Oooooh, dare I do it? Speak about the hypothetical playoff roster before the Cubs have actually clinched?
You know, if the Cubs hadn’t won that crazy game last night, I might not have done it, even though you kinda have to start the discussion in advance of the end of the regular season.
But, here we are, with the Cubs 4.5 games up on the Brewers (5.0 on the Cardinals), and at a 99.4% chance of making the playoffs.
This discussion is not a jinx. This discussion is prudent and fair. Come at me, ye gods of old.
The Cubs will have some decisions to make for their 25-man postseason roster, which is set at each round of the playoffs. Typically, you see teams go with four starting pitchers and seven (*maybe* eight) relievers in the postseason, because the off-days require you to carry fewer pitchers than you normally would. That allows for an expanded bench, and the possibility of carrying more specialty players (base runners, glove-only guys, pinch hitter types).
This is all still malleable, and no decisions will have to be made for almost two weeks. A lot can change in that time. But I thought it worth teeing up where the fringes of the playoff roster sit right now so we can start thinking through who needs to do what to finalize their spot.
As things stand now, the 21 guys you know are locked into the roster (assuming health), in no particular order, are:
- Jake Arrieta
- Jon Lester
- Jose Quintana
- Kyle Hendricks
- Wade Davis
- Carl Edwards Jr.
- Pedro Strop
- Brian Duensing
- Mike Montgomery
- Willson Contreras
- Alex Avila
- Anthony Rizzo
- Ben Zobrist
- Javy Baez
- Addison Russell
- Kris Bryant
- Kyle Schwarber
- Ian Happ
- Jon Jay
- Jason Heyward
- Albert Almora
I think at this point, John Lackey is going to make the roster, even if he’s not necessarily starting a game, he can be brought in for multiple early innings if things go sideways on another starter.
That leaves three spots to be divvied up among (realistically) Tommy La Stella, Leonys Martin, Rene Rivera, Justin Wilson, Koji Uehara, Hector Rondon, and Justin Grimm.
I think a healthy La Stella makes the roster, given his unique value as a bench bat. From there, though, I think it’s a really difficult decision to pin down the final two spots.
You need at least one more pitcher, but each of the four there have health and/or performance concerns that would make you not at all comfortable leaning on them in a big spot. Track record says you have to take Wilson. Grimm is the best of the four when he’s at his absolute best (but that hasn’t happened often this year). Rondon was looking great midseason, but now he’s been hurt and you don’t know what you’re getting. Uehara has been great in every way except giving up homers in the second half, and in the playoffs, that’s a really big problem. He’s also hurt.
So if I’m picking today, I might very well take one of Wilson or Grimm (probably Wilson, and I know you’ll all punch me for it), and then one of Martin and Rivera. Although I know you want the base runner and glove of Martin, I do like the idea of taking an extra catcher in Rivera (a very good one who can still hit lefties well, by the way) so that the other two catchers will always be available to pinch hit when they’re not starting.