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An Actual Roster Move! 40-Man Fun!

Little has been written about it, because it mostly involves guys on the fringes of the roster and won’t actually be interesting unless someone notable goes unprotected in the Rule Five draft or otherwise leaves the organization, but Blue Jays have a bit of a 40-man roster crunch heading in their direction. On Wednesday evening, they announced that they’ve taken one step toward alleviating it… sort of.

To wit:

These three players were all on the 60-day DL, so not technically counting against the 40-man roster anyway, for the moment. This, then, is the easy step in what could be a difficult process — and one that will see a bit of activity from the club, some of it that might genuinely be at the very least mildly interesting!

From here, the Jays first need to get four more players currently on the 60-day DL, Aaron Sanchez, Troy Tulowitzki, Devon Travis, and Dalton Pompey back on the 40-man. That won’t be difficult, because spots will be freed up when players begin to file for free agency. At that point five free agents, Brett Anderson, Darwin Barney, José Bautista, Miguel Montero, and Michael Saunders, will relinquish their spots to the four left on the DL. That will leave just one 40-man spot remaining.

Tammy Rainey did some excellent work on this subject back in September for BP Toronto, and gave us the names of the following prospects-of-interest who would be eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 draft if not protected: Danny Jansen, Max Pentecost, Connor Greene, Thomas Pannone, Reese McGuire, Rowdy Tellez, Jordan Romano, Roemon Fields, Francisco Rios, Jason Leblebijian, Chris Smith, Andrew Case, Chad Girodo, D.J. Davis. And players who would be six-year minor league free agents, Tom Robson, Angel Perdomo, John Stilson, and Murphy Smith. (Mike Bolsinger was on Tammy’s list as well, but he elected free agency in late October, along with Lucas Harrell, Nick Tepesch, Jeff Beliveau, T.J. House, Brett Oberholtzer, and Mike Ohlman, as reported by Matt Eddy of Baseball America.)

There are some names on there!

Tammy writes: “From this group I’d argue that The first [seven] are of great interest to the team. Further, if they could find a way to squeeze Rios, Robson, and Perdomo on they would.”

That sounds about right to me, but if the Jays are going to get all of them protected from selection in the Rule 5, it means making quite a bit more room than the one space that will be freed up by the subtraction of the five free agents and the addition of the four guys on the DL.

Fortunately there are a bunch of guys who could also be cut loose to create that room.

Taylor Cole, Matt Dermody, Raffy Lopez, Luke Maile, Carlos Ramirez, Harold Ramirez, Rob Refsnyder, Chris Rowley, Luis Santos, and Dwight Smith Jr. immediately jump out as potential cuts who are currently on the 40-man. Jumping out immediately from that group, though, are Carlos Ramirez and Chris Rowley as guys the Jays might want to keep. Or… I mean, they might want to keep all of these guys, but not at the expense of a Pannone, or Greene, or Pentecost.

Another thing that the club could do here is move some of their non-tender candidates. Ezequiel Carrera, Ryan Goins, Tom Koehler, and Aaron Loup are all players who are arbitration eligible this winter, and may have some trade value. Wouldn’t they inevitably bring back pieces you’d want on the 40-man? Oh, probably. But it’s another way to potentially free up spots on the 40-man.

November 20th is the deadline for clubs to file their “reserve lists,” aka to solidify their 40-man rosters ahead of the Rule 5 draft, which takes place on December 14th. Clubs are still able to make changes to their rosters between November 20th and the end of the Rule 5, but during that period club’s can’t move players from their minor league reserve lists to their big league 40-man.

In layman’s terms, by November 20th, the Jays are going to have to move a few youngsters onto their 40-man, and to do so will have to move some fringy guys off of it. Like they, kinda, in the most technical sense, have done with the move they announced today. TASTE THE EXCITEMENT!

  • Nice Guy Eddie

    The reason Pentecost is in Peoria is to see whether they should protect him. That speaks volumes, that they are considering exposing a guy who the previous FO used a 11 overall pick on, in the Rule 5. This FO may not see a pick that high for years, and it’s a testament to how bad the drafting was by the AA FO that a 11 pick is up first chance for the Rule 5.

    • Just Jeff

      Pentecost is in the AFL to get reps behind the plate and to better prepare him for AA. He’s getting protected, book it. Catchers that can hit are hard to come by. Considering most MLB backup Catchers don’t play much and most can’t hit either, it’s safe to assume someone would happily carry a talent like Pentecost as their backup Catcher for a year just to get him into their organization.

    • Jays of Thunder

      Unless they ignored injury red flags with Pentecost, I don’t see how this is on AA. Pentecost has obviously not lived up to expectations, because he’s been hurt.

      • I’d heard a rumour that a couple high ups, like Brian Parker, had seen Pentecost late in the process and fell in love with him, and basically insisted he be taken. The implication was that *maybe* not enough was done in terms of investigating his health, but that’s a pretty big charge. And the fact is, the person talking about bad drafting by AA’s front office is making zero sense. There are plenty of picks that high that take time to get to the big leagues, and that’s not even accounting for injury. Four of the players picked ahead of Pentecost have yet to reach the bigs as well, three of whom have yet to see Double-A. This isn’t the hockey draft.

        None of this should be taken as a blanket endorsement of AA’s drafting, though. There are things worth criticizing in his record, but that’s going to be true of everyone, and generally, it’s hard to look at the players taken when Alex was here and not think that he did pretty damned good.

  • ErnieWhitt

    I know from extensive OOTP GM experience that while the temptation is to protect everyone, it’s pretty unlikely that you lose someone for the fact that the claiming team has to keep the player on their 25 man roster or lose the player back to the original team. Even though there are some good names on the list I wonder if the Jays would even keep one of those names on the 25 man roster at this point. Some of them are fringe and you would hate to lose them but I would expect that they can work the roster to keep the higher risk guys in the org. I love this shit!

    • Stolen Prayers

      The Padres tried to keep 3, THREE!, rule five guys on their roster this year. For a guy who has some pedigree, like Pentecost, a lot of shit teams can find a spot for a backup catcher.

      • ErnieWhitt

        Maybe.. though that is a pretty large risk you’d be making on your 25 man roster for a guy who has topped out at A+ and hasn’t played a full season as an actual catcher in years. Its not to say its impossible – just that they likely only have to protect a few names on that list and not go crazy protecting every halfway ok prospect.

        • gabriel

          If Pentecost is unprotected, he’s a very high risk to get selected, but I agree he’d be more likely to be returned than most Rule 5 catchers of similar talent, due to the big jump in level and his relatively scant recent catching experience.

          Last year, we were debating protecting Perdomo, Tim Mayza and Francisco Rios as well as Borucki, Alford and Urena, who were all added. Simply put, there are a lot more attractive candidates to add to the 40-man this winter than last winter.

  • Terry Mesmer

    I might keep a few of those guys, but it does seem like the Jays could do better by picking up depth from other teams. I like Carrera but…no one being released, non-tendered, or left unprotected is better than Zeke? Come on…

      • jays17

        Last offseason you went on and on about how redundant and useless Carrera was due to his weird splits (he couldn’t hit righties) even though your logic was based on *way* too small of a sample size. Now he’s an asset since he proved you wrong?

        • From 2012 to 2016 his slash line against RHP was .238/.301/.340 over 578 plate appearances. Not a big sample, but a fairly healthy one. And it’s not like I was ever pretending samples were different than they were. In fact, the whole point of the splits thing was that the aberration, his *actually* small sample of success against LHP — over the same period he slashed .325/.371/.436, but in only 176 PA — was pulling his overall numbers up, and that, were he to be deployed as the lefty bat in a platoon, there wasn’t a lot to suggest he’d be successful in doing so. This year’s numbers didn’t “prove me wrong,” they proved that his previous 578 plate appearances, though the best information we had at the time, maybe didn’t give the full picture of what he’s capable of against RHP — though with a .358 BABIP in 2017, which is high even for a guy who generally can post pretty high BABIPs, I don’t think he’s “proven” much one way or the other yet, either.

          Now what’s this “now he’s an asset” business? All I said was that teams aren’t rushing to cut players like him — players who just put up a 107 wRC+ in 325 PA. Just about every player has some kind of value as an asset — the question isn’t asset or not an asset, it’s one of degree. In this case, yes, I think Carrera probably has enough value to at least question the idea of giving him away for nothing. I probably would have said something similar last year, but likely would have been a little less reluctant to give him away for nothing, both because of his numbers to that point against RHP, and because he seemed like a redundant piece (a term which doesn’t mean he’s not an asset, but that, quite literally, means he’s redundant).

          All of which is to say, be wrong or be an asshole, never both.

  • Just Jeff

    If we assume that they want to keep the 7 Tammy mentioned, it’s means you have to come up with 6 guys that need to be removed. I can get to 4 fairly easily (Cole, Campos, one of Maile or Lopez and Refsnyder), but after that you are probably removing somebody you’d prefer not to (Dwight Smith, Harold Ramirez, Pompey, Koehler, Zeke, Loup, Goins, Rowley or Santos). I don’t think you can waive Zeke, Loup or Goins until you have a viable replacement. Pompey still has too much upside to let walk. Smith you probably want to keep as a depth piece and ideally you’d keep Rowley and Santos as cheap AAA depth for your rotation. That probably leaves Keohler and Ramirez at this point. But that doesn’t account for anyone they sign in free agency being added to the 40 man roster. I think Shapiro and Atkins are going to need to make a trade or two to alleviate these problems. They don’t strike me as the kind of guys that like to let assets leave for nothing.

      • gabriel

        I don’t think Tellez or Romano should be protected – but I would protect Angel Perdomo, who would probably be taken as a left-hander with plus stuff and control issues – that’s prime bullpen material in the Rule 5. Romano seems less likely to be taken as a right-hander, but there’s a good argument there. Tellez, as a first baseman, is the least likely type of player to be picked, has never been a top prospect, and is coming off of a very poor season. Even if he does get picked, I think there’s a high probability he gets returned – few teams can roster an extra 1B/DH-only player for the entire season.

        As for players to take off the 40-man, I think you have to look at Dermody, Rowley and Santos as well as Cole and Campos among pitchers. I agree Refsnyder should be taken off, but I’d also take Harold Ramirez and Dwight Smith Jr. off as well – they are marginal corner outfielders without a carrying tool, unlikely to be taken and unlikely to be missed even if taken.

        Between the catchers, I’d rather outright Maile – I think Lopez would be snatched up by a team that (rightly) regards a left-handed backup catcher with power as a pretty decent bet. Given Maile’s atrocious season with the stick, I think there’s a decent chance he slips through, but there’s a decent argument for protecting him too.

        • Just Jeff

          Romano is a bit of an interesting case. His surface numbers suggest that he had a mediocre to pretty good season in high A. But if you dig into the splits a bit, you see that he was lights out against right handed hitters and horrible against lefties. If you believe in those splits (he was pretty split-neutral in low A last year), then that profile screams reliever. He doesn’t really have control issues and he’s been good at keeping the ball in the park, so I tend to think he’d get scooped up by somebody for an MLB reliever, sort of like Biagini. Perdermo, to me, is too wild to stick with an MLB team next year. You might be right about Tellez, but the Jays don’t really have an organizational replacement for Smoak on the horizon outside of Tellez (unless you think Vlad ends up at 1st), and he’s a 22 year old that only struggled for the first time in the minors at the AAA level. I just don’t think you give away a guy like that, regardless of his position on the field.

          The problem with protecting both Maile and Lopez is that you also have to protect Jansen, McGuire and Pentecost, as well as Russell Martin. That would be 6 catchers on the 40 man roster. Considering you probably need half of the 40 for pitchers, that doesn’t really work. Moreover, one of Maile and Lopez isn’t going to make the team. Jansen and McGuire are probably platooning at AAA so whoever misses out on the 25 man roster is probably getting released. You don’t want a guy you’re going to release taking up a spot on your 40 all winter. They have to pick one to keep now and then offer the other a spring training tryout on a minor league deal. If they decline, whatever. Backup catchers are a dime a dozen.

          • gabriel

            You make good points on Romano. I acknowledge that there’s a good argument for protecting him – I still think Perdomo is a little more likely to be taken, as he’s younger, probably has better stuff, and more upside, and would fit into a more defined role as a lefty. Romano is definitely at risk of being taken if unprotected too, but right-handed fastball/slider types are pretty common, so I think he’s a little less likely to go. The reality is that the Jays will have to either try to outright some players we don’t want to lose or leave unprotected some players we’d similarly like to keep. Perdomo is a little ahead of Romano on my list, but they are both on the bubble.

            I don’t agree that Maile or Lopez is likely to be released if they don’t make the opening day roster – if AAA is full, they will get assigned to New Hampshire and get regular at-bats there. I also don’t think it’s certain that McGuire will start the season in Buffalo.

            Also on the issue of catchers, I really don’t think the allocation of 40-man spots between positions is a significant issue. The question is whether you have sufficient flexibility and depth for the major-league team, and adding a couple extra catchers has a marginal impact – there are always 40-man spots taken up by players who aren’t plausibly depth options for the major-league team (like Borucki this past year), and it doesn’t matter where those players are.

            After Tellez’s disastrous season (73 wRC+), he’s just not that good of a prospect – it was always his performance rather than tools or scouting evaluations that supported his prospect status, and his performance just cratered. He’s unlikely to be a replacement for Smoak even if he does stick around, and I don’t think you make 40-man decisions on the basis of what a position of need might be in 2020. And, as I said earlier, I think the risk of losing him is very low – only three 1B have been selected in the Rule V draft in the last 20 years.

    • ErnieWhitt

      I agree though I think its probably unlikely they keep Koehler around because if I’m not mistaken he’s due some pretty serious money (for what he is) $6M or something like that?