With Spring Training winding down, the Chicago Cubs are starting to make serious roster decisions. That being said, the team is facing even more questions heading into the 2014 campaign. Although the claim of Donnie Murphy by Texas and the release of George Kottaras clear up some of the questions, there are still some arrangements to be made.
It’s been extremely well documented on how nice of a spring Olt is having with the big club, and after the two errors he made in his first game at third, Olt has come back strong on the field in hopes of proving to Theo and Jed he’s ready. With Olt on the roster, the bench spots became much easier to project.
The locks for the bench include Luis Valbuena, Emilio Bonifacio, and of course, newly-appointed backup catcher John Baker. The fourth spot goes to the Nate Schierholtz-Justin Ruggiano platoon, and that fifth spot was still up for grabs. After hearing very little of Ryan Roberts all spring, there had been an uptick in rumors recently that he actually had a chance to make the team.
However, those rumors were put to bed when it was announced that Ryan Kalish would make the 25-man roster for Chicago after an impressive spring. In terms of the rest of the position players, the organization could take a hard look at Emilio Bonifacio who,of course, plays several positions, and could serve as that fifth outfielder. However, the Cubs could just take the better player in Kalish, who has a .275/.370/.300 line, over Roberts who has hit just .237 this spring and is much older than Kalish.
I doubted Roberts could lock down that fifth bench spot, as Theo himself had professed his love for Kalish recently. With the support of the front office on his side, and frankly, a better spring showing (not just statistics, he’s looked great too), Kalish was a clear front-runner for the position.
There are also a few possible scenarios facing the pitching staff as well, as the Cubs still haven’t confirmed that rotation, which of course has a ripple effect on the bullpen. If Chris Rusin cracks the rotation, Carlos Villanueva will head to the pen and one of Alberto Cabrera, Justin Grimm, and Hector Rondon won’t make it.
Alberto Cabrera is out of options, making it a safe bet he’ll be on the roster, but Grimm and Rondon can both be sent to the minors. If Rusin indeed takes the number five spot it’s my guess that Grimm will be sent to Triple-A to get some starts in that Iowa rotation, even if he’s considered a reliever at this point by the front office.
Carlos Villanueva taking the temporary rotation spot opens up a bullpen spot for each of Rondon, Grimm and Cabrera. Villanueva has the flexibility to be able to make a couple starts and transition to the bullpen, while you might want Chris Rusin to just get some full time in that Iowa rotation, and of course, he can just be optioned there.