The "best" players don't all make the opening day roster for a reason
Smart teams avoid trying to sneak players through waivers at the end of spring
A week from Thursday the Cubs will play a real game. Opening Day is that close. Why does it have to be the Brewers, again? One of the best things about the balanced schedule this year is that it means six fewer games with each of the all-to-familiar National League Central rivals. I think we’ll be just fine with just 13 games with the Cardinals, especially since it means less of the Reds and Pissburgh, too.
Anyway, with the season looming that close, it’s time to take a serious look at the Cubs roster.
One thing we all do is spend too much time obsession over the opening day roster. You know who made it roster last year? It was star studded, with all of your favorites like Clint (Don’t call me Jackson, yet) Frazier, Alfonso Rivas, Jonathan Villar, Michael Hermosillo, Jesse Chavez, Frank Schwindel and Daniel Norris. Hands were wrung because Andrelton Simmons had to start the year on the IL.
Savvy teams like the Dodgers and Giants effectively create two rosters. Their opening day roster is designed to have everybody they don’t want to risk losing on waivers, even if it means sending better players to start the season in the minors because they have options and can be moved there freely.
Then, a few days into the season they make the adjustments and that’s when they shuffle guys through waivers to the minors. Because the easiest time to lose a player to a waiver claim is in the end of spring training roster wash. Everybody’s roster is in flux and they are more open to claiming players than they will be just a few days later when they think they have their rosters settled.
Two of your favorite all-time Cubs ended up on the team because the Blue Jays tried to sneak them to the minors when they were out of options. Reed Johnson (the first time, March 25, 2008) and Luis Valbuena (April 4, 2012).
Had the Jays simply put them on the opening day roster for a few days and then DFA’d them to get them to AAA Syracuse it likely would have worked both times, because the Cubs would have been so enamored with the roster they worked so hard on in the final cuts that they’d have not bothered with the claim.
Your April roster building should be about keeping as many assets as you can. It’s not about whether Javier Assad has earned an opening day spot in the bullpen. The difference between putting him on the roster on March 31 or April 3 is largely irrelevant.
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