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September 26, 2009

Texas's 40-Man Roster: Surprisingly Uncrunchy!

Untitled DocumentEvan Grant of D Magazine concluded his end-of-season report on Texas’s minor-league system for Baseball America on a worrisome note (subscription-only link):

The Rangers have so much minor league talent they may be facing a 40-man roster crunch this winter. That may have led them to deal catcher Manny Pina (who must be protected this winter) and outfielder Tim Smith to the Royals for righthander Danny Gutierrez.

The Rangers do indeed have plenty of farm talent, but I actually think their winter roster situation will be much less stressful than in previous years. The present roster contains several players who have virtually no future in the organization, and the list of players needing protection to avoid potential capture in the Rule 5 draft is intriguing but not especially compelling.

To elaborate, Texas currently has 44 players on its roster: 40 plus four on the 60-day Disabled List who must be reinstated. They’re categorized as follows:

Pitchers Position Players Pitchers Position Players
Wage Slaves (27)
Under Contract in 2010 (3)
Eyre, Willie Andrus, Elvis Millwood, Kevin Kinsler, Ian
Feliz, Neftali Arias, Joaquin - Young, Michael
Harrison, Matt Boggs, Brandon
Arbitration-Eligible (7)
Holland, Derek Borbon, Julio Feldman, Scott German, Esteban
Hunter, Tommy Cruz, Nelson Francisco, Frank Hamilton, Josh
Hurley, Eric Davis, Chris Grilli, Jason -
Madrigal, Warner Gentry, Craig McCarthy, Brandon -
Mathis, Doug Golson, Greg Wilson, C.J. -
Mendoza, Luis Murphy, David
Free Agents (7)
Moscoso, G. Ramirez, Max Benoit, Joaquin Blalock, Hank
Nippert, Dustin Richardson, Kevin Guardado, Eddie Byrd, Marlon
O'Day, Darren Saltalamacchia, J. - Jones, Andruw
Poveda, Omar Teagarden, Taylor - Rodriguez, Ivan
Strop, Pedro - - Vizquel, Omar

Who on this list is likely to lose his spot this offseason?

Among the Free Agents:
Technically, all the free agents are eliminated unless they re-sign before declaring free agency. Their departures decrease the roster to 37. Blalock, Guardado and Jones are assuredly gone. Texas has intimated a desire to keep Pudge* and Vizquel around for another year. Although Texas would like to retain Byrd, someone will pay him more than the Rangers. Benoit may yet have a future with Texas, but not on a Major League deal this winter.

* Tangentially, remember when Texas’s catching depth was the envy of baseball? At the end of 2007, the Rangers had a top five of Saltalamacchia, Teagarden, Ramirez, Cristian Santana and Manny Pina. Now, Texas is considering re-upping a soon-to-be 38-year-old who has batted .270/.297/.402 during the last three years, Salty and Tea might enter 2010 fighting for a backup role, Ramirez exits 2009 not an inch closer to establishing himself, Pina is a Royal, and Santana is a left fielder with a mile-wide hole in his bat.

Among the Arbitration-Eligibles:
Arbitration offers to Feldman, Francisco, Wilson and Hamilton are assured. German and Grilli are much less likely. McCarthy… nah, Texas will keep him; his salary won’t spike too high from this year’s $650,000, and he still has options. Oh, and he might evolve into a useful pitcher. Perhaps.

Among the Wage Slaves:
Kevin Richardson will be designated (again). Arias used his last option in 2009 and has little chance of making the ’10 squad. The Rangers revealed their impression of Golson when they left him in AAA and instead purchased Gentry from AA Frisco. As for Gentry, his hold on a roster spot is tenuous. Luis Mendoza hasn’t earned an opportunity to assuage his dismal 2008. Texas has oodles of flexibility in this regard.

In sum, losing seven free agents, 1-2 arbitration-eligibles, and 2-4 indentured servants leaves 31 to 34 players on the 40-man roster.

What of the upcoming additions to the 40-man roster? The three players who assuredly would have been added this fall – Andrus, Feliz and Strop – are already on the active roster. Texas’s current Rule 5-eligibles include several intriguing names but none that absolutely demands addition. Put another way, who on this list would be selected in the Rule 5 draft and survive a year on a Major League roster? Here’s a partial list of eligible players:

Name Pos
Alfonzo, Miguel OF
Ballard, Michael P
Castillo, Fabio P
Diaz, Jumbo P
Flores, Adalberto P
Garr, Brennan P
Jones, Beau P
Kirkman, Michael P
Osuna, Renny IF
Paisano, David OF
Phillips, Zach P
Quintero, Jorge P
Santana, Cristian OF
Swanson, Glenn P
Tracy, Chad 1B
Whittleman, John 3B
Yan, Johan 3B

I could make an argument in favor of perhaps seven players. I could also argue for none. In any case, I can’t imagine more than three actually being added. They increase the roster to 34-37, and the high side of that range retains several players who could be waived without the fear of them becoming the next Armando Galarraga.

For the last two years, Texas hasn’t participated in the Rule 5 draft because its roster was full. Now, the Rangers should have ample room to swipe a player if desired or claim someone off waivers. The Rangers could also sign a minor-league free agent and protect him on the 40 if deemed necessary (as with Madrigal in 2007). And, Texas can sign some free agents, albeit most likely the inexpensive kind (role players, folks denied arbitration by other teams, etc.).

Just out of curiosity, what kind of active roster can be constructed without any free agents?

Rotation: Millwood, Feldman, and three of Feliz, Harrison, Holland, Hunter, Hurley, McCarthy, maybe Moscoso, and Nippert.

Bullpen: Francisco, O’Day, Wilson, and four out of a group of Eyre, Mathis, Madrigal, and whoever doesn’t make the rotation. (Even minus Guardado and Grilli, I count 16 MLB-experienced pitchers.)

Starters: Saltalamacchia, Davis / Kinsler / Andrus / Young, Murphy / Borbon / Cruz, Hamilton

Bench: Teagarden, German, Boggs, Ramirez or Gentry or Golson or (gulp) Arias

The above squad is one way of composing the ominous “$50 million payroll” under which Texas might operate in 2010 (which, by the way, includes the final $3 million payment to one Alex Rodriguez). To be sure, it would squander the efforts of Texas’s brightest young players, who can’t forge a postseason run on their own. That said, it at least lacks gaping holes. Texas won’t have Brian Bocock as its Opening Day shortstop.

Posted by Lucas at September 26, 2009 12:55 PM