The following 40-man roster players have less than five years service time and are out of minor league options. That means they must clear waivers before being sent to the minors, so the team would be at risk of losing them in attempting to do so. I’ve included players on multiyear deals. This list was compiled through MLBTR’s sources. Today, we’ll take a look at the NL Central.
Cubs: Drake Britton, Welington Castillo, Felix Doubront, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop, Jacob Turner, Travis Wood
Wood, Turner, and Tsuyoshi Wada were expected to battle for the Cubs’ fifth starter job this spring. Turner has been shut down due to a flexor strain and bone bruise on his elbow, however, so the Cubs can defer making a decision on him since he won’t even be throwing again until mid-April. Wood seemed like a winter trade candidate, but Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald explains that with the Cubs’ depth thinning out, he’s the favorite to become the fifth starter. That would force Edwin Jackson into the bullpen, unless the Cubs offload him or even eat his remaining $22MM.
Of the Cubs’ seven relievers, righties Rondon, Strop, Ramirez, Jason Motte, and Justin Grimm seem locked in. According to Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago last week, the minor league deal for lefty Phil Coke is a “mere formality,” meaning he’s expected to break camp as the team’s primary southpaw reliever.
That leaves one potential spot for Jackson, out of options lefties Britton and Doubront, and a host of other candidates including Wada if his groin injury proves minor. Doubront has been hit hard in his two spring outings, while Britton has tallied five scoreless innings. Injuries may clear up the logjam, but something has to give by the April 5th opener.
There’s also last year’s starting catcher Castillo, pushed aside by winter acquisitions Miguel Montero and David Ross. Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune wrote about Castillo’s situation a few days ago, noting that Arismendy Alcantara’s versatility could allow the Cubs to open the season with three catchers. That might be posturing on the Cubs’ part, however, since the team would be better-served trading Castillo for a fair return.
Reds: Jason Bourgeois
Bourgeois will miss four to six weeks with a fractured shoulder, so he’ll be starting the season on the DL.
Brewers: Mike Fiers, Hector Gomez, Jeremy Jeffress, Luis Jimenez
Gomez and Jimenez are hoping to earn the team’s two utility infield jobs, wrote Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel earlier this month. Two days ago, Haudricourt tweeted he’d be stunned if Jimenez doesn’t make the team. Luis Sardinas is in the mix as well, but he may face an uphill battle since he has options remaining.
Jeffress appears to have a spot locked up in the Brewers’ pen, wrote Haudricourt and Todd Rosiak yesterday.
Pirates: Pedro Florimon, Stolmy Pimentel, Vance Worley, Jeff Locke, Arquimedes Caminero, Radhames Liz, Mark Melancon, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, Pedro Alvarez
Worley and Locke are competing to be the Pirates’ fifth starter, with Worley appearing to hold an edge after Locke was knocked around Tuesday. The Pirates seem willing to put one of them in the bullpen, but a trade is also possible.
Pimentel, Caminero, and Liz are vying for spots in the Pirates’ bullpen. Charlie Wilmoth of MLBTR and Bucs Dugout feels it wouldn’t be a surprise for all three to make the team, even if it means optioning superior relievers John Holdzkom and Jared Hughes. Liz, at least, seems a good bet to get a roster spot after signing a big league deal out of Korea during the offseason. In an online chat yesterday, Pirates beat writer Stephen Nesbitt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opined that Pimentel seems the most likely of the three to get dropped.
As Wilmoth wrote in February, it’s hard to see where Florimon fits on this team. Perhaps the waiver claim made sense in November, but he seems likely to find his way off the 40-man soon.
Cardinals: Sam Freeman, Pete Kozma
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch looked at the situations of Freeman and Kozma in January. Freeman, a 27-year-old lefty reliever, has continued this spring to exhibit the control problems that have plagued his Major League career. He’s a trade candidate. Kozma, known for his defense, appears to be playing his way into making the team, wrote Ben Humphrey of Viva El Birdos yesterday.