God help me, I'm about to write a post that will involve my endorsement of Kevin Millar making the roster if decisions had to be made today. (Translation: I reserve the right to resume my Millar mocking the moment he starts to play like the 38-year-old wash-up I have pre-supposed him to be.)
Also, please keep in mind that I hold no hopes that the roster as I would construct it will come close to being the actual roster. This is simply an excercise in fantasy and a healthy dose of optimism (with a dash of reality).
Let's start with the guys who are both going to be on the roster and whom I would also include:
Soriano, Byrd, Fukudome, Ramirez, Theriot, Fontenot, Lee, Soto, Hill, Baker, Zambrano, Dempster, Wells, Marshall, Gorzelanny, Caridad, Grabow, and Marmol.
In my world, Marshall and Gorzelanny win the fourth and fifth starter spots. I'm also assuming they go with eleven pitchers. This would leave four more position players and three more bullpen spots.
It is always helpful to have professional hitters sitting on the bench who are at the point in their careers where they embrace the role of a bench player. They are going to see the most action as a pinch-hitter or spot starter to keep the regulars healthy and I don't want them sitting there thinking that all they need to get going is some regular playing time. They aren't going to get it unless something goes terribly wrong.
For the Cubs, Chad Tracy can fill the role from the left side and Kevin Millar from the right side. I didn't want them on the team just to build morale and make jokes woth Dempster, but if they can bring most of what they are producing this Spring into the regular season, Lou suddenly has some nice hitting options at the end of tight games no matter what reliever the opposition brings into the game.
Both guys are corner infielders and both are capable of stepping in and providing a better replacement bat than last year's middle infielders from hell if something catastrophic happens to Lee or Ramirez.
On the flip side, If I'm constructing a roster, I want my farm system to have burgeoning talent licking at the heels of our well-paid core of players. I don't want anyone getting complacent. Thus I would include Tyler Colvin as the fourth outfielder. He can play all of the outfield positions and his bat is showing that it can be potent enough to warrant spot starts occasionally to rest the veterans that currently will be patrolling the outfield.
This leaves one spot remaining and that spot needs to go to someone who can play shortstop because I don't buy Fontenot as anything but an emergency replacement at short. He is as much a shortstop as Randy Wells is the third catcher.
While I would LOVE for Starlin Castro to be the Cubs answer to Albert Pujols who hit his way onto the Cards after he basically jumped from A ball and never stopped hitting, it simply isn't realistic enough for even this fantasy version of the Cubs. So, while Colvin could realistically get some decent amounts of playing time as a fourth outfielder, Castro would not get nearly that kind of playing time with Theriot apparently lodged in at shortstop for now and Fontenot/Baker at second. He would be better served playing every day in Iowa (for now).
If it were up to me, I would bring Darwin Barney back to Chicago with the big club. He's basically a slightly younger version of Andy White, so I like to think that makes his upside with the bat slightly higher than Blanco's. Meanwhile, the moment anything happens to one of our middle infielders, I want Castro in Chicago and starting.
Xavier Nady would start the season on the DL and decisions about what to do when he can throw the ball better than Juan Pierre can be made based on the health and production of the team as we near May.
The three spots left in the bullpen is definitely a tough choice. There isn't a ton of experience and six guys have thrown well enough this spring to warrant consideration: Berg, Cashner, Diamond, Gaub, Russell, and Parisi.
Mike Parisi is the Rule 5 pick from the Cardinals, so unless he falls away enough to convince the Cubs he won't be useful at all, he should make the team.
John Gaub has pitched well since arriving for Mark DeRosa last year. He strikes out a lot of guys and he is left-handed. Welcome to Chicago, Mr. Gaub.
For the last spot, I'm going to give the nod to James Russell. If I thought Lilly was going to be out for more than the first month or so, I would probably go with Cashner, but there is no reason to start the clock on his major league time on a temp job when there are other perfectly fine candidates for the job.
Another Cubs Blog has been doing a series of posts (using math I don't understand) about how difficult it looks to be to have this team win 90 games without a tremendous amount of luck and/or many players exceeding reasonable expectations. I wanted my version of the Cubs to have as much upside as possible so that it could be conceivable that a few players bust out above what the stat heads have projected (while still preserving some semblance of how things can realistically play out).
It is also why I would tell Silva he is injured, leave Samardzija to keep working on an extra pitch in AAA, and keep Fuld, Scales, and Hoffpauir in AAA where they probably belong since there is no AAAA.
So, it's not based on much other than pure emotion and hope, but that is the roster I'm rooting for. Feel free to tell me how stupid I am in the comments.
Since his first horrendous outing, Silva has put together seven scoreless innings and is making my dream of him being told he is injured less likely than an extra-base hit from Aaron Miles. So, if Silva makes the team, he will be a starter and I would assume that will push the extremely accomodating Sean Marshall to the bullpen and push James Russell off the roster. Sorry, James.