cubs’ erstwhile super utility man joined AA Tennessee yesterday as he continues his rehab from an early June oblique strain. It’s conceivable Bonifacio could be back with the big club in a week or so, which would give the Cubs a week to show him off (as healthy) before the Trade Deadline. No, whatever dreams you had of Bonifacio netting a significant return went up in smoke with Bonifacio’s injury – and his .217/.264/.296 line on the year if you cut out his first eight games – but that doesn’t mean a versatile player like Bonifacio can’t be an attractive bench piece to a contender.
When Bonifacio returns, it could mean the temporary option of Alcantara. Of course, so much can happen in the final two weeks of July that a spot may have already opened up organically anyway.
A final roster thought: on the starting pitchers, the Cubs will need two of ’em after Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood, and Jake Arrieta go 1-2-3 out of the break on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The two will be selected from a group that includes Kyle Hendricks, Tsuyoshi Wada, Dallas Beeler, and Chris Rusin – and that’s roughly my educated guess on the order of likelihood.