The Chicago Cubs today cut the spring roster down significantly, with five more heading out to minor league camp. The roster is down to 31.
On the way out: infielder Ildemaro Vargas, and pitchers Stephen Gonsalves, Robert Gsellman, Jonathan Holder, and Steven Brault. None of the four pitchers was expected to make the Opening Day roster, but all four are strong candidates to appear at some point on the big league team this year, assuming they don’t sooner opt out of their minor league deals.
Vargas was a plausible candidate to make the big league roster to begin the season, with Andrelton Simmons likely to start the year on the Injured List, and Nico Hoerner and Jonathan Villar otherwise the only capable shortstops on the roster. Hoerner can handle the job, and Villar is probably a good enough back-up for now that the Cubs didn’t want to have to create a 40-man spot for Vargas just yet.
With the big league roster down to 31 – and the Opening Day roster expanded to 28 – we’re pretty close to having the roster set. Wade Miley and Andrelton Simmons are expected to open the season on the Injured List, so the roster is really down to something more like 29. That final spot figures to go to one of first baseman Alfonso Rivas, or relievers Ethan Roberts and Michael Rucker. Two of those three will make the Opening Day roster, the other will be optioned to Iowa for now. I think the Cubs could stand to go with 14 position players and 14 pitchers to start the year, in which case Rivas would stay up for now, and one of Rucker or Roberts would head to Iowa (to return soon thereafter, I expect).