The Chicago Cubs first postseason game will come next Friday night – October 7 – against one of the Mets, Cardinals, or Giants.
The NLDS roster, however, isn’t quite ready to be announced.
With so many different possible match-ups, the Cubs and manager Joe Maddon will have to wait on an announcement, to see who looks good, feels healthy, and matches up well with their opponent.
And while there are number of mortal locks for the roster, a number of otherwise key performers/contributors might be left off the final roster for the first round of the playoffs. The most obvious example of this rather unfortunate reality is Jason Hammel.
Hammel has likely been on the bubble for a while now, but now he’s been scratched from his final regular season start tonight against the Reds, and that could close the door on any chance Hammel had of making the NLDS roster.
But it might not be all that grim; let’s dive in and see how this might affect the rest of Hammel and the Cubs’ season.
According to Carrie Muskat at Cubs.com, Hammel was scratched from tonight’s start against the Reds, because of tightness in his right elbow. Obviously on the surface, that’s a pretty terrifying sentence for a pitcher/team, but Hammel is calling it “precautionary,” and suggesting that he will be ready for the postseason. “It stinks. Obviously, I want to make the start. We’re kind of thinking ahead and availability in October.”
On the bright side, Hammel was able to play catch on Thursday and was reportedly feeling a lot better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a previously vacant NLDS roster spot will now decidedly go to Hammel. In fact, I’d say his chances of appearing on the NLDS roster have dropped even further in wake of this news. For his part, Joe Maddon isn’t publicly committing to anything. “I don’t want to jump the gun announcing everything,” Maddon said. “He’s got a little bit of a problem going on, but it’s not so bad either.”
If you remember, the rosters can be reset at the end of every playoff round. So, if Maddon is looking for a reason to get Hammel on a postseason roster (either because he thinks he deserves it or because he thinks he can help out in one way or another), it doesn’t necessarily have to be during the NLDS – that is, if the Cubs progress past the first round. This will be something we think about until the roster is announced sometime next week.
Hammel, 34, finishes his season with a 3.83 ERA, a 4.48 FIP, a 4.35 xFIP, and a 1.5 WAR over 166.2 innings. The Cubs hold a $10 million team option for Hammel for 2017, though with a $2 million buyout, it’s actually just an $8 million decision.
In the meantime, Jake Buchanan will take tonight’s start against the Reds.