Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

willson contreras smokiesYou can expect that, whether excitingly or merely technically, some moves will happen today around the league, and on the Chicago Cubs’ roster, too.

That’s because today is the deadline for teams to add players to the 40-man roster for the purposes of protecting them from the Rule 5 Draft, which takes place next month. We’ll have more on the Rule 5 Draft component when that draft actually comes, but here’s what you need to know for today: the Rule 5 Draft allows teams to pluck players from other organizations if that player has been in the minor leagues for a while, but has never been placed on the 40-man roster (prevents hoarding in a way that’s unfair to players).

Thus, if you’ve got a guy who is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft and you don’t want to lose him, you have to place him on the 40-man roster. By today.

That means, around the game, you will see a number of teams dropping players off of the 40-man roster and adding young players. Some of that started happening over the last couple days – and, indeed, the Cubs added two pitchers yesterday to the organization and the 40-man roster – but the main thrust of additions will occur today.

You may also see trades today, with teams moving guys off of their 40-man roster to teams that have more space. It doesn’t happen every year, but it’s possible.

For the Cubs, what you’re most likely to see is a few prospects added to the 40-man roster, and possibly a player or two designated for assignment. The 40-man stands at 32 right now, so the Cubs could stand to be pretty aggressive with their prospect additions if they wanted, and then deal with the fallout of a crowded 40-man roster when the time actually comes to add free agents or complete a trade. I suspect, though, that the Cubs will leave themselves some leeway on the roster, and won’t make a ton of additions.

Breakout – and arguably top – Cubs prospect Willson Contreras is a holy lock to be added to the 40-man roster today. His breakout teammate at AA Tennessee and in the AFL this year Jeimer Candelario has made himself into a good bet to be added, too. Pierce Johnson will be added. Dan Vogelbach, even if he doesn’t have a clear future path with the Cubs, seems to be too valuable as an asset not to protect from the Rule 5 Draft, where some AL team would almost certainly snag him to see how the bat plays.

There are a number of other interesting eligible prospects, but the Cubs have to balance the valuable spot on the 40-man against the projected near-term impact against the likelihood of a player actually being drafted against the projection of that player as a big leaguer this year against the chance the player could stick on a 25-man roster all year … it’s a balance. Every year prospects are left off the 40-man, and we think, “oh noes, that guy is totally gonna get poached!”, and then he doesn’t.

Last year, the Cubs elected not to protect lefty Andrew McKirahan, presumably because he’d barely pitched above High-A at the time, but he was still plucked in the Rule 5, and, after serving a PED suspension, looks like he could be a serviceable big league reliever. When you’ve got a deep, loaded system like the Cubs, you’re going to lose players from time to time. You just hope you don’t lose the next Hector Rondon, as the Indians did a few years ago.

You can peruse the Rule 5 eligible list over at The Cub Reporter (although I can’t personally vouch for the accuracy of the list, it tends to be spot on), and see if any other names jump out at you as “must protect” types. You’d hate to see a guy like Daury Torrez or Bijan Rademacher or Felix Pena get plucked, but the Cubs won’t be able to protect everyone. And, remember: the Cubs aren’t the only organization making tough choices today. At least they’re in the enviable position of (1) having lots and lots of talent to fret over, and (2) having a large number of available spots on the 40-man roster to play with.

We shall see what happens later today.

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