Chicago Cubs: Who's the Odd Man Out?

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Chicago Cubs: Who's the Odd Man Out?
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Friday is Aramis Ramirez's 32nd birthday. It's also the day that he will be activated off of the disabled list.

In order to make room for the embattled third baseman, somebody needs to move off the 25-man roster. Since the team has only just started a stretch of 20 days without an off day, they can't afford to go with fewer than 12 pitchers.

That means, while Ramirez might have a very happy birthday tomorrow, one of the club's position players will be less than thrilled.

I think it's safe to say that Colvin has earned himself some job security in the outfield. No need to worry about him catching a plane to Iowa.

Catchers Geovany Soto and Koyie Hill are obviously safe, too. There's no way this club is going to carry fewer than two catchers at any point in time.

If for no other reason, Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Xavier Nady, and Marlon Byrd are all unlikely to get demoted because they have more than five years of major league service time. As such, they would have to consent to the demotion.

Since Kosuke Fukudome has a partial no-trade clause, he would also have to consent to a demotion, putting him in the same boat.

That leaves Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, Starlin Castro, Jeff Baker and Chad Tracy.

Theriot's season has been very much a down year so far and has only improved to inconsistent lately. He would have to clear optional assignment waivers first, but "The Riot" does have two options remaining.

Fontenot has slowed considerably off of his hot start, but that cooling has only been very recent. He has a slash line of .091/.130/.091 in his last 23 plate appearances heading into Thursday, and has one option remaining, but would also have to clear optional assignment waivers.

Castro started his big league career very hot, but has cooled off since (.193/.255/.227 in his last 99 plate appearances). Cubs fans might not like to hear it, but the front office could decide that he could use some seasoning in Triple-A.

Baker is out of options, meaning that he'll have to be put on waivers before a demotion, and he's been hitting better recently (.324/.350/.486 in his last 40 plate appearances), but he just hasn't had a very good year overall (.250/.299/.417).

Tracy has more than five years of major league service time, like the four veteran Cubs I mentioned earlier, but he consented to being optioned on May 7. Although he did great in Triple-A during his most recent stay there, he just hasn't swung the bat well for the major league Cubs.

The fact that the two LSU alums (Theriot and Fontenot) would need to pass through optional assignment waivers makes me think that they wouldn't be moved unless a trade was imminent. Since Theriot has been included in trade rumors lately, he could get designated for assignment, but I just don't get the feeling that that move will happen any time soon, if at all.

Castro may or may not benefit from spending some time in Iowa, but there is probably too much hype surrounding him to send him down, unless he continues to struggle. The simple fact is that he's the type of player that could just as easily get his seasoning in the big leagues as he could in Triple-A.

In other words, I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.

So now we're left with the two players that are widely believed to be the front-runners for a move anyways: Jeff Baker and Chad Tracy.

Baker can play anywhere in the infield and at either corner outfield position, has been hitting better lately, and would have to clear waivers before being sent down. Tracy can play the corner infield (and possibly corner outfield) positions, provides a left-handed bat, hasn't been hitting in the big leagues this year, doesn't have to go through waivers, and might be willing to consent to another demotion.

The Cubs already made this decision once, so I would assume that they'll go in the same direction again.

I'm not a betting man, but I'd put my money on Chad Tracy being the odd man out. It's simply the move that takes the least away from the team right now and gives them the most flexibility with their roster going forward.

EDIT (6/25): Apparently, I overlooked a clause in Tracy's contract that only allowed him to be optioned in the first 45 days of the season. It appears that whoever gets moved off the 25-man roster might end up out of the organization altogether.

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