Willson Contreras yelled at the Cubs’ young minor league prospects after hitting a home run on his return to Wrigley Field. So he hopes to be part of the team’s theoretically better future.
It’s easy to think that now that the Cubs are past the trade deadline, it’s time to reminisce about some of the best prospects and give them a taste of the big leagues, isn’t it?
Well, it’s not that simple.
A team like the Cubs with a growing number of top prospects also has a high number of players eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter. It’s a long-standing MLB tradition in December where players with a certain number of years in the minor leagues can be selected by other teams. It is designed to prevent teams from hiding players in the minors indefinitely.
If selected, a player must remain on their new team’s 26-man roster for the entire following season. This therefore limits the possibility of a team removing a player from single A and adding him to a major league roster. But do the Cubs want to take a chance on Top 100 prospect Kevin Alcantara, who is still in Low A Myrtle Beach?
To prevent a player from being taken in the Rule 5 draft, they must be added to the Cubs’ 40-player roster. Teams hitting home runs in the Rule 5 draft are rare, but it does happen. The Pirates used this method to remove Roberto Clemente from the Brooklyn Dodgers roster in 1954.
The Cubs will certainly have some tough decisions to make. There are probably around 24 players currently on the 40-player roster who are thinking of staying there. Some of them are minor leaguers like pitcher Caleb Kilian, outfielder Alexander Canario and catcher Miguel Amaya.
They will certainly add top prospect Brennen Davis and the two recently acquired pitchers, Hayden Wesneski and Ben Brown. Wesneski is expected to make his Iowa Cubs debut on Sunday.
Alcantara is a good bet to add. The same goes for relievers Jeremiah Estrada and Cam Sanders. Some believe Estrada, who was promoted to Iowa this week, is the best relief pitcher in the system, with a 1.49 ERA and 14 strikeouts through nine innings between South Bend and Tennessee.
Because those 40-player slots will be valuable this winter, the Cubs might be hesitant to call players who have been in the system for less than four years and are not yet eligible for the Rule 5 draft, such as reliever Ben Leeper or first baseman Matt Mervis, both of whom joined the Cubs in 2020.
Five pitchers on the 40-man roster have yet to take the mound this season due to injuries — Adbert Alzolay, Codi Heuer, Brailyn Marquez, Manuel Rodriguez and Brad Wieck. The top four will likely remain, Wieck is less certain.
The Cubs have the opportunity to bring Smyly back in 2023 and have a few more years of control over guys like Alec Mills, Adrian Sampson and Frank Schwindel. Will they eat up the remaining years on Jason Heyward and David Bote’s contracts or bring them back?