MESA, Ariz. -- Moving day for the Chicago Cubs on Monday brought some answers about the roster as the team sent three of their top prospects to the minors in Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Addison Russell. That leaves 35 players left for 25 spots and the Cubs have less than a week to trim.
“We don’t think it’s a high likelihood we’ll make a move outside of this camp,” president Theo Epstein said Monday. “We’ll monitor small trade possibilities but we think we have a lot of answers here in camp.”
So who’s in and who’s out among the position players? The Cubs will take 13 back to Chicago with them. The infield picture is clear now:
Anthony Rizzo, Tommy La Stella, Starlin Castro, Mike Olt and Arismendy Alcantara have made the team. Olt is the back-up first baseman while Alcantara will back-up Castro at shortstop. La Stella will be the back-up at third base. The Cubs have been especially impressed with La Stella as he’s never played third as a professional before this spring. He made an error in the Cubs 8-5 win over the San Francisco Giants on Monday but that didn’t damper the Cubs hopes he can play there if needed in the regular season.
“We told Joe [Maddon] this (Monday) morning, ‘now that La Stella looks like Brooks Robinson can you get him some time at second,’” Epstein joked. “He’s opened our eyes. He’s gotten a lot better.”
As for who is the starter at second base Maddon will probably mix and match depending on who’s on the mound. But if all things are equal La Stella might get the nod more often as Alcantara is on the bench as a super-sub. Their bats might simply determine their playing time in April anyway.
In the outfield, Jorge Soler, Dexter Fowler and Chris Coghlan are the starters with Ryan Sweeney one of the back-ups along with either Matt Szczur or Junior Lake. But that could be short lived as Chris Denorfia is ready to return to baseball activity after injuring his hamstring. He may not be healthy by Sunday but he should be available soon. It could be a tough call between Lake and Szczur only because Lake can play some infield if needed. Szczur’s skill set is more suited for a bench role -- and he’s had a great spring -- so he’s probably the favorite to make the team.
“We talked about different scenarios that included all three (Sweeney, Szczur, Lake) of those guys but there are other things that could possibly be done too,” Maddon said.
Rounding out the position players is the three-headed catching monster of Welington Castillo, David Ross and Miguel Montero. The Cubs may open the season with the trio on the roster but it’s doubtful they last long. The one outside the box move could be keeping spring invitee Jonathan Herrera. He’s accorded himself well but with Alcantara’s versatility there may not be a need.
“He’s a beautiful man,” Maddon said of the infielder/outfielder. “That makes all the difference in the world.”
It may not be the best 13 position players in the organization but it’s the 13 they’ll take with them back to Chicago to open the season this weekend.