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Predicting Cubs' 2020 Opening Day roster

@MLBastian
November 5, 2019

CHICAGO -- Predicting the Cubs' Opening Day roster one year ago was not a difficult exercise. The bulk of the team was under contract and the front office made it known from the start of the offseason that few changes were expected. The same can't be said for the coming

CHICAGO -- Predicting the Cubs' Opening Day roster one year ago was not a difficult exercise. The bulk of the team was under contract and the front office made it known from the start of the offseason that few changes were expected.

The same can't be said for the coming months.

The Cubs already have a new manager in David Ross, the player development department has undergone changes and the coaching staff will have some new faces for 2020. Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said at the outset of the offseason that "real change" was coming, and that will include making alterations to a roster that missed the postseason in 2019.

Offseason checklist: Cubs' needs and moves

Under the circumstances, it is far too early to guess what the Cubs' Opening Day roster will look like for 2020. Chicago will be exploring the trade market and Epstein said at the end of the season that there are no untouchables. Subtracting from the core in the name of addressing multiple needs is a real possibility.

With the offseason underway, here is a too-early glance at the roster as it stands right now and which players might work themselves into the Opening Day picture:

Catcher
Locks: Victor Caratini, Willson Contreras
As things currently stand, this duo would be back for '20. Contreras started for the National League All-Star team for the second straight year and continued to be an offensive force. Caratini impressed at the plate and with pitch framing, giving the Cubs a reliable backup. Contreras might be a trade chip this winter and, even if he stays put, expect Chicago to look to add depth behind its top two catchers.

First base
Locks:
Anthony Rizzo
It's no surprise whatsoever that Rizzo will be part of the 2020 plans for the Cubs. Expect his steady bat and Gold Glove-caliber defense to be back at first base; picking up his $16.5 million team option for '20 was a no-brainer.

Second base
Locks: None
Possibilities: David Bote, Daniel Descalso, Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner, Addison Russell, free agent/trade
With Ben Zobrist hitting free agency, there is no clear-cut favorite to be the starter at second right now. Hoerner could push for the job during Spring Training on the heels of his impressive stint in the Majors as Chicago's shortstop in September. Russell could get the job, but he is also a non-tender or trade candidate this winter. Maybe Bote can grab the reins and earn the job. It could also be a spot the Cubs try to address via trade this winter.

Shortstop
Locks: Javier Báez
Báez backed up his NL MVP runner-up showing in '18 with a strong '19 season, during which he fought through a series of injuries. In his first full season at short, Báez ranked among the game's best defenders at the position. The Cubs could float Báez's name in trade talks to gauge the market, but the expectation is that he will be back at short in 2020.

Third base
Locks: Kris Bryant
Expect trade rumors about Bryant to swirl all offseason long, as the Cubs prepare for the possibility that he will not sign an extension. Even so, it will take a major offer to convince Chicago to part with a franchise icon and perennial MVP candidate like its third baseman. Pencil Bryant's name in for third, especially given the tall task that would be replacing his level of production.

Utility
Locks: David Bote, Daniel Descalso, Tony Kemp
Possibilities: Robel Garcia, Ian Happ, Addison Russell, free agent/trade
Both Bote and Descalso are under contract and Kemp is under control for '20, and all look like virtual locks to be on the roster. Obviously, trades would alter that scenario. Depending on how the Cubs tackle second base and their outfield, players like Garcia, Happ or Russell could find themselves in bench roles or on the bubble. Chicago may also look to upgrade this part of the roster via trades or free agency.

Outfield
Locks: Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber
Possibilities: Albert Almora Jr., Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner, free agent/trade
Heyward looks ticketed for right field, barring the Cubs acquiring a player who would shift him to center. Sound familiar? That's what happened when Chicago acquired Nicholas Castellanos, who is now a free agent. The Cubs will also consider the possibility of an Almora-Happ combination in center, or maybe Hoerner will get a look there this spring. Almora might also wind up as either a trade or non-tender candidate. Like Bryant, expect Schwarber's name to come up in trade rumors all offseason as well.

Rotation
Locks: Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, José Quintana
Possibilities: Adbert Alzolay, Tyler Chatwood, Alec Mills, free agent/trade,br />Darvish did not opt out of his contract, and the Cubs picked up Quintana's $10.5 million team option for '20. With Cole Hamels hitting free agency, expect Chicago to look to bolster its staff via trade or free agent. That said, Chicago is unlikely to be a player for blockbuster free-agent Gerrit Cole unless trades free up some more resources.

Bullpen
Locks: Tyler Chatwood, Craig Kimbrel, Kyle Ryan, Rowan Wick, Brad Wieck
Possibilities: Danny Hultzen, Dillon Maples, James Norwood, Duane Underwood Jr., free agent/trade
The Cubs have three veteran setup arms (Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler and Pedro Strop) hitting free agency this winter. Chicago will be in the market for relief help and it's possible the team considers re-signing one of those right-handers. Chatwood and Kimbrel are under contract for '20, Ryan is eligible for arbitration and both Wick and Wieck stepped up down the stretch as setup men. There are several internal options that could fill out the 'pen, but the Cubs will be looking to add external depth this winter.

Jordan Bastian covers the Cubs for MLB.com. He previously covered the Indians from 2011-18 and the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.