Cubs Mulling Final Roster Moves As Regular Season Looms

How many relievers will the Cubs carry? Is a third catcher possible?

Bruce Levine
March 20, 2018 - 11:12 am
Cubs manager Joe Maddon

Rick Scuteri/USA Today Sports

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By Bruce Levine--

MESA, Ariz. (670 The Score) -- The final roster moves for the Cubs could be interesting as the last week of the spring training takes shape.

A team that has championship aspirations also has a few minor questions to answer with the start of the regular season awaiting March 29. Perhaps the most notable one is whether the Cubs will carry seven or eight relievers in their bullpen. With setup man Pedro Strop currently mending a calf injury, the Cubs could start the season with an extra outfielder or a third catcher if he doesn't get healthy.

Outfielder Peter Bourjos, a non-roster invitee to spring training, has impressed the coaching staff with his speed, defense and attitude. Helping his case is that manager Joe Maddon has long loved the late-game strategic options that are opened up by having a player with such traits.

"I love him," manager Joe Maddon said. "I absolutely love him. I've had a lot of good conversations with him. I've admired his work from a distance for awhile. I told him all that. I spent a lot of time talking to him about things I have noticed. The conversation is easy, he's a pro. I see him coming out of his shell. That means he is getting more comfortable here. I enjoy the way he is playing."

Another possibility would be carrying three catches, but the problem with that is it may be counterproductive for the development of 24-year-old Vic Caratini, who would be best served with consistent playing time. The ascension of Willson Contreras continues to track toward an All-Star level, only leaving playing time every fourth or fifth day for the backup catcher. Intrigued by Caratini's talents, the Cubs could choose to keep him as their primary backup. In that case, the veteran Chris Gimenez would be optioned down.

The Cubs' bullpen is nearly set. Brandon Morrow, Carl Edwards Jr., Strop, Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson, Brian Duensing and Mike Montgomery will be in it. If the Cubs carry an eighth reliever, the internal battle will come down to Eddie Butler, Justin Hancock, Kyle Ryan and Anthony Bass. Another possibility for the Cubs is to look externally and acquire an eighth reliever in a low-profile trade.

Hancock in particular has impressed this spring, with a 1.93 ERA in five appearances. Bass also carries a 1.93 ERA in five outings, while Ryan has a 2.25 ERA in six appearances.

Adding Butler to the 25-man roster would give Maddon another long man out of the bullpen from the right side. It's worth noting that Butler, 27, is out of options, so he'd be exposed to the waiver wire if the Cubs don't include him on their roster.

The team has until March 28 to finalize it's season-opening roster.

"Eddie provides length, which could be important to us," Maddon said. "I don't have any answers yet."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.