When rosters expand in September to teams’ full 40-man rosters, the Chicago Cubs will have some decisions to make. What they will also have that no one else in the Major Leagues will is a lot of wiggle room.
Chicago leads its division by the widest margin in all of baseball, and it’s not close. That allows it to work in some young guys without sacrificing its place in the standings. Of course, the team also has some patches to fill while waiting for guys to return from the disabled list.
That means a number of the expanded roster spots will be going to relievers who can eat up innings. Andury Acevedo, R.J. Alvarez, Gerardo Concepcion and Pierce Johnson are the guys already on the 40-man who could get called up.
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Chicago also has a bevy of guys who may have been sent back down had rosters remained at 25, but now they will surely stay in the bigs moving forward. This group includes Rob Zastryzny, Felix Pena, and Spencer Patton.
Once the regulars return from injury later in the month, a number of the reserve arms will stick around but will find their usage decrease. At that point, Chicago has more pressing matters than filling innings; namely, getting its best guys ready for the postseason. All of the late-inning relievers will have rust to work off before the games become of vital importance.
Elsewhere, we will see the return of a couple familiar names when rosters expand. That list will include Tommy La Stella and Albert Almora. La Stella had a famous designation the first time he was sent down to Triple-A. His numbers at the plate were great, hence his “reluctance” to report to his new home.
Yet he lost out to a numbers crunch (and terrible defense). With more room, La Stella will find his way back up, and his bat will be useful to the Cubs down the stretch. Some remain dubious that this is a sound decision to write off La Stella’s abandonment of his club for a few weeks there.
Almora is an easier case. He deserves another chance after a nice first showing in the Majors. And unlike La Stella, his defense could actually be an asset to the club in the final month. Almora is a better defender than some of the other outfield options Chicago has, and September roster expansion is just the time to utilize such defensive replacements.
The other player Cubs fans are wondering if they will see is the organization’s top prospect, second baseman Ian Happ. Happ is in Double-A and playing well. He still projects as being a few years away from being an MLB regular, especially in the field, but that wouldn’t preclude Chicago from giving him the proverbial cup of coffee here in September.
Of course, if he does get added to the 40-man roster. A subsequent roster move will have to be made and there may not be many at-bats for him anyway. The Cubs are already flush with infielders thanks to their tremendous positional flexibility and deep lineup. It would be fun to see Happ get some ABs against top-level pitching, but it may not benefit the team heading into the postseason.