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Chicago Cubs set their official 2024 Opening Day roster

Ryan Herrera Avatar
March 28, 2024

Finally, Opening Day is here, and new Cubs skipper Craig Counsell has set the roster to kick off the 2024 season.

Though most of these spots have been set for a while, there were some down-to-the-wire battles that were only just decided over the last week or so. The 26-man roster will obviously not look the same the entire season, but the Cubs are rolling out a group they hope will get them off on the right foot to begin the year — and eventually lead them back to the postseason.

Get to know a little bit about the 26 players who make up the Cubs’ Opening Day roster.

Catchers (2): Yan Gomes, Miguel Amaya

Gomes: Last year, not only did Gomes continue to provide veteran leadership and value behind the plate, but he was also quite possibly the most clutch hitter on the Cubs. And of course, he continued to show how well he handles a pitching staff. Back for his 13th big league season, the 36-year-old should play a pretty important role for the North Siders.

Amaya: Is this the season Amaya once again becomes for sure the Cubs’ catcher of the future? Injuries threatened to derail his career, but he worked his way back to spending roughly the last four months of 2023 in the big leagues. The Cubs rave about what he does behind the plate, and if his potential with the bat starts to translate to the majors, he can really establish himself on this group.

Infielders (7): Michael Busch, Nico Hoerner, Dansby Swanson, Christopher Morel, Garrett Cooper, Nick Madrigal, Miles Mastrobuoni

Busch: He couldn’t really solidify himself in a stacked Dodgers lineup last year, but Busch will have some runway ahead of him with the Cubs. He’s proven everything he needs to prove at the minor league level when it comes to hitting. Now, he’ll get his chance to prove he can carry that over to success in the big leagues.

Hoerner: He’s coming off the best season of his career in 2023, where he posted a career-high 4.9 fWAR, played in a career-high 150 games and earned his first career Gold Glove. As the Cubs moved away from the rebuild and into real playoff contention territory, Hoerner established himself as a major piece to the puzzle. A better offensive season would be pretty big, but his defense is going to be just as important to providing the value the Cubs need from him.

Swanson: The first year of his seven-year, $177 million contract showed the Cubs knew what they were thinking when they targeted Swanson before last season. He gave them elite defense — part of the Cubs’ dynamic duo up the middle — and put together a 4.9 fWAR campaign, earning him his second straight Gold Glove and All-Star nod. After his 104 wRC+ in 2023 left a lot to be desired, the key for him is putting together a year with the bat more on par with his 116 wRC+ 2022.

Morel: Even after spending the first month-and-change of 2023 in Triple-A, Morel ended the year tied atop the Cubs’ home-run leaderboard (26). The power in that bat will once again be a big part of what the team wants to accomplish offensively. He’s also getting the chance to establish himself at third base. It’ll be a year Morel gets every opportunity to prove he can have an impact on all facets of the game.

Cooper: Split between the Marlins and Padres, 2023 was far from Cooper’s best season offensively. But he’s got a strong track record with the bat and had a .904 OPS versus lefties last year, and an impressive spring performance (.927 OPS and 3 homers in 36 PAs) helped earned him a spot on the Opening Day roster. He’ll be included in the first-base group and should also get plenty of ABs at DH, so he’ll get the chance to positively impact this offense.

Madrigal: Up until last weekend, it was unclear if Madrigal would even be ready for Opening Day due to a right hamstring strain, but he is in fact with the big league club to start the year. He doesn’t have much power and doesn’t walk a lot, so Madrigal has to be productive putting the ball in play, while also staying steady at third base, to make it all work. But even more than that, he has to prove he can stay on the field after injuries have taken their toll during his Cubs career.

Mastrobuoni: A better September (.333 average, .747 OPS in 35 PAs) was a good way to end the year after Mastrobuoni spent the first five months of 2023 either struggling to find success in the majors or down in Triple-A. Opening 2024 with the Cubs, he’ll work as a utilityman who can back up five positions around the field. He’ll also have to show he can be a reliable bench bat when his name gets called.

Outfielders (4): Ian Happ, Cody Bellinger, Seiya Suzuki, Mike Tauchman

Happ: While he didn’t make it back to the All-Star Game, Happ put together another strong season in 2023 (116 wRC+, 3.5 fWAR) and took home his second straight Gold Glove. Counsell revealed Happ will be the Cubs’ Opening Day leadoff hitter, and with his plate approach and discipline plus his on-base ability (.360 OPS, 25th in MLB), it seems like the right spot for him in the lineup. He’ll be another important piece on both sides of the ball.

Bellinger: It took a while to get a deal done, but Bellinger is back with the Cubs following his Comeback Player of the Year campaign in 2023. He missed a month last year with a knee injury, but his rebound season was as necessary as anything else in almost getting the Cubs to the playoffs. Because of how his contract is structured, Bellinger may only spend one more year in this uniform, but if a playoff appearance happens at the end of 2024, he should be a major catalyst for it.

Suzuki: After some ups and downs for the majority of his first two years in MLB, Suzuki’s last two months 2023 were a prime example of just how good he can be. From the beginning of August on, his 183 wRC+ ranked third in baseball. It’s unrealistic to expect that over an entire season, but if he can find more of that consistent success with the bat, an All-Star season isn’t out of the question.

Tauchman: When Bellinger went down last May, Tauchman came up and played a big part in helping the Cubs dig from 10 games below .500 to nearly making the playoffs. His game-winning home-run robbery in St. Louis provided arguably the moment of the year. Counsell told Tauchman entering spring that he’d be on the Opening Day roster, and for now, he’ll serve as the fourth outfielder and a trusted lefty bat off the bench.

Rotation (5): Justin Steele, Kyle Hendricks, Jordan Wicks, Shota Imanaga, Javier Assad

Steele: 2023 was the season Steele firmly established himself as a to- of-the-rotation arm. He made his first All-Star team and finished fifth in NL Cy Young voting, and outside of a couple hiccups at the end of the year, he was as dependable as they come. The trick now is to go out and build on his breakout year. If he can do that starting on Opening Day, it’d go a long way toward the Cubs’ playoff aspirations.

Hendricks: A year ago, nobody knew what to expect from Hendricks coming off a long layoff due to a right shoulder capsular tear. But when he returned, he showed he could still go out and give the Cubs a shot to win whenever he got the ball. He’s not the pitcher he was during the team’s last contending window, but Hendricks should still be a reliable arm in his last year under contract on the North Side.

Wicks: Though the fifth-starter competition went on for most of spring, Wicks never really stressed about it, and now, he’s earned his first spot on an Opening Day roster. The key for him is to build off a strong first month in the majors. Teams have more data on him now, and he’ll have to adjust to that. He’s worked this winter to improve his offerings outside of his changeup, and if it translates, that should help him continue finding success with the Cubs.

Imanaga: How quickly Imanaga can make the transition to MLB will be interesting to watch. He had a lot of success in Japan, but like any player who comes over for the first time, some bumps along the way are to be expected. Still, the Cubs believed in him enough to add him to the rotation. If he can make the necessary adjustments in good time, he could be another important piece to this team’s success.

Assad: While he’s found success in different roles with the Cubs, Assad is in the Opening Day rotation. After pitching in the WBC for Mexico last spring, he put posted a strong 3.05 ERA in 2023, included a 3.02 ERA as a starter. He may eventually move back to the bullpen when the rotation is fully healthy, but for now, he’ll get the opportunity to make his spot in the rotation last.

Bullpen (8): Adbert Alzolay, Héctor Neris, Julian Merryweather, Mark Leiter Jr., Drew Smyly, Yency Almonte, Luke Little, José Cuas

Alzolay: When he got the chance to move into the closer role, Alzolay took it and ran with it, converting 22 of his first 23 save opportunities. A forearm strain in September put a damper on his otherwise standout season, but in reflecting on his first full year as a reliever, he believes he knows how to get through the 162-game grind and be there when the Cubs need him late in the season.

Neris: This winter, the Cubs added a reliever who is as durable as they come. Only two others have pitched in more games than Neris’ 215 over the last three seasons, and he appeared in at least 70 in all three. On top of that, he’s even pitched in some pretty important playoff games for the Astros. Though he didn’t have the best spring, Neris’ veteran presence on and off the field should be impactful for the bullpen mix.

Merryweather: Already over 30, Merryweather finally found success as a big league reliever in 2023. His 69 appearances were tied for ninth-most among NL bullpen arms, and he posted a solid 3.38 ERA. Plus, for somebody with a bit of an injury history, the fact he avoided the injured list was important. Now having gone through the full season and knowing how to keep his body right for 162 games, he’ll enter Opening Day looking to continue being a key arm in the relief corps.

Leiter: Without a dependable lefty in the bullpen for much of last season, Leiter consistently put together strong performances against heavy-lefty matchups. He battled a back issue late in the year that contributed to a rough September, but he still managed a career-best 3.50 ERA and a career-high 69 appearances. With other right-handed options out of the ‘pen, his strong numbers against lefties in 2023 (.568 OPS) likely make him one of the top options in those situations again this year.

Smyly: He may have pitched seven perfect innings against the Dodgers last April, but Smyly couldn’t hold onto his rotation spot over the summer. After the full-time move to the bullpen, he posted a 2.51 ERA in 18 appearances. He was in the rotation battle this spring, but sticking in the ‘pen going into Opening Day is probably the right call.

Almonte: After a pretty great season of relief in 2022, Almonte took a step back last season with the Dodgers. Acquired by the Cubs in January, they’ll look to help him find the results that have made him good in the past more consistently. His sweeper is strong, and he’s gotten plenty of relief experience over the last six seasons. If he can find success with his full arsenal, he should be a nice addition to this ‘pen.

Little: He didn’t get much of a shot when he was called up in September, but Little’s rise through the minors last year is noteworthy. He started 2023 as a starter in High-A, and he ended it relieving for the Cubs at the end of their playoff push. Now on his first Opening Day roster, Little has a shot to work himself into a reliable lefty out of the bullpen.

Cuas: A trade-deadline acquisition last year, Cuas pitched in 27 of the Cubs’ final 55 games en route to a career-high 72 appearances. Armed with an arsenal that can produce a good amount of whiffs, improving his command to bring his walk rate down is key for him finding success. Enter the year, he’ll likely see opportunities in a variety of situations.

Injured list (3): Jameson Taillon (15-day IL, retroactive to 3/25, back strain); Patrick Wisdom (10-day IL, retroactive to 3/25, back strain); Caleb Kilian (60-day IL, right shoulder strain)

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