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We knew MLB would expand rosters upon its return from a lengthy hiatus due to the coronavirus. With the long layoff — combined with just three weeks of a second spring training —pitchers’ workloads will be limited, at least early in the season.

In response, one of MLB’s rule changes for 2020 allows teams to carry 30 active players in the first two weeks of the season. That number will drop to 28 for the third and fourth weeks, and then to 26 for the final two. 

Each team will designate 60 eligible players for the season, with about half being inactive and training at an alternate site from the active roster in case of injuries or players testing positive for the coronavirus. Teams are allowed to carry three players on a road trip “taxi squad” in case roster changes are needed. They won’t receive service time unless activated.

If a team carries three players, one must be a catcher.

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Based on how their roster was shaping up in March and the new rule changes, here’s what the Cubs’ initial 30-man group could look like. Players have the option to opt out of this season altogether but no Cubs have yet, so this group is based on that.

Starting rotation

Yu Darvish
Kyle Hendricks
Jon Lester
José Quintana
Tyler Chatwood

The only question with the rotation in March was whether Chatwood or Alec Mills would be the fifth starter. Cubs manager David Ross hinted Chatwood was the favorite for the job, and the assumption is that’s still the case.

 

Bullpen

CL Craig Kimbrel
SU Rowan Wick
SU Kyle Ryan 
RHP Jeremy Jeffress
LHP Brad Wieck
RHP Alec Mills
RHP Trevor Megill
RHP Dan Winkler
RHP Ryan Tepera
RHP Casey Sadler
RHP Duane Underwood Jr.

The expanded rosters erase most of the camp competition for the several open bullpen spots. They also give the Cubs more time to determine the futures of Megill (Rule 5 pick), Sadler and Underwood (out of minor league options).

Wieck was going to start the season on the injured list after undergoing a procedure for an irregular heartbeat. The three-month delay puts him back in the fold.

RELATED: What we know about the 2020 MLB season: start date, schedule, COVID-19 protocol

Starting lineup

3B Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
SS Javier Báez
LF Kyle Schwarber
C Willson Contreras
RF Jason Heyward
CF Ian Happ
DH Steven Souza
2B Jason Kipnis

One significant change for 2020 is the implementation of a universal DH, which gives the Cubs a ton of lineup flexibility. Schwarber always comes to mind for that spot — he’s a .299 hitter with nine homers and a 1.046 OPS in 22 career games DH-ing, but he’s been outspoken of his desire to play the field. 

RELATED: Why Kyle Schwarber is not the automatic choice for Cubs DH in 2020

Schwarber will likely DH at some point, as will Souza, who’s coming off a gruesome knee injury that cost him all of last season. Happ can start there, with Souza or Schwarber in left, allowing Albert Almora Jr. to get some at-bats and start in center field. 

The Cubs could even DH backup catcher Victor Caratini, who brings plate discipline and a contact-oriented approach to a slugging lineup. He'll also catch and allow Contreras to DH and rest his legs. Bryant may DH to get some rest, with David Bote then playing third base.

Bench

CF Albert Almora Jr.
C Victor Caratini
INF Nico Hoerner
INF David Bote
INF Daniel Descalso

Hoerner was in the mix for an Opening Day roster spot in March and is assured of making the club now that the minor league season is likely canceled. He’ll see time at second base and give the Cubs a true backup shortstop.

The initial expanded roster gives the Cubs more time to determine Descalso’s future as well. He brings a valuable clubhouse voice but struggled while hampered with an ankle injury last season. He hit .160 in the first round of spring training.

Notable exclusions

RHP Adbert Alzolay
RHP Colin Rea
RHP Jharel Cotton
RHP Dillon Maples
C Josh Phegley
INF Hernán Pérez
INF Zack Short
OF Ian Miller

 

Alzolay was optioned to minor league camp in March. Having him on the taxi squad assures the Cubs have a starter in the wings in case of a virus outbreak in their clubhouse. Rea and Cotton also provide rotation depth and are on the 40-man roster. Maples and his tantalizing potential is another relief option.

Phegley could be part of the 30-man group but figures to be on the three-man taxi squad. Pérez and Short will be two of the 60 eligible players for this season and provide depth all around infield. 

Miller would be a valuable weapon for MLB's new extra-innings rule. Teams will start all extra innings with a runner on second base, and Miller's speed would be very useful.

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