The Chicago Cubs sported their green caps today to celebrate St. Patrick’s day and hopefully bring good luck to the team in 2011. Slowly but surely Spring Training is winding down. Coming off of their only day off of the Spring, manager Mike Quade and his staff will now spend the final two weeks of Spring evaluating what players are the best fit for the Cubs’ 25 man roster. Here is the latest on how the Cubs’ 25 man roster is shaping up.
Despite Opening Day being only two weeks away, the Cub still have several holes on their 25 man roster. Most notably, is their search for a 4th and 5th starter in their rotation. According to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, Mike Quade could make a decision on the final two spots in the rotation as early as next Monday. Among those still in competition for a spot in the rotation are Randy Wells, Andrew Cashner, Braden Looper, James Russell, and Carlos Silva. Todd Wellemyer, who was a rotation candidate, now appears to be competing for a spot in the bullpen as a long reliever.
The only things that is known about the final two spots in the Cubs’ rotation, is that Randy Wells will probably be the team’s 4th starter. Thus leaving four pitchers for only one spot. It would seem that Andrew Cashner has the inside track at being the fifth starter, but Cashner has gone through some control issues this Spring. If Cashner does not make the rotation, he would then be moved to the bullpen instead of going to Triple A-Iowa. That leaves me scratching my head. While Cashner has proven that he can be an effective reliever in the major leagues, I’m not sure if the Cubs are looking out for their future. If they envision Cashner as a future starting pitcher, it would make a lot of sense to send him down to Triple A so he can work on being a starting pitcher. Regardless, I think Cashner will win the fifth starter’s spot anyways.
With Wells and Cashner potentially in the rotation, that would mean that Braden Looper, Carlos Silva, and James Russell would not really have a spot on the 25 man roster. The Cubs have been impressed with Russell’s performance this Spring, which is why he may be sent to Iowa in order to sure up his skills as a starting pitcher. As for Looper, and Silva they may not be members of the Cubs organization come Opening Day. Looper, who signed a non-guaranteed deal, would likely retire if he does not make the rotation. Meanwhile, the Cubs are still hoping that they will be able to trade Carlos Silva before April 1, and they are willing to absorb most of the $11.5MM owed to Silva for the 2011 season.
While most of the attention has been on the holes in the Cubs’ pitching staff, there still is couple of battles going on as far as position players go. The Cubs have not been thrilled with their second base platoon of Jeff Baker nor Blake DeWitt, and Darwin Barney may be the answer they are looking for. Barney figures to make the team over Augie Ojeda–who has not seen nearly the same amount of playing time as Barney has. However, the battle for the fifth outfielder’s spot is much more intriguing. As neither Fernando Perez nor Reed Johnson have done anything to stand out in their competition with each other. The Cubs will have to base their decision from what they hope to get out of each player. Perez brings the asset of having one of the fastest guys in the league, whereas Johnson is loved in the clubhouse for how he plays all three outfield positions. Fernando Perez does have a minor league option left, which is why I think the Cubs will start out with Reed Johnson as their fifth outfielder.
General manager Jim Hendry will discuss the potential 25 man roster with manager Mike Quade and members of his coaching staff this week. We may finally be in line for answers on some of the remaining position battles going on in the Cubs’ camp.