Wilson, Martin, and Lackey Make Cut, Rondon Out as Cubs Announce NLDS Roster
Between a wealth of versatile position players and a bullpen that features a small core of trustworthy arms, there weren’t many questions about who’d be making the Cubs’ playoff roster. The most pressing questions stemmed from the rotation, specifically whether and when Jake Arrieta would be available, and how that would impact the number of bats and arms they’d need to carry.
With a shortened postseason rotation and nearly a week of rest heading into the five-game series, many teams will opt for an 11-man staff in order to squeeze in an extra position player. But you really have to trust your starters if you go that route. In the end, it came down to where the Cubs think they can best leverage the smallest advantages.
And there were a couple of very interesting decisions in that regard.
We already knew who the starters would be, but Wednesday afternoon brought the official announcement that Kyle Hendricks would take the bump in Game 1, followed by Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, and Jake Arrieta. There has been no doubt expressed by the team or Arrieta himself, and moving him to the fourth spot might actually be as much about strategy as giving him more rest.
It had been widely assumed that John Lackey would be one of the 25 men named, as his role was more or less given away when he came out of the bullpen in Sunday’s regular-season finale. The Wild Card games showed us how important long relievers can be, with every starter getting rocked early. And with Arrieta’s health still somewhat up in the air, not to mention the starters’ overall questionable ability to go deep, Lackey is close to a necessity.
Because they’ve opted to carry Lackey as a long man in addition to Mike Montgomery, the Cubs will indeed carry only 11 pitchers into the tilt with Washington. That signals good things for their belief in Arrieta’s health, but also means having to leave one of their main relievers off. In a move that came as something of a surprise, that ended up being Hector Rondon.
Instead, the Cubs have chosen to roster disappointing lefty Justin Wilson, whose propensity for walks has drawn the ire of many in the wake of his acquisition. But Wilson is a southpaw who can get righties out and who is capable of missing bats with the best of them. It’s definitely a gamble, but one the Cubs felt was worth it, likely because Rondon has allowed a .346 wOBA to lefty hitters.
But I’d be lying to you if I said I won’t be holding my breath if and when Wilson enters the game.
Going with 14 position players also means opening a spot for Leonys Martin, who brings fleet feet and a solid glove to the back end of the bench. I had assumed Martin would make it over catchers Rene Rivera and Victor Caratini for exactly that reason, not to mention the health of Willson Contreras and presence of Alex Avila.
Mike Freeman, though, his exclusion was a big shock.
Outside of those last two spots, though, nothing else was really ever in question. The intrigue at this point will be how Joe Maddon chooses to deploy his group of regulars for each matchup, particularly when it comes to second base and center field. We’re obviously used to that from the regular season, but the stakes are slightly higher at this point.
Here’s a look at the roster in its entirety:
6-Carl Edwards Jr., RHP
28-Kyle Hendricks, RHP
32-Brian Duensing, LHP
34-Jon Lester, LHP
37-Justin Wilson, LHP
38-Mike Montgomery, LHP
41-John Lackey, RHP
46-Pedro Strop, RHP
49-Jake Arrieta, RHP
62-José Quintana, LHP
71-Wade Davis, RHP
POSITION PLAYERS (14)
2-Tommy La Stella, INF
5-Albert Almora Jr., OF
8-Ian Happ, INF
9-Javier Báez, INF
12-Kyle Schwarber, OF
13-Alex Avila, C
17-Kris Bryant, INF
18-Ben Zobrist, INF
22-Jason Heyward, OF
24-Leonys Martín, OF
27-Addison Russell, INF
30-Jon Jay, OF
40-Willson Contreras, C
44-Anthony Rizzo, INF