Cubs: Who misses the cut in the upcoming roster crunch?

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Believe it or not, the Chicago Cubs are already through the first tenth of the season. So far, there’s definitely a lot to be desired from this squad, from the poor performance by the starting pitching to an inopportune offense. Everything is about to get a bit of a shakeup though thanks to the roster crunch on May 2.

MLB has been playing with expanded rosters over the past month due to the shortened Spring Training, but the time has come for the Cubs to weigh their options as they lose two slots. Currently, the team is running with 15 pitchers and 13 position players, meaning two players will immediately be on the chopping block.

(Thankfully, the league is allowing teams to carry 14 pitches through May 29 – a welcome sight for all 30 teams, including the Cubs, who have received just two quality starts from their rotation to this point). 

Looking at how things have gone so far, the options seem fairly obvious. Ethan Roberts and Michael Rucker are the two pitchers likeliest to get sent back down in part because they have the options to do so. It’d be a bit of a bitter end for Roberts, who got the surprise promotion near the end of spring training, but with his stuff, he’s sure to be back at some point. Both pitchers have also only been merely okay so far with Rucker owning a 3.60 ERA and Roberts struggling to a 5.40 mark, while showcasing overpowering stuff at times.

Beyond these immediate cuts, things get a little sticky. Expanded rosters also made room for some intriguing youngsters to stay on, but as players return from injuries, there are going to be some unfortunate casualties.

While the immediate cuts seem obvious, there are other questions for the Cubs

In terms of pitching. Alec Mills and Wade Miley are both working their way back and surely Mark Leiter Jr. will be a casualty once one of them steps into the rotation. When the other arrives though, it’s going to require a look at who still has minor league options to determine who stays and goes. Justin Steele, for as promising as he’s been, could be sent down for consistent starts in Iowa, but that doesn’t feel great.

There’s also the issue of bringing Clint Frazier and Andrelton Simmons back into the fold. Having Alfonso Rivas go back down simply because he has options feels dirty given how well he’s produced so far. It’s here that the Cubs may have to bite the bullet and finally cut Jason Heyward loose. Heyward, who finally hits free agency after 2023, has been a good clubhouse presence for the team, but really has no future value and is crowding the roster significantly as is.

Expanded rosters have afforded Heyward some time while keeping promising young guys around, but time is starting to run out. He isn’t hitting poorly, but with a barrel percentage in the bottom 1(!) percent and an expected batting average and slugging among the league’s worst, it’s not going to last. Unfortunately, while Heyward could be cut, there’s a likelihood that the promising Michael Hermosillo will be on the short end due to his terrible start to the year and lack of opportunities.

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Even if not immediate, the roster crunch is eventually going to come with some painful cuts. It’s to be expected, but it’ll be frustrating to lose someone like Hermosillo if the team would rather wait on the Heyward decision. It’d also be maddening to see Steele or Rivas lose time because of this, but there’s time to decide before more players return.