Morning Cubs Roundup: Where the roster stands heading into offseason
today at 8:27 am
Cubs Current Roster
I won’t be digging too deeply into the outlook and potential scenarios today. There’s plenty of time for that in the coming days and weeks. But I did want to provide a high-level overview of where the Cubs roster stands as they head into what figures to be a crucial offseason, beginning with the position players. Part two concerning the pitchers will be out tomorrow morning.
40-Man Roster (3): Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini, Miguel Amaya
UFA: Josh Phegley
Rule 5 Eligible: P.J. Higgins
Perhaps the Cubs strongest position group. Contreras has made multiple All-Star teams and is coming off a season in which he made the jump from one of the worst to one of the best pitch framers in the Majors. He has two more years of team control. His trade value may never be higher, but so to may be his value to the Cubs.
Victor Caratini didn’t hit like he did in 2019, which isn’t a shock. Caratini’s power profile is closer to his 2020 output than his 2019, but he does make contact and he helped navigate Yu Darvish to a potential Cy Young award. He has three years of team control, and like Contreras, his value may never be higher.
With prospect Miguel Amaya looming on the horizon (2022 ETA) as a future starter at the position, the Cubs could look to move one of their veterans this offseason as they attempt to shakeup the roster. They would need to sign a one year stopgap to back up whichever they kept, but that shouldn’t be an issue, regardless of where the Cubs budget falls in 2021.
First Base / DH
40-Man Roster: Anthony Rizzo (final team option year), Jose Martinez
Rule 5 Eligible: Jared Young
Not much to say here. The Cubs will pick up Rizzo’s final option year. He is still one of the best veteran bargains in baseball. I doubt the Cubs would strongly consider trading him, but if they truly believe a massive shake up of the team’s leadership group is necessary, moving Rizzo would provide that plus a good prospect haul.
Jose Martinez was a massive disappointment after coming over at the trade deadline. But he is a proven MLB hitter, especially against lefties, and should be the leading candidate for a platoon role at DH in 2021.
40-Man Roster: Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, David Bote, Nico Hoerner, Ildemaro Vargas
Free Agents: Jason Kipnis
Rule 5 Eligible: Christopher Morel, Trent Giambrone, Aramis Ademan
Another positional group where the Cubs have some flexibility. Kris Bryant and Javier Baez enter their final season before they become eligible for free agency. I’ve always believed the team will be able to get one of the two signed to a contract extension, with Baez the more likely of the two. Bryant would then seem to be the more likely trade candidate. They have a solid fill-in (David Bote), with a potential full-time replacement coming in 2022-23 (Chris Morel).
The issue becomes, what is Bryant’s trade value really like? He’s coming off an injury plagued season, and given his early career success, his final arbitration year number figures to set a record. He’s team controlled, but far from cheap. Given the uncertainty around his recent health and performance, along with the league-wide belief that Bryant will test free agency, how much would a team really be willing to give up to rent him? I think it is possible the Cubs are better off keeping him and then collecting the draft pick compensation for him if he walks in 2021. One year of KB production plus a draft pick may be more valuable than non-high level prospects in return.
There will undoubtedly be pressure to bring Jason Kipnis back for 2021. He’s one of the few hitters who did not put up terrible numbers this year, but when you look beyond his surface level stats there is a lot of reason to believe Kipnis survived due to luck. His expected battign average was below .200 this season. If he is willing to come into ST on another Minor League deal, fine. But the Cubs can do better, and should aim to do so.
Chris Morel will be added to the 40-man this offseason. He was still really raw when we last saw him in 2019, but the upside was unmistakable. Hopefully his experience in the South Bend camp this summer helped accelerate his growth. He likely opens next year in AA.
40-man roster: Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ, Jason Heyward, Albert Almora
Free Agents: Cameron Maybin, Billy Hamilton, Mark Zagunis
Rule 5 Eligible: None
This is the thinnest position group at the Major League level and in the upper Minors. Ian Happ and Jason Heyward rebounded nicely in 2020, and both figure to return in 2021. The Cubs really need both to remain threats at the plate if they hope to contend again.
The future is less certain regarding Kyle Schwarber. The fourth core member a year away from free agency, he was unable to replicate his 2019 second half breakout. The Cubs have been extremely patient waiting on the powerful lefty to become a consistent performer, but five years in, he’s failed to accomplish it. Just as with Bryant and Baez, there is likely only room for one extension between Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber. Schwarbs may be younger, and doesn’t have a potentially balky back, but my money is still on the captain being the more likely to stay.
I believe there is a very good chance Albert Almora gets non-tendered this offseason. With their budget likely limited by the pandemic, it makes no sense to allocate a Major League salary to a player who has ended up in the Minors the past two seasons. I suppose they could try re-signing him to a MiLB deal later, but it certainly feels like it is long past the time the Cubs moved on from the former 1st rounder.
Cameron Maybin and Billy Hamilton both made some positive impact after coming over late in the season. Given the Cubs lack of depth, I could see one or both being offered a deal. Maybin still looks the part of a solid backup who is used to producing even when given inconsistent playing time, so they would need to offer him a million or two on a Major League deal. As for Hamilton, given his inability to hit, and the fact he’s bounced around to multiple teams the last couple of years, he should receive no more than a MILB offer. There are worse options to have available in Iowa next season though. He can still run and field.
The Cubs made an effort to fortify their prospect depth in the outfield a couple of years ago, drafting and signing a number of high upside athletes, but outside of a potential quick rise by Brennen Davis, that wave of talent is still a couple of years away from arriving at the earliest. The organization is going to need to be creative filling in the outfield depth the next season or two.
Morning Cubs Roundup