Today, the Chicago Cubs cut reliever Spencer Patton from big league camp by way of the option to AAA Iowa, which was a lot less about his performance this Spring than it was about the team’s ability to freely send him down without losing him. The same can’t necessarily be said of other bullpen competitors Neil Ramirez (out of options) and Manny Parra (minor league deal, but must be paid a $100,000 retention bonus to keep, and gets an opt out on June 1).
Patton, 28, has yet to allow a run this Spring and has struck out 12 over his 7.1 innings of work. He’s a legitimately interesting reliever for whom the Cubs traded last year, and there is good reason to believe he’ll be back with the big league team contributing at some point this season.
If the Cubs do keep one of those two – Ramirez seems the better bet, by the way, given his upside and the fact that he’d immediately have to hit the waiver wire if he doesn’t make the team – then the bench will have just four players. Those players will include David Ross and Jorge Soler, as well as Javier Baez if he is healthy (he has a thumb injury that may keep him on the DL to start the season), plus one of Matt Szczur (out of options), Tommy La Stella (has options), and Munenori Kawasaki (minor league deal).
If the Cubs go with only seven relievers, and if Baez starts the season on the DL, then all three of Szczur, La Stella, and Kawasaki would likely make the team. So, as you can see, there’s quite a range of possible outcomes here, even as we’re just a week away from Opening Day.