I took this discussion out of the comments section of the Giolito post in August and made it a separate discussion item, since the situation only got more “dire” with the 9/3/12 call-ups of both Christian Garcia and Zach Duke.
Before getting into the below analysis, let me say this: I’m absolutely supported all of the 40-man additions or the 9/1 call-ups; they were all required, important moves and, especially with the early-season catcher crunch, were vital to ensuring the continued success of the team through the September push. Adding these two latest arms to a well-used bullpen, plus the 9/1/12 call-ups of of eventual 5th starter John Lannan, catcher depth in Sandy Leon and defensive replacement/pinch runner Eury Perez signal that this team used every avenue in its arsenal to win down the stretch and secure not only a playoff entry, but the #1 seed.
Garcia and Duke were new 40-man additions; to make room at the time the club put Henry Rodriguez on the 60-day dl (apropos since he just had season-ending elbow surgery). The 40-man roster was filled to a full 40 active players, with an additional three on 60-day DL (Kimball and Ramos joining H-Rod on the 60-day list).
So, why am I worried about a future 40-man roster crunch? Because with all these additions, we’re going to have to make some tough choices once it comes time to protect guys from the rule-5 draft. Some have said that the expected Free Agents and Non-Tenders will immediately ease the roster crunch, but I’d counter that these players will have to immediately be filled through free-agency and aren’t going to offer the relief one may expect.
Lets do some analysis for the 43 guys (40 on 40-man plus 3 60-day DL) we’re talking about. Here’s how these 43 guys are categorized in terms of contract status for next year:
- Seven (7) guys under contract for next year. Werth, Zimmerman, Morse, Gio Gonzalez, Maya, Tracy, Suzuki.
- Eighteen (18) guys who are pre-arbitration; Strasburg, Rendon, Purke, Harper, Espinosa, Ramos, Henry Rodriguez, Lombardozzi, Marrero, Mattheus, Kimball, Moore, Perez, Rivero, Solano, Garcia, Leon, Brown. Some of these are non-tender candidates; we’ll get to them below.
- Nine (9) guys who are arbitration-eligible but who are (in my opinion) not in Non-Tender jeopardy: Zimmermann, Clippard, Flores, Desmond, Storen, Bernadina, Detwiler, Stammen, Perry. Both Perry and Storen may or may not actually hit Arbitration status per Cots, but the logic still stands that they’d be tied to the team regardless. Are any of these guys non-tender candidates? See below. [Editor's Note] we now know that Storen DID hit super-2 status, while Perry missed out on arbitration for the year. Most of this post was written prior to this knowledge.
- Four (4) pure FAs that immediately come off books: Mike Gonzalez, Jackson, Wang, DeRosa.
- Two (2) more guys with mutual options that, as it turned out, declined their side and became free agents anway (LaRoche and Burnett).
- Three (3) easy Non-tender guesses: I think the team non-tenders Gorzelanny, Lannan and Duke (but looks to bring Gorzelanny back as a long-man). There are other possible non-tenders on this roster; we’ll talk about them later on.
So, on the day the FA’s clear and the 60-day guys get put back on the 40-man we’ll be at 43-6 FAs = 37 players. So, assuming both 43-6 FAs=37 to start, perhaps down to 34 at the non-tender deadline. That leaves 6 spots opened up … but if my scenario plays out as described above with 6 FAs and 3 non tenders, that includes no less than FIVE of our primary 25-man roster all season. Which means most likely we’ll be active in the FA market looking for replacements for those five guys. First example: Who replaces Edwin Jackson? The next guys in line are Lannan and Wang; both likely gone. After that is perhaps Perry or Maya, both on 40-man but so far both proven not to be able to get out MLB hitters. So we’re going to be looking for another starter. Same goes with replacing Burnett and Gonzalez as lefties out of the pen, and replacing DeRosa as mlb-veteran utility infielder.
My point is that, yeah we have a lot of guys getting cut but we can’t just leave those spots open on the 40-man; we’ll need to immediately fill them with MLB deals in free agency. So we go from 34 open spots probably almost immediately to 38 or 39 with these eventual FA replacement signings…. and boom, you have your roster crunch when it comes to rule5.
I have a draft version of the 2012 rule 5 pre-draft recommendations and it could get ugly, but to do some quick analysis here’s the Draft Tracker google xls: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AmkEIm1TLiXQdGhVRjRfNW81SG8xRlROQ1ZxZzNfbUE&hl=en#gid=0. Yellow shaded cells are 2012 R5 eligible but don’t forget 2011 R5 guys who have stepped up and may need protecting. At first glance in the conversation to be protected has to include: Kobernus, Rosenbaum, Karns, Hood, and Demny. I’m not saying they all need to be protected, but some of them may.
My point is this; if the team wants to protect more than 1-2 guys, they’re looking at a one-for-one replacement on the 40-man roster. Maybe they do DFA Marrero and Kimball, but they probably don’t want to. Marrero is only 24. Kimball was relatively successful before going down with shoulder surgery and is the kind of reliever that Rizzo loves.
This is the essence of the “roster crunch” that this team faces this off-season.