With the Cubs out on their first road trip of the year, they are to take a “taxi squad” of players with them from the alternate site, so that if a last-minute call-up is needed because of an injury, the guy is already there. Given the various COVID protocols, it would be a big issue if your last-minute call-ups had to deal with transportation and quarantining and testing and what-have-you, all on a schedule different from the big league roster. These are not normal times.
So, then, I’ve been pretty darn curious to hear who was on the five-man taxi squad for this first road trip, because it would give us a lot of insight into who the Cubs see as the “next guys up,” and at what spots. This is pretty nerdy, obsessive stuff, but I get into it.
To that end, Russell Dorsey reports that the five alternate site players with the Cubs in Pittsburgh are: utility man Ildemaro Vargas, outfielder Rafael Ortega, catcher PJ Higgins, lefty reliever Brad Wieck, and righty reliever Pedro Strop.
For the most part, none of those names should surprise you, because they are basically the last five guys who were cut from big league camp (i.e., the five guys who were otherwise closest to making the team in the first place). It’s also unsurprising that it’s a perfect balance of the possible positional needs.
What’s mildly surprising is that, outside of Wieck, none of the other four are on the 40-man roster. So if the Cubs did have to make a last minute swap for an injury, they’d also have to make a 40-man roster move to create space for whichever player they were adding (again, unless it was Wieck). That’s not necessarily a huge issue, depending on what injury occurred or what else is happening on the roster at the time, but it’s something to think about: this year, if you have to pull someone from the taxi squad quickly, you won’t necessarily have as much flexibility in planning out bigger picture impacts.
Basically, though, everyone just stay healthy, and then there are no worries!