Tomorrow is one of those quietly big offseason deadlines that not only is important on its own merits, but also can spur some trade activity.
Primarily, it’s the deadline for teams to place prospects on the 40-man roster for the purposes of protecting them from the Rule 5 Draft next month. In other words, if a guy is Rule 5 eligible (generally: been in the org a while, but hasn’t yet been on 40-man), you better get him on your 40-man by tomorrow, lest he be eligible for selection on December 12.
Bryan has been running through the decisions the Cubs must make, behind the plate, in the reliever ranks, in the infield, and you can also look at the full list of eligible prospects at The Cub Reporter. (A reminder that, in the Rule 5 Draft, a player is selected for a $100,000 fee, and then must remain on his selecting team’s *big league roster* for the full 2020 season (with some time permitted for injuries) in order to stay with the new team. If he doesn’t stick, that new team has to offer him back to the old team for half of the fee.)
With a 40-man roster currently at just 32, the Cubs have plenty of room to add prospects they’d like to protect, who are plausible threats to be selected. We know for certain that top catching prospect Miguel Amaya will be added, and you’ve gotta figure starting pitcher Tyson Miller will be added, too. Others I’d call possible: catchers P.J. Higgins and Jhonny Pereda, shortstop Zack Short, and relievers Dakota Mekkes and Jordan Minch.
Remember: every team in baseball has bubble guys they’d like to protect, but on whom they roll the dice that another club won’t be able to carry them on the 26-man roster all season. So if a guy you like isn’t protected, don’t fret: that doesn’t mean he’ll actually be taken in the Rule 5 Draft. Indeed, it means the Cubs are likely calculating that he won’t be.
Note that I said 26-man roster: with the increase to 26 (from 25) on the big league roster next year, it’s conceivable that teams will be slightly more aggressive in the Rule 5 Draft than in years past, because there’s an extra roster spot to fill. It’s also conceivable, in turn, that teams could be a little more aggressive in adding prospects tomorrow. We’ll see.
In the meantime, you’ll also want to be on the lookout for the trade activity that tomorrow’s deadline can spur, especially for a team like the Cubs. With eight open spots on the 40-man roster, the Cubs currently have more flexibility to add than any other organization in baseball outside of the Nationals (10 spots) and Twins (8 spots).
Being that the Cubs have some of the most 40-man room in baseball, and being that they are going to be looking for players they can try to develop into useful pieces (most likely relievers), they are one of the most likely teams to make a minor trade tomorrow to take advantage of that open space. In other words, I could see the Cubs approaching – or being approached by – a team with a fringe prospect they like or a guy getting squeezed off the roster. Then the Cubs make a swap for that guy because the Cubs *do* want on their 40-man roster, but the other team doesn’t have space for him and would prefer to just have a prospect or a different piece.
It’s what happened last year at the rostering deadline when the Cubs traded Jason Vosler to the Padres for … Rowan Wick! The Padres had a huge crew of prospects that needed rostering, and the Cubs took advantage by taking Wick off the Padres’ hands (and 40-man roster) for a Rule 5 eligible infield prospect the Cubs weren’t going to be rostering anyway.
Turned out pretty good for the Cubs.