Cubs Opt Against Adding Pair of Pitchers to 40-Man as Deadlines Pass

You don’t normally picture a Sunday afternoon in early November as a time to see the Cubs shuffle around some spots on the 40-man roster, but there was a little intrigue over the weekend for a variety of reasons. Heading into the day, the Cubs’ 40-man roster stood at 31 spots and had a little room left to accommodate various procedural transactions.

There were also three deadlines that may have slipped under the radar since most of the focus has turned to football now that we’re a few days removed from the World Series.

1. Minor League Free Agency – At 5pm ET Sunday, close to 20 Cubs prospects could have become free agents when their contracts expire unless they were added to the 40-man roster. Last year, the Cubs selected Colin Rea to avoid losing him in free agency.

2. Roster Technicalities – Pitchers Michael Rucker and Trevor Megill, both of whom were at the alternate site all summer, had to be either be added to the 40-man or they would be eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft in December. A Monday release about other roster moves did not include either player, so both will be unprotected.

Rucker was taken last year by the Orioles and was surprisingly returned to the Cubs at the end of spring training after a seemingly good camp. He has shown the ability to throw strikes at every level since being drafted out of BYU in 2016 and after blistering through A-ball in 2017, he battled minor injuries most of 2018 and 2019. He has flashed a mid-90s fastball and has the ability to work quickly and efficiently when he’s not bitten by the home run ball. 

Megill came to the Cubs via San Diego in the Rule 5 last winter and the Cubs came close to keeping the 6-foot-8 righty on the roster. That did not happen, but the Cubs circumvented the Rule 5 guidelines by working out a deal with the Padres to acquire Megill outright.

3. Clearing the ILJames Norwood, Manny Rodriguez, and Brad Wieck all had to be moved off the IL and back on the 40-man by 5pm Sunday as well. Those “activations” put the roster at 34.

For most Cubs prospects — players after their fourth or fifth year of service, depending on the age at which they signed — the deadline to be added to the 40-man is November 20. Even though it’s still a couple weeks away, I started running through names and scenarios to see which directions the Cubs might take.

Converted pitcher Jerrick Suiter has been impressive at instructs and there’s speculation that he may have signed a 2021 successor contract. Reliever Ryan Lawlor is another name to watch as he was dominant at two levels of class A but never got to pitch at Double-A in 2020. With a mid-90s’ heater and a killer breaking ball, Lawlor put up a phenomenal 15.39 K/9 at Myrtle Beach last summer. However, it’s still unclear whether he is a year-to-year guy or signed for multiple years since coming over from the Braves.

With the roster now set at 34, the next big 40-man decision will be on November 20 when the Cubs will likely add Cory Abbott, Chris Morel, P.J. Higgins, and/or Dakota Mekkes to the 40-man to avoid losing them in the Rule Five Draft. The Cubs will likely make a few moves before then.

There’s a lot yet to come this winter throughout the organization, so stay tuned to CI for all the news and notes on what figures to be an active shuffling of the roster.

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