Quantifying Hope: Playoff Odds, Mystery Roster Moves (Zastryzny and Pena), Can Schwarber Really Come Back?

The Cubs, now listed at 100% to make the postseason and 99.9% to win the division, have eliminated all worry about making the playoffs. Those numbers come from both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, which have Joe Maddon’s squad pegged for around 102 wins. Still feeling as uneasy as you were in July? I didn’t think so.

Because there’s not a whole lot to break down regarding the odds and there are more pressing topics to cover, I’m going to bullet-point a few things regarding the Cubs’ record and whatnot:

  • Dropped 9 of 10 from 6/30 – 7/9
  • Won 25 of 33 since
  • 14 wins in 18 days in August
  • Team ERA of 2.22 in August
  • Starters ERA of 1.49 in August
  • Cubs lead Cards by 13 games
  • Cards lead Reds by 13 games
  • 2nd-largest division gap is 9.5 games
  • Cubs are good

Two contracts purchased?

In case you missed the hubbub on Twitter last night, Pacific Coast League PR Assistant Matt Grilli stirred the pot when he tweeted that the Cubs had purchased the contracts of two players. The tweet was deleted in short order, but speculation was already rampant by that point. As of press time, there were no transactions listed on MLB.com and no word has come down in any capacity, either official or otherwise, from the Cubs.

[beautifulquote align=”right”]The Cubs would be bringing up a pair of players not already on the 40-man roster.[/beautifulquote]

I’m far from an expert in the matters of roster specifics, but this basically means that the Cubs would be bringing up a pair of players not already on the 40-man roster. A player who is on the 40-man is said to have been called up. It’s more or less a difference in wording, except for one teensy-weensy item. If a contract is purchased and a man is added to the roster, there has to be a corresponding move to drop someone else. Or in this case, two moves.

For those of you without much knowledge of the 40-man roster, it includes all the players on the active MLB roster (25), plus players on the 15-day DL and minor league players on a major league contract but on an optional assignment (Albert Almora, Tommy La Stella, etc). If my math is correct, and I believe it is, the Cubs are currently at only 39 men on the 40-man, which means there is really only one move to be made in that regard.

There has been talk of a John Lackey DL stint, but you’d think the Cubs would have done that already had they deemed it necessary. Then again, purchasing two contracts does mean opening two spots on the 25-man roster. Even if he’s not seriously injured, putting Lackey on the DL isn’t a bad idea; get him some rest, make sure he’s good to go when the important games roll around. That would make the numbers work in Chicago, but the Cubs would still need to pare someone from the 40-man.

That could be accomplished by moving someone to the 60-day DL or otherwise removing a player, so my money’s on Spencer Patton being DFA’ed to make room. This isn’t just about yesterday’s subpar outing, though walking three of the 10 batters he faced didn’t help. Patton simply hasn’t been able to translate his MiLB success to the Bigs. With the Cubs in need of arms right now, it makes sense that they’d try something new.

[beautifulquote align=”right”]With the Cubs in need of arms right now, it makes sense that they’d try something new.[/beautifulquote]

And that means…well, I really don’t know. The Des Moines Register’s Tommy Birch, who covers the Iowa Cubs, stated Thursday evening that several sources are naming Rob Zastryzny as one of the two players involved. No word on the second, but I’m going to go with Armando Rivero. As I wrote a short while back, he’s been on a real tear over the last few weeks and could be the type of live arm to help bridge the gap to September and beyond.

These moves make a lot of sense with the Cubs dealing with some injuries and being forced to go to the bullpen early and often over the last few games. It’s also convenient because the I-Cubs are in Sacramento finishing up a four-game series just as the big club is heading west for nine games. Stay tuned.


As first reported by The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma, the Cubs have purchased the contracts of Rob Zastryzny and Felix Pena (shocker, my prediction fell flat). In joining the Cubs, Zastryzny becomes the first pitcher drafted by the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer regime to reach the majors. That’s kind of a big deal. Our Todd Johnson wrote about Pena’s long road to success back in June and John Arguello has some quick hits on both new additions over at Cubs Den.

In order to make room on the 40-man, pitchers Dallas Beeler and Aaron Brooks were placed on the 60-day DL.

Can Schwarber really come back?

I had some fun with it Thursday and Cubs fans are nothing if not optimistic (well, except for the contingent that actually revels in anger and disappointment), so you can imagine how people want to cling to the notion that Kyle Schwarber could be coming off the bench in October to swat a home run or six. And there’s some credence to that hope since, from both a health and roster standpoint, a return is possible.

Remember that 40-man roster primer from earlier? Well, Schwarber’s not actually on it due to his designation on the 60-day DL. The Cubs would have to remove him from that list and then bump someone else from the roster, but that’s just a minor hitch in the process. Of course, War Bear would have to be medically ready for such a move in the first place.

[beautifulquote align=”right”]War Bear could be fully healed by mid-October.[/beautifulquote]

Schwarber was injured on 4/7 and had surgery 12 days later, so if we go with the short end of the traditional 6-9 month recovery from knee reconstruction he could be fully healed by mid-October. The NLCS started on 10/17 last season. Hmmmm. But we’re talking about a guy who only just started playing catch, at least publicly, and who isn’t going to be thrown right back into left field and certainly won’t be behind the plate.

Because the playoff rosters can be manipulated prior to each round, the only scenario that seems even remotely possible is that Schwarber could be activated to DH and pinch-hit if the Cubs make the World Series. Again, that’s a big if. And with a medical staff that has traditionally been very conservative when it comes to rehab and clearance, the odds are stacked against the War Bear. He cares little for those odds, though, so I’m still not going to completely discount a potential return.

The important thing to remember here is that it’s about more than just health. No matter how good War Bear has been and could be, is it really a great idea to throw a guy back into his first live competition in half a year on the sport’s biggest stage? No minor league rehab, no September games, just straight into the World Series against elite competition. Color me dubious. It’s fun to talk about though.

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