To clear room, the Cubs announced several 40-man departures. Utilitymen Robel Garcia and Daniel Descalso are both off of the list; the former was designated for assignment and the latter was placed on the 45-day injured list. Also moving off of the MLB roster was outfielder Mark Zagunis, who opted out of the 2020 season.
- Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who has been fighting rib and back issues, seems to be progressing. Manager David Ross said Tuesday (via Jordan Bastian of MLB.com) that it “looks like all thumbs up from today” in regards to Rizzo. He’s slated to start the team’s exhibition game against Minnesota on Wednesday. Meanwhile, southpaw Jose Quintana – who underwent surgery on his left thumb three weeks ago – issued an encouraging update on his status (per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune), saying he’s not feeling any pain. It remains unclear when he’ll be able to take the mound this season, though.
- The Cubs have signed third-round outfielder and No. 88 overall pick Jordan Nwogu for the full slot value of $678,600. Nwogu played college ball at Michigan, where he slashed .334/.430/.545 with 20 home runs in 525 plate appearances. Prior to the draft, Keith Law of The Athletic ranked Nwogu as the 68th-best prospect available, calling him “a plus runner with plus raw power” and declaring he could be a 20-20 type in the majors if everything comes together.
The Cubs have announced a pair of 40-man roster moves, with Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic among those to cover things on Twitter. The club selected the contract of veteran infielder Jason Kipnis, ensuring he’ll be on the Opening Day roster when the season gets underway.
To create 40-man roster space, the club made a two-part move with respect to recent Rule 5 pick Trevor Megill. After he cleared waivers — any other team could’ve stepped into the R5 rights by committing a 40-man spot — the Cubs sent cash to the Padres to secure Megill’s permanent rights. He’ll remain in the team’s 60-man player pool.
Kipnis has long seemed likely to crack the Cubbies’ roster and that’s now in the books. The 33-year-old struggled in spring action but offers ample versatility and veteran guile while also carrying a hint of upside. Kipnis has hit at a below-average rate for each of the past three seasons, but was a star-level performer before that. He has long carried heavy platoon splits, so the Cubs may see value in limiting him to deployment against right-handed pitching.
As for Megill, 26, the Cubs obviously saw merit in not only drafting him but pursuing his long-term rights. He did carry 12.7 K/9 against 3.4 BB/9 last year in 50 1/3 Triple-A frames, though he managed only a 4.47 ERA. The club was clearly also concerned with being required to carry Megill on the active roster this year. This way, it can allow him to continue developing and call upon him only if it seems prudent. If he doesn’t earn his way to the majors in 2020, Megill will be eligible again for the Rule 5 draft this winter.
- Cubs southpaw Jose Quintana, two weeks removed from left thumb surgery, played catch from 60 feet Thursday, Bruce Levine of 670 The Score relays. Quintana “felt fine,” according to manager David Ross. Still, Levine writes that Quintana will start the season on the injured list, which will be the first IL stint of his career. The Cubs aren’t putting a timetable on exactly how long they’ll go without Quintana, with Ross saying, “Today was a nice positive, but one thing I know from my time in baseball — a lot of twists and turns, so it’s wait and see for me.”
The Cubs have added three players to their 60-man pool, according to Tim Stebbins of NBC Sports Chicago. Right-handers Cory Abbott and Tyson Miller and just-signed catcher Jose Lobaton are now part of the group, which consists of 57 players. They’ll head to the team’s alternate training site in South Bend, Ind.
Abbott was a second-round pick of the Cubs in 2017, and he has since climbed to the Double-A level. The 24-year-old held his own there last season in his first try, amassing 146 2/3 innings of 3.01 ERA/3.51 FIP pitching with 10.19 K/9 and 3.19 BB/9. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen recently ranked Abbott as the Cubs’ 10th-best prospect, writing that he “projects as a low-variance fifth starter.”
Miller, also 24, joined the Cubs in Round 4 of the 2016 draft. He thrived in Double-A last year with a 2.56 ERA/3.05 FIP, 8.18 K/9 and 1.84 BB/9 in 88 innings, but his Triple-A debut didn’t go nearly as well. Miller tossed 48 2/3 frames there and stumbled to a 7.58 ERA/7.17 FIP with 7.95 K/9 against 4.62 BB/9. He is Longenhagen’s 30th-ranked Cubs prospect.
The Cubs have signed free-agent catcher Jose Lobaton to a minor league deal with an invitation to Summer Camp, per Tim Stebbins of NBC Sports Chicago. There’s no word on whether Lobaton will report to Wrigley Field or the Cubs’ alternate training site in South Bend, Ind.
The 35-year-old Lobaton is a veteran of a few major league organizations, most recently the Dodgers, and a lifetime .215/.293/.319 hitter in the bigs. Lobaton joined the Dodgers in a trade with the Mariners last August, but he didn’t appear in MLB with either club in 2019 and hasn’t logged at least 100 at-bats in a season at the game’s highest level since 2017. The Dodgers recently released the switch-hitter, who posted a .236/.310/.427 line with 14 home runs over 374 PA in Triple-A ball a year ago.
Lobaton is clearly facing an uphill battle in carving out a role with the Cubs. They have an elite tandem behind the plate in Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini, not to mention an experienced third option in Josh Phegley.
Cubs southpaw Jose Quintana is making progress in his recovery from left thumb surgery, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. Quintana had his stitches removed and will start tossing Thursday, according to Heyman. There’s no update on how much regular-season time Quintana will miss, but assuming he does land on the injured list, it’ll be the durable 31-year-old’s first IL stint since he entered the majors in 2012. He amassed 30-plus starts in each of the previous seven seasons.
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is battling an injury that could jeopardize his chances of being in the team’s lineup on Opening Day, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports. Rizzo underwent an MRI on Wednesday that confirmed rib head swelling on his left side. He’s dealing with back spasms as a result of the swelling.
Rizzo, whose back has troubled him in the past, noted it’s a “frustrating” problem, adding, “I just can’t control the flare ups.” However, that doesn’t mean the 30-year-old will start the season on the injured list. Rizzo, manager David Ross and the Cubs’ training staff will continue to monitor his status leading up to the team’s July 24 opener.
Of course, in a shortened season, it becomes even more important for the Cubs to have a healthy Rizzo helping lead their offense. The three-time All-Star and beloved clubhouse presence turned in yet another impressive season in 2019, batting .293/.405/.520 (141 wRC+) with 27 home runs in 613 plate appearances. That type of production obviously can’t be replaced with ease, but if Rizzo does miss time at the beginning of the season, odds are the Cubs will deploy third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant and catcher Victor Caratini at first base, Gonzales suggests.
The Cubs have added three pitchers – right-hander Keegan Thompson and a pair of lefties in Justin Steele and Jack Patterson – to their 60-man player pool, per Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago. They’ll report to the team’s alternate facility in South Bend, Ind., and will increase the Cubs’ pool to 54 players.
Thompson, now 25 years old, was a third-round pick of the Cubs in 2017 who has since climbed to the Double-A level. FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen ranked Thompson as the Cubs’ No. 24 prospect last month, calling him a strike-throwing, “very stable fifth starter/swingman piece.” Thompson could be big league-ready right now, according to Longenhagen, so it’s possible he’ll make his debut during the shortened 2020 campaign.
Steele, also 25, entered the Cubs’ system as a fifth-rounder in 2014. He received his first extensive Double-A action last year, when he logged a 5.59 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 in 38 2/3 innings. Patterson’s another former Cubs pick (Round 32, 2018) who has maxed out at Double-A thus far. He threw 13 2/3 innings there last year, but most of his time was spent in Single-A and High-A ball. The 24-year-old was highly effective at all three stops, combining for a 1.69 ERA with 9.0 K/9 against 3.6 BB/9 over 79 2/3 frames.