The Roster, The Rumors and Cubs News and Notes

Officially, the Cubs have 34 players on their Spring Training roster, but only 31 of those players are healthy and one has not played in a big league game since March 2. The deadline to unconditionally release players with non-guaranteed contracts and pay only a quarter of their salary is Wednesday at 1:00pm CDT. So, there could be some clarity to the Cubs Opening Day roster in the very near future.

The Cubs have not made the announcement yet but Kyuji Fujikawa will begin the season on the 60-day DL. Fujikawa is not expected to be ready to pitch until late May at the earliest. Once Fujikawa is placed on the 60-day DL, the Cubs will clear a spot on the 40-man roster. Jake Arrieta is two to three weeks behind the rest of the pitchers in camp and will begin the year on the 15-day DL. The other injury concern is James McDonald. McDonald signed a one-year, non-guaranteed contract with the Cubs and he has not pitched in a game since March 17 when he took himself out after two pitches. It is unclear at this point if the Cubs will place McDonald on the DL or release him.

So with 31 active players in camp, the Cubs still have decisions to make. Two of the catchers will be reassigned to minor league camp, released or traded. As for which catcher will begin the year as the back-up to Welington Castillo, that decision apparently has not been made yet. When the Cubs claimed George Kottaras and agreed to terms on a one-year contract to avoid arbitration, most thought he was a lock to start the season as Castillo’s backup. But according to a report from the Tribune, John Baker could push Kottaras off the roster. The lefty-hitting backstop has put together a .286/.286/.429 line in 10 games this spring prior to Tuesday while Kottaras has managed a .150/.320/.350 line in 12 games. But according to Bruce Levine, the Rangers are “taking a hard look” at George Kottaras with the recent injury to Geovany Soto. So, a deal could be in the works with Texas on more than one front if Jon Daniels is willing to deal with the Cubs again.

As for the pitching staff, the last three spots depend on what the Cubs decide to do with Chris Rusin. If Rusin begins the year as the Cubs’ fifth starter, Carlos Villanueva will move to the pen with Hector Rondon, Alberto Cabrera or Justin Grimm taking the final two spots in the pen. If Villanueva is in the Cubs’ rotation and Rusin is optioned to Iowa, all three relievers start the year in the bullpen.

The last spots on the bench are still up for grabs and between Mike Olt, Donnie Murphy, Ryan Kalish, Chris Coghlan and Ryan Roberts because, while it is not official, Emilio Bonifacio has made the team.

Mike Olt and Donnie Murphy appear to be connected to the point it will be either Murphy on the Opening Day roster and Olt in Iowa or the Cubs will move on from Donnie Murphy. The Cubs avoided arbitration with Murphy and he is in camp on a non-guaranteed contract. Ryan Roberts is making a push for the roster according to reports from the Tribune and Comcast SportsNet. Roberts has done a good job at the plate this spring while playing multiple positions. Ryan Kalish has outplayed Chris Coghlan this spring but Coghlan offers more versatility in the field. Kalish’s upside and whether or not the front office feels he should play every day will have an impact on the decision to add Kalish to the roster or reassign him to minor league camp.

Teams are interested in Nate Schierholtz and Darwin Barney and if one of those teams step up and give the Cubs what they are looking for in return for Schierholtz and Barney, the Cubs will have two more open spots on the active and 40-man roster to fill.

The 25-Man Roster

After spending the off-season focused on the 40-man big league roster, it is always good this time of year to switch gears and discuss a 25-man roster.

The Cubs will begin the season with a 12-man pitching staff (five starters, seven relievers), two catchers and 11 position players.

Starters: Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood

Relievers: Jose Veras, Pedro Strop, James Russell, Wesley Wright

Three spots still to be determined on the pitching staff between Chris Rusin, Carlos Villanueva, Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm and Alberto Cabrera. Villanueva will be on the roster either in the pen or in the rotation.

Catchers: Welington Castillo

George Kottaras and John Baker appear to be the favorites to backup Castillo but Eli Whiteside remains in camp.

Infielders: Anthony Rizzo, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro and Luis Valbuena

Outfielders: Junior Lake, Justin Ruggiano, Ryan Sweeney and Nate Schierholtz

Utility: Emilio Bonifacio

Unless a trade or two is made or Starlin Castro is placed on the DL, the Cubs have two spots open to be filled by Mike Olt, Donnie Murphy, Ryan Kalish, Chris Coghlan and Ryan Roberts.

Darwin Barney

Teams like the Rangers, Yankees, Mets and Tigers have been connected to Darwin Barney this spring. The Rangers are looking for help in their infield and so are both New York teams. It is unclear at this point how much interest the Tigers have in acquiring Barney with the trades they’ve made to acquire Alex Gonzalez and Andrew Romine.

Jim Bowden is convinced the Dodgers should make a deal with the Cubs for Darwin Barney.

Jon Paul Morosi reported Tuesday the Rangers are having trade discussions to add depth at second base. And Texas has scouts watching Darwin Barney in the Cactus League.

The Cubs are “fielding late-spring calls from teams trying to fill roster needs before the season opens for most next week” according to the Sun-Times and a handful of teams are looking for infielders.

Nate Schierholtz

The Tigers are interested in trading for Nate Schierholtz and according to Bruce Levine, the Tigers have been following Schierholtz since Andy Dirks went down. The Cubs are looking for pitching in return for Schierholtz, or any player they deal from the big league roster. Levine thinks a deal will get done with Detroit for Schierholtz before Opening Day.

Starlin Castro

Starlin Castro is expected to resume his rehab in a minor league game on Wednesday. Castro passed a series of tests on Tuesday morning and the Cubs would like to see Castro play 6-7 innings in the minor league game, both in the field and at the plate. If all goes well for Castro on Wednesday, he could play in Thursday’s game against the White Sox.

The Cubs and Castro are going to be cautious. Neither the team nor Castro is going to push him and risk the cold weather months (April, May) to cause the hamstring injury to linger.

Starlin Castro told David Kaplan he would be okay with moving positions for Javier Baez. Castro reiterated that he has a good relationship with Baez and he is willing to do whatever it takes to help the Cubs win ballgames.

News and Notes

Justin Ruggiano was a late scratch from Tuesday afternoon’s lineup with left ankle soreness. Ruggiano is not expecting to miss any time with the injury.

Jeff Samardzija put his Lakeview condo up for sale according to a report from the Tribune. And before more is made about this than there is, Samardzija did not live in the condo. It was a rental property.

Rick Renteria and the Cubs will not say who will be at third base on Opening Day in Pittsburgh. Mike Olt improved his stock Tuesday with another good day at the plate as well as two excellent plays (and throws) from third base. The Cubs are concerned about Olt’s shoulder according to Patrick Mooney and if they think it will be a lingering issue he will be sent down to Iowa to start the season.

Rick Renteria is not concerned with the way Jose Veras is pitching this spring. Veras will begin the season as the team’s closer. Renteria said about Veras Tuesday, “When the lights turn on with those guys, it’s a different ballgame.”

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  • J Daniel

    GREAT stuff, as usual.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Thank you.

  • Tony_H

    Great recap of the entire roster and job competition situations.

    I honestly will be shocked if Barney and Schierholtz don’t have new homes before Opening Day. Barney to either the Dodgers or Rangers and Schierholt to Detroit. Both of these players make great sense for these teams. Let’s trade Barney, Kottaras for another SP prospect from the Rangers.

    • cubtex

      I wouldn’t be shocked. If Theo asks for too much for both of these players the teams will go someplace else. As long as he is realistic they will be moved. Just like DeJesus for cash. Schierholtz for a 25 to 30 type prospect and the same for Barney. But I agree…It makes too much sense for both of these players to be moved now instead of later.

    • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

      Thanks Tony

  • Tony_H

    I am going to assume Barney and Schierholtz are traded on this 25 man roster to see what it would look like…I think it would improve our lineup!

    Opening Day lineup (Liriano – LH)

    1. Bonifacio 2B
    2. Castro SS
    3. Rizzo 1B
    4. Ruggiano LF
    5. Lake CF
    6. Olt 3B
    7. Kalish RF
    8. Castillo C

    Bench
    C Baker (L)
    INF Valbuena (L) Roberts (R)
    OF Sweeney (L) Coghlan (L)

    Rotation
    1. Samardzija
    2. Wood
    3. Jackson
    4. Hammel
    5. Rusin

    Bullpen
    1. Veras
    2. Strop
    3. Grimm
    4. Cabrera
    5. Villanueva
    6. Russell
    7. Wright

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      Totally agree. But I’m not sure they won’t force Valbuena into the lineup based on how he’s played this ST. I know people don’t like him but I’ve always thought he was a guy that may improve and be solid some day. This could be the year he hits 20+ HR with a 270-280 average.

      • John_CC

        .280/20+ HR from Valbuena? I am rather neutral on Valbuena, I do not hate this kid and do see his usefulness and value to the team. But .280 and 20 HR is beyond a stretch.

        • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

          This season? He’s leading MLb in HR in spring. I see him having a good year. Good enough he probably isn’t around in August.

          • cubtex

            that away Rider. Don’t let anyone burst your bubble :))

      • mutantbeast

        Maybe overdoing it Board. Valbuena is what he is, a solid uitility IF with occasional power and modest OBP skills. Hes not a starter on a playoff team, except if the rest of your lineup is the 27 Yankees.

    • GaryLeeT

      I am going to kill the messenger, and down vote you.

      • Tony_H

        Enjoy! FYI – It is only for your own pleasure, it doesn’t show up anymore.

      • cubtex

        I am with you. No matter who you plug in for this year….no covering up that 3,4,5 spot. Can you really imagine penciling in Ruggiano or Olt in the middle of a mlb lineup after last year?

  • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

    My buddy picked the Cubs to win a wild card spot as his “NL sleeper.” Told him he was pretty crazy, that we would be improved but not to that level. He’s convinced we’re gonna surprise people and he’s a crazy baseball fan that knows what he’s talking about usually. Spends all the money on MLB Ticket and goes to Red Sox spring training every year.

    Not saying I believe this, but I just think it’s interesting that there are people out there that do believe we will surprise folks so much.

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      I told him it would be a better pick next year. In 2016 we’ll be a “sexy,” sleeper type pick and odds won’t be as good for the betting man, but next year it would be a decent bet.

      • mutantbeast

        With 3 solid starters and if Baez/Bryant play up to there advance clippings, I can see the Cubs as an 85-90 win club in 2015. Maybe sign a James Shileds in the offseason to front your rotation.

    • Tony_H

      Board – Hard to believe you have a friend you are talking down about Cubs expectations :)

      • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

        LOL! I know, right. Especially the source, he’s pretty sharp and has always leaned more toward the Cardinals in the national league. But as a Red Sox fan, obviously he has faith in Theo and Jed.

    • Eugene Debs

      Your buddy is nuts.

      • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

        Yes he is. And like most Sox fans blindl faith in Theo

  • Tony_H

    Does anyone think that Jon Daniels just used the press to admit that the Garza trade may haunt the team and him personally to try and use the past fleecing of his farm system by Theo and Jed to get a better deal for Barney and Kottaras?

    These guys obviously talk to each other a lot and settled the Soto trade and the Brigham injury and swapping Brigham for Loux without a drawn out public fight and needing the commissioner or arbitrator to get involved. I think Barney will be a Ranger by Opening Day, unless the Dodgers “overpay” for him :)

    • GaryLeeT

      I would think that at least one of the prospects the Cubs got from Texas would have to make in the majors, before we could say someone got the better end of a deal.

      • Tony_H

        Um, it sure looks like Olt and Grimm will make it in a few days, Ramirez was real close and Edwards was considered the best player of the bunch. But yeah, to know the true extent of the trade will need more time to for us to get the true value of the return of 3 months of Garza.

        • GaryLeeT

          Make it in the majors, not just make it to the majors.

          • cubtex

            I think the Garza deal was a great trade for the Cubs. Great trade. The Dempster for Hendricks and Villanueva will imo not amount to any above average mlb talent and of course the Soto for Loux(unless you are Boradrider) is not a gain.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            Loux could turn out ;). But considering we were willing to give away Soto it was something. Villanueva and Hendricks may turn into more prospects or two beige leaguers, solid if not spectacular. But no, that trade isn’t th obvious victory the Garza trade is.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            We have 4 prospects and they have nothing to show for it. As soon as Olt takes his first big league swing an Grimm throws his frat pitch it will be official. And I think its safe to project that we have been huge winners. To me Theo has overwhelmingly win just about all his trades except Cashner which still remains to be seen.

          • cubtex

            that is what teams do who are trying to win. Same type of deal Theo made for Victor Martinez. He had Victor for 3 months and gave up Justin Masterson for him. Cubs will do that type of trade when they are close to winning and looking for that 1 piece to get them over the top.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            I get that. But didn’t VMart stick around another season?

            I’ll be happy when we’re in that position and we will have the assets to do it.

          • cubtex

            yes you are right. I just checked. I thought it was a half season.

  • Eugene Debs

    So, I guess a shoulder heals faster in Iowa?

    • Tom U

      Astute observation. The Iowa Cubs will not have a chance to use a DH until May 19 at Round Rock. Until then, all the teams they will face are either NL affiliates or AL affiliates in Des Moines.

      Of course, Olt can get some work in, as well as rest his shoulder, at first base.

      • cubtex

        I plan on being there for that series

      • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

        Has there been an announcement? Olt going to Iowa?

        • Tom U

          No, just discussing the comments made by Patrick Mooney.

          • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

            Was there a link? I missed it.

    • Scott

      Obviously not, but if he cannot be out there every day and needs to take a few days off all of the time and be unavailable, it is better to do that down in Iowa than to take up a roster space on the 25 man. Plus, if he needs some time, you can DL him and let him rehab while you keep someone like Murphy for a month or so. What you don’t want to happen is to cut Murphy (who isn’t great, but can fill the roster for now) and then have Olt have problems in a week and need to go on the DL and then you are shorthanded.

      • Tom U

        Sorry to disagree Scott, but the Cubs would be in an almost no-lose situation by having Olt on the 25 man roster.

        The worst case scenario for Olt would be a trip to the DL. With the current roster, Valbuena would move over to third. The Cubs have two infielders on options in Logan Watkins and Arismendy Alcantara (three, if you also want to count Josh Vitters), so recalling them at any time this season will only have an effect on their service time.

        Furthermore, there is always the probability of a “street” veteran (think Cody Ransom) being available after final roster cuts.

        • Scott

          All very good points and none of which I can really argue with. But I also wonder if they might send Olt down so there is less pressure to perform and be “perfect” like some will expect in Chicago. After last year, putting up good numbers will be a huge confidence boost for Olt. I would prefer him to be able to do that from day 1 in Chicago, but I would also understand sending him down for a few weeks too.

          • cubtex

            just traded Murphy so I imagine Olt is starting the season with the Cubs.

          • Tom U

            Understandable

    • cubtex

      Didn’t see the game but that barehand bunt play that Olt made puts the least amount of strain on a shoulder since you pick it up barehand and throw in an underhand or submarine motion. You are not raising your arm past shoulder level. Having a bad shoulder that is the throw that I can make without any pain whatsoever. I don’t know if he had to unload any throws to first where he had to air it out….but a true test is if he fields a ground ball to his right at 3rd and has to come over the top at 100%. If he can make that throw he can make any throw.

    • jtrain23

      The only advantage I can see of him starting the year in Iowa is that he can still get at bats even if his shoulder is too sore to make the throw from third base.

      He can play 1st base in AAA. That isn’t going to happen very often on the big league roster. So that leaves him either sitting the bench with a sore arm or on the DL. Either way, he is sitting, and I think the main thing he needs at this point is as many at bats as he can get to prove to himself and the team that he is over last year’s struggles.

      If his shoulder is healthy, then keep him up and play him at 3rd. If not, then start him at AAA. That’s just my opinion, which is obviously not worth much.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    From Nick Cafardo: “He looks great, brings a lot to the table and is in our long-term plans,” Theo Epstein said about Ryan Kalish, who could make Cubs OD rostr

    • http://theboardridersuite.wordpress.com/ Theboardrider

      Love it! I’m think he’s goin to be a grey, not good big leaguer.

      • John_CC

        Nothing is black and white with you!

        • cubtex

          well done

  • Tom U

    This tweet from Kevin Druley:

    Manager Mark ‏Johnson said 2014 Kane County Cougars will feature “a few returners, but not many” from last season, the club’s first as a Cubs affiliate

  • mutantbeast

    Jon Daniels, Id be thrilled to trade you George Kotteras for Rougned Odor anytime.

  • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

    From Mark Gonzales (11:49am CDT): Renteria said no cuts planned. Could get busy after waiver period ends.

  • cubtex

    From Forbes. Cubs valued at 1.2 billion. 4th highest in all of baseball. Mr. Ricketts needs to start putting a product on the field next year in line with that valuation. Look at the payroll of the 3 teams ahead of them.

    http://www.forbes.com/pictures/mlm45fdgdd/4-chicago-cubs-5/

  • Tom U

    Tweet from Jerry Crasnick:

    ‏@jcrasnick

    #rangers have traded for IF Donnie Murphy

    • cubtex

      I guess that means Olt is on opening day roster.

      • cubtex

        should open a 40 man roster spot as well.

        • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

          Yes, it opens a spot on the 40-man

          • cubtex

            Bonifacio? That would be my guess and if they trade Schierholtz or Sweeney they will add Kalish.

          • http://chicagocubsonline.com/ Neil

            Two spots now open, Kottaras was released. Bonifacio already had a spot with Fujikawa

          • cubtex

            just saw that. thanks

          • triple

            This is all great news! Not monumental or anything, but it is a clear sign of the future, and putting younger players with more upside on the field!

  • cubtex

    Kottaras was just released as well.

    • Tom U

      Placed on unconditional release waivers

  • cubtex

    Sounds like Murphy was just claimed on waivers for the waiver fee.

  • cubtex

    With Kottaras released and the lack of catching depth in the system…the Tigers have several in their system. They currently have 3 catcher on their 40 man roster with 2 young ones in the minors in James McCann and Curt Casali. A Schierholtz for one of those catchers would fill a need.

    • triple

      You are right… that would be a great move to bring in some more catching depth with Schierholtz.

    • TheWrongGuy

      The biggest thing I am worried about in a deal with Detroit is being blocked by another team.
      The Nationals recent moves and current signing of Frandsen has me wondering if Detroit is talking more with them than the Cubs.