An Early Look At Potential Departures

Photo credit:© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Tammy Rainey
1 month ago
Now that the business of the off-season has arrived, all too soon, there are some areas available for speculation.
If we need an unofficial kick-off, MLBTR’s annual arbitration salary projections are as good as any for that purpose. I have a great many small thoughts that are better suited for Twitter than an article like this (for example, if I were the GM I’d be pretty intensive about extending Jansen early, before the coming and going of the off-season even gets started) and I’ll try to control my urge to work those in in an unorganized way given that the central focus of this column is actually minor league free agency.
  • We’re aware by now that six players on the 40-man roster are pending major-league free agents.
    Chapman: Seems very likely to get a qualifying offer, the consensus is that he’d turn it down. If he does accept it solves a pending problem.
  • Kiermaier: Seems the most likely to return. He seems to love the Jays and other than the (VERY expensive) Cody Bellinger he’s probably the best solution for the 2024 outfield that we have available – as long as it’s another one-year deal.
  • Merrifield: Has a crazy expensive team option, but no chance it’s picked up, and in a thin FA class will likely sign, elsewhere, for more than he’s worth.
  • Belt: Says he’s contemplating retirement.
  • Ryu: If the Jays are serious about getting Manoah back in his grove, there’s no room for signing a guy who would have every reason to expect to be in the rotation.
  • Hicks: Not that he wouldn’t be a great help, but the ‘pen is overflowing with talent (assuming Green returns which, I don’t think they make that deal unless they both expect it to continue) and I don’t think they want to spend what it will take to keep him on the bullpen.
So that leaves 34 on the 40. There are three guys on the 60 Day that have to be added so that makes 37. It’s safe to say Wes Parsons will be removed, as well as possibly Cam Eden and Otto Lopez. I would not be very confident they keep Ernie Clement on the roster either. Also, there’s a case to be made that they could save some payroll by non-tendering Adam Cimber, and maybe Santiago Espinal. So one could speculate a roster that lands somewhere around 32-33 before you add any new players to it. Which is a point I’ll say more about later.
Turning now to the topic I originally set out to write about, Minor League Free Agency and Rule 5 eligible players – I fully admit this is a pretty esoteric topic that’s not going to generate a lot of discussion around the virtual water cooler, but I’m kind of obsessive about such things (I don’t keep this spreadsheet for nothing) and maybe I’m not alone.
One of the problems, though, is that it’s not that easy to find the latest information on the rules for MiLB free agency. The best resource I’ve found on the sometimes complex rules which apply to minor leaguers is the Cubs Reporter blog, but even this update is eight years old and I cannot be certain that nothing has changed since. Plus, there are even more obscure rules (for example, you CAN sign a minor league free agent to a multi-year deal but no one would know until the offseason you’d normally walk turns up and… you don’t) which means that if you’re not on staff at Baseball America or something, you’re just making an educated guess. Here’s the applicable rule for most players:
“An unsigned minor league player is automatically declared a free-agent at 5 PM (Eastern) on the 5th day after the final game of the World Series … if the player has spent all or any part of at least seven separate seasons on a minor league roster… and/or if the player has been previously released or non-tendered in his career and his present contract (known as a “second contract” even if it’s his third or fourth minor league contract) has expired… Note that a player who ordinarily would have been declared a Rule 9 minor league free-agent is NOT eligible to be a free-agent if the player is either added to an MLB Reserve List (40-man roster) or agrees to a minor league successor contract prior to 5 PM (Eastern) on the 5th day after the final game of the World Series.”
This is the basic framework I’m using to estimate this list.  Again, there may be info that I’m not privy to which will make something here inaccurate. Also, there are some specific provisions that apply in certain situations. For example, this was the first time in his career that Mitch White was outrighted off of the 40-man roster and as such would not, as I understand it, be a free agent (though he will be Rule 5 eligible). I’m doing the best I can to spot those.
Also, a full season spent on the injured list doesn’t count (along with the Restricted List and some others). What follows then is sorted by team roster and players who have spent all or part of seven seasons on an active roster in an affiliated system are in italics, while those on “second contract” are not (also, since they counted 2020 for the purposes of the Rule 5 I’m assuming it applies here as well):
BUFFALO: Rafael Lantigua, Steward Berroa, Mason McCoy, Luis De Los Santos*, Jamie Richie, Max McDowell, Stevie Berman, Gabe Klobosits, Matt Peacock, Paul Fry, Rowan Wick, Matt Whisler, Zach Thompson, Jay Jackson (may technically be considered a major league free agent).
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Sebastian Espino, Abiezel Ramirez, Abdiel Mendoza, Juan Nunez, Joe Jones, Davis Feldman.
VANCOUVER: Leam Mendez, Lyle Li
*De Los Santos is a player that contributes to my confusion. By the rules, as I understand them, he should have been a free agent last winter. Possibly they resigned him before he was free or something, but the point is it’s hard for anyone outside the industry to be certain about these things. Additionally here, when Wes Parsons comes off of the 40-man he would be a free agent, likewise, if they remove Ernie Clement, Otto Lopez, or Nathan Lukes (all less likely than Parsons).
Basically, other than the three hitters I just mentioned, there’s no one there that you’d miss except Rafael Lantigua. They could keep him by adding him to the 40, I can’t rule it out but it seems mildly unlikely. Possibly they could sign him to a new contract but he’d then be Rule 5 eligible and he’d surely be selected.
Speaking of the Rule 5, as far as I can determine, there are around fifty players not on the 40-man roster as of this writing who are Rule 5 eligible. This includes Mitch White, whom I would be STUNNED if he’s not added to the 40, and the aforementioned Lantigua situation (if he’s not a FA for whatever reason he would be R5 eligible if not placed on the 40). If they remove Cam Eden from the 40, he’d be eligible too.
I’ll spare you the entire list, but these are the players who’ve been ranked on someone’s prospect list, or turned heads in the upper minors this year, listed in my own order of importance and with the names who will get strong consideration, or are a lock, bolded:
  • Adam Macko – a lock
  • Dahian Santos – coming off an injury, unlikely to be taken
  • Alex De Jesus – likewise
  • CJ Van Eck – also, but more advanced, will be discussed
  • Michael Dominguez – borderline, could likely hold his own on the margins of a second-division bullpen. Will be discussed.
  • Gabriel Martinez – too far away, horrible season
  • Lazaro Estrada – too far away to be gambled on, but great season
  • Tanner Morris – may well be picked, but buried on the depth chart so they’d let him go
  • Rainer Nunez – struggled to adjust to AA
  • Dasan Brown – big regression
  • Will Robertson – broke out in the second half, likely not enough to get him chosen.
  • Jimmy Burnette – something made them bring him to ST back in March, but he struggled badly in AAA so I don’t see the appeal.
For me, only White and Macko are locks. They might roll the dice on the others but the Lantigua decision intrigues me. Normally I’m expecting a lot of borderline additions and then they only add two guys or whatever so I’m trying to be more realistic this time. Do with this information what you will.


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