Cubs Set NLCS Roster, Swap Zastryzny for La Stella

Some folks might have been a little surprised by what they saw when the Cubs released their NLCS roster Saturday morning. Readers of this blog, however, saw the changes coming a couple days ago.

[beautifulquote align=”full”]I’ll say that the Cubs will indeed go with 12 arms and that the addition will be Hammel if they face the Nats and Zastryzny if it’s the Dodgers. In either case, La Stella would be removed from the active roster.[/beautifulquote]

After carrying only 11 pitchers into their opening series with the Giants, the Cubs opted to add an extra arm heading into a potential seven-game tilt with the Dodgers. While that in and of itself may not have shocked anyone, the choice to add rookie Rob Zastryzny over veterans like Jason Hammel or Trevor Cahill probably caused some to post or emulate those pensive, hand-on-chin emojis. Then you’ve got the decision to deactivate Tommy La Stella rather than Chris Coghlan.

There’s something to be said for tenure and experience in high-pressure situations, but the Dodgers’ lefty-heavy lineup (they routinely start six left-handed hitters) dictated a matchup move. Zastryzny posted a 1.15 ERA (2.15 FIP) over 16 innings pitched that came in seven relief appearances and one spot start and provides Joe Maddon with another southpaw to deploy should any of the starters encounter a rough patch.

The Dodgers have generally struggled against lefty pitching, though even Cubs’ righty starters have fared well against them historically. Given the nature of the long series and the travel days, there’s both a need to conserve starters and decreased fear of burning up middle relievers. Between Zastryzny, Mike Montgomery, and Travis Wood, the Cubs can both up the rotation and insure against the deleterious effects of something like the 13-inning marathon they experienced in Game 3 of the NLDS.

Removing La Stella from the active roster was simply a matter of need versus value. He hadn’t seen much action in the NLDS (one pinch-hit fly out in Game 1) and didn’t figure to be necessary against a Dodgers team that’s also rich with lefty starters. The further emergence of Javy Baez made it highly unlikely that TLS would have a spot on the infield in anything less than a dire emergency, so his potential contribution was too limited to be worth a roster spot.

As we’ve been saying as far back as our original conversations regarding playoff roster construction, these moves are all about leveraging every possible advantage. In an ideal scenario, the Cubs don’t need to lean on Zastryzny at all. Nor will they have to burn through all the bats on the bench. Maybe they can just build an eight-run lead and then let the kid get some valuable playoff experience. Yeah, that’d be nice.

In case you need a refresher, here’s the full roster:


  • Anthony Rizzo
  • Ben Zobrist
  • Addison Russell
  • Kris Bryant
  • Javy Baez


  • Jason Heyward
  • Dexter Fowler
  • Jorge Soler
  • Chris Coghlan
  • Albert Almora, Jr


  • David Ross
  • Miguel Montero
  • Willson Contreras


  • Jon Lester
  • Kyle Hendricks
  • Jake Arrieta
  • John Lackey


  • Mike Montgomery
  • Travis Wood
  • Rob Zastryzny
  • Justin Grimm
  • Carl Edwards, Jr
  • Pedro Stop
  • Hector Rondon
  • Aroldis Chapman

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