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carlos villanueva the stacheYesterday, the Chicago Cubs outrighted three players off of the 40-man roster (Josh Vitters, Ryan Kalish, Chris Valaika), and also let James McDonald go in free agency. Because McDonald was on the 60-day disabled list, he wasn’t on the 40-man roster at the time. Thus, the maneuvering brought the 40-man down to 37.

Today, there’s a little bit more on the roster to discuss. With the season over, and free agency beginning (but, remember, players can’t sign with new teams for five days), the Cubs’ lone free agent is now off of the 40-man roster: Carlos Villanueva. His two-year, $10 million deal with the Cubs proved to be perfectly adequate, as he did some solid things in the rotation in 2013, and then was quietly fantastic out of the pen in 2014. Villanueva was also, by all accounts, a fantastic leader and teammate (and he had some awesome quotes/mustaches). Villanueva is not likely to return to the Cubs next year, however, given their overflowing bullpen and back-end rotation options.

The other procedural move that takes place at the end of the season is that players on the 60-day disabled list go back on the 40-man roster. So, while Villanueva’s departure brought the number down to 36, the re-addition of injured outfielders Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Sweeney will bring it back up to 38.

In other words, for all intents and purposes, you can consider the Cubs’ 40-man roster to be presently at 38.

As we’ve discussed at length, the Cubs will have to clear more space to accommodate the moves they’re going to want to make this offseason. For now, however, there’s no need to dump anyone until (1) space is needed, or (2) the December 2 tender deadline arrives.

The next roster-related thing that will come up, in terms of dates and deadlines, is the option decision deadline, which is Monday, November 3. The Cubs must decide whether to exercise a $1 million option on Jacob Turner (likely) and a $5 million option on Tsuyoshi Wada (not likely, but not impossible). If Wada’s option is declined or he’s traded in the interim, that’ll bring the 40-man down to 37.

UPDATE: I inadvertently omitted Kyuji Fujikawa from this section, as the Cubs also have an option decision on him, which will be declined. He could still be brought back, but, once the option is declined, the 40-man will drop to 36 (if Wada’s is also declined).

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