Cubs have expanded options with expanded rosters for 2020 season

A 30-man roster to start the season allows the team to carry Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini and potentially non-roster invitee Josh Phegley, who has shown well during camp.

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Willson Contreras reacts after hitting a three-run homer against the Pirates on July 13.

Willson Contreras celebrates after hitting a three-run homer against the Pirates on July 13.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

The Cubs will be getting a makeover in the next few days as the team prepares to set its final roster ahead of the 2020 season.

All teams must finalize their initial 30-man rosters before their first game on July 23 or 24. Rosters will go down to 28 after two weeks, then to 26 two weeks after that. According to MLB’s rules for the 2020 season, teams will be permitted to add a 27th player for doubleheaders.

Don’t worry! Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant will all make the ballclub, but this year’s expanded roster opens the door for additional flexibility on the back end.

“These guys have shown me enough where we’ll start to get a clearer picture,” manager David Ross said. “I’ll take these last few days just to continue to evaluate. It’s going to be an evaluation through the season, as well.”

The Cubs will have a chance to see how some of their decisions play out during the season because the team won’t have to trim the roster to 26 until Aug. 21.

One area in which roster flexibility benefits the Cubs will be their catching situation. Ross has toyed with the idea of carrying three catchers on the active roster throughout summer camp. Extra roster spots allow the Cubs to carry Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini and potentially non-roster invitee Josh Phegley, who has shown well during camp.

Managing pitchers also will come into play under this year’s unique circumstances. Balancing the unknown of in-season player testing amid a pandemic and the usual wear-and-tear will be a daunting but essential task. Teams will not be limited in the number of pitchers they can carry on this season’s active rosters.

“It’ll be making sure we have enough guys stretched out and making sure we have enough guys that can contribute in the bullpen,” general manager Jed Hoyer said last week. “I think a lot of our decision-making will be based on how many pitchers we want to carry.I think health will have a big part in it, and making sure we have enough pitching will probably be the No. 1 priority.”

While the Cubs’ 30-man roster decisions are beginning to take shape, the three-man taxi squad that will travel with the team throughout the season is still unclear. Teams will be required to carry one catcher, but the other two players can be pitchers or position players.

“Versatility is important if you’re talking about a position player,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said this month. “You want someone who’s traveling with you on the taxi squad to be able to step in and fill a variety of roles because you’re never sure where an injury or absence might come on the playing field.

“You’d like to find somebody who isn’t necessarily at a point in their career where they need to be playing actively to develop. Not that the alternate site isn’t the ideal place for development, but it’s the best we have right now, and so if someone is really in need of that development time, we might be better off having them in South Bend working on getting better and working on player development.”

It’s highly unlikely a top prospect such as Miguel Amaya or Brennen Davis would make sense on the taxi squad, but Ian Miller, who has a unique skill set and experience, might be better suited for that role. The Cubs have been high on the speed he brings to the table.

“There’s no doubt that Ian Miller is a guy that would always be super-valuable on a September roster,” Hoyer said. “In some ways, you’re going to be looking at a September roster to start the first couple of weeks. That’s a discussion we’re going to have.”

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