The clock just keeps on ticking down, with the official start of Spring Training now barely three weeks away, the Cubs … uh … now have a back-up catcher!
That does matter, of course, but the spot Austin Romine fills was among the smaller holes the Cubs still have on the roster. We went over it last weekend, and it’s still mostly the same situation: if the Cubs want to compete, even in a weak NL Central, they’re gonna need another starting pitcher or two, a quality infield bat that can play second base, and a starting-caliber outfielder. It’s a lot of glaringly obvious needs for the last week in January when a team says it wants to win in 2021.
Clearly, the Cubs are hoping options fall to them as free agency winds down, and, to be sure, there are still a boatload of useable options out there in free agency. It might prove to be the case that the Cubs don’t get their pick of the litter, but do get every spot filled with an “interesting” guy on the cheap in the coming weeks. I have mixed feelings on it, to say the least, but I do hope I can at least find something to say about the guys the Cubs add.
As things stand right now, the roster looks as much like a threat as it does a promise. Here’s how Bryan laid it out just before the Romine signing:
Current 26-man roster, continued.
5. S. Miller
CL – Kimbrel
SU – Wick
SU – Adam
SU – Stock
LH – Ryan
MR – Winkler
MR – Holder
LR – Underwood
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) January 22, 2021
As you can see, the Cubs still have some impact players who, particularly coming off of 2020 and heading toward free agency, might have huge seasons in 2021. I won’t rule that out as a reason to have some optimism for competing in the otherwise crappy NL Central this year.
But as you can ALSO see, the bench and the back of the rotation are kinda eye-popping. The bullpen doesn’t have a lot of “name” power, but between that group and the many, many options after them, I do trust the Cubs to come up with something useful. But the depth beyond the top couple in the rotation – when such a huge innings bump is required – is unnerving if you actually want to compete and not throw youngsters to the wolves to get shredded. And the bench – plus left field and second base (where Nico Hoerner could probably stand to play at AAA) – is David Bote and fringe options. Find to have those types in Spring Training to see what’s what, but when you don’t have a loaded group of starters ahead of them anyway, it’s like … it’s just jarring to see. In a normal world, you’d want those guys competing for the last bench spot, not locked into three or four of them.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: even as the Cubs don’t have a lot of money to offer free agents, they sure can offer clear opportunities for playing time!