Earlier this week, I saw an article about the looming New York Mets roster crunch, which got me thinking more broadly about what’s coming next week for all teams, including the Cubs.
Ignoring the specifics of the report for the moment (unless you REALLY want to dig deep on the Mets roster), allow this to be a reminder that when rosters around baseball are cut down next Monday, a *LOT* of orgs are going to have tough decisions at the margins:
https://t.co/6Mnu4QuikJ By noon Monday (barring injury) the #Mets will have to remove 1 position player from the roster. Is it possible the choice will be release Cano vs. demote Dom Smith? Deep diving the possibilities with also Jankowski, Davis, Guillorme.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) April 26, 2022
The 28-man roster becomes the 26-man roster on Monday, and not every organization has two obvious, fully-optionable players on the roster they can just easy-peasy send down. There is a little more flexibility in which players a team can choose to remove from the roster, thanks to the league punting on the 13-pitcher-limit for another month, but two players are nevertheless gonna have to head out, regardless of role.
For many organizations, that’s going to mean guys without options are waived or traded or released. And for other organizations, it’s going to mean new opportunities to reshape the roster and/or make moves for the future.
Turns out, Cubs President Jed Hoyer was already predicting what this week was going to look like back at the start of the month. From The Athletic:
Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer anticipated this roster crunch when he spoke with reporters before the season opener at Wrigley Field. Since then, MLB and the MLB Players Association agreed to a 14-pitcher maximum from May 2 through May 29 while maintaining the planned reduction in roster spots, from 28 to 26, beginning May 2. The roster will look different next week when the Cubs return from a road trip to Atlanta and Milwaukee and host the White Sox for a two-game crosstown series.
“Normally, you get past Opening Day and it quiets down,” Hoyer said on April 7. “This year, the one thing that’s going to be interesting is rosters have to go back to 26 on May 2. So when that happens, I think there’s going to be a lot of transactions that happen around the league around that time because a lot of decisions have been punted. It’s the out-of-options guys or different decisions that you haven’t had to make right now that you’re going to have to make at some point.
“So a lot of the deals that you would have seen now — or transactions you would have seen now — are just going to happen in three weeks. I think it will be pretty active around that time. And then I think it will quiet down until we get into July.”
So, then, much of the edge-of-the-roster transacting you would typically see in the final week of Spring Training has been pushed out, and while most of what we see around baseball will be marginal stuff, you never quite know how this move cascades into that move.
For the Cubs, it comes down to whether they want to stay at 14 pitchers for a bit longer, in which case they would option one young reliever to the minors (Michael Rucker?), and would have to move out a position player. It could be Michael Hermosillo, though he has no options left, and thus would factor into the waiver mix I was talking about above. Some team might prefer to give him more meaningful opportunities and claim him.
The Cubs could also option Alfonso Rivas back to Iowa, though that would kinda piss me off at this point. There are also decisions to make on Jason Heyward and Rafael Ortega – it’s all connected – but I’m not sure the Cubs are going to be ready to do that just yet. Oh, and phantom injuries. There is always the possibility of a phantom injury solving things for a while.
And, of course, it also all comes down to whether someone hits the waiver wire or the trade market that the Cubs have been hoping to snag. That could throw a lot for a loop – again, it’s likely all at the margins, but that stuff can matter in a season like this, particularly when the Cubs are transparently trying to add any and all pieces that could conceivably add a little value in 2023 and beyond.