There is a myth that has been perpetuated partly by the Phillies, partly by the press and partly by fans for the last two years. And it’s a myth we shouldn’t be buying into anymore.
The myth usually picks up steam in October and November. It gains momentum to the point that everyone starts to believe it and gets nervous that it might come true.
This year, the myth already has some legs as the Phillies prepare, possibly, to make some long-awaited promotions of young prospects such as Rhys Hoskins, Tom Eshelman and, down the line, Scott Kingery.
The myth is that the Phillies’ 40-man roster is too full and it doesn’t have any more room to add players.
For those that don’t know, the 40-man roster is the list of players eligible to be added to the active, 25-man roster. If you’re not on the 40-man roster, you can’t play in the bigs. After a certain amount of time in a career, a player must be added to the 40-man roster or else the team could lose him in the annual Rule 5 Draft in December. Mid-November is the deadline for teams to finalize the 40-man roster.
During the season, teams add to and subtract from the 40-man. Generally, a player is dropped from the 40-man by being released or designated for assignment – the dreaded “DFA.” When a player is designated, he is placed on waivers and any team can pick him up for 10 days. If he makes it through waivers, the team keeps his rights and he is sent to the minors or just released.
For the last two years, the Phillies have told everyone who will listen that their 40-man roster presents challenges when they make moves, and that it’s a good thing. They say it’s full of guys they want to keep instead of losing the rights to. We’re probably going to hear that refrain again in the next couple weeks as the trade deadline approaches. We also could hear it as an explanation as to why Kingery won’t receive a call-up early next year, because he doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man until after the 2018 season. Then we’ll hear it again in November when J.P. Crawford and other minor leaguers will have to be added to the 40-man.
We’ve bought into this farce the last couple years because as far as we could tell, it was true. We wanted to keep all the prospects we could, even if we didn’t know how to pronounce their names. We were told they were too valuable, too important to the future of the franchise, to lose them to another team for nothing. And they weren’t ready for the big leagues, so they couldn’t just be brought up.
Fine. If you want to use that excuse in November, it’s flimsy at best. But if the Phillies try to run that up the flagpole this summer as a reason why they’re not making promotions, or not making deals, then we should all be waiting with pitchforks and torches to call them on it.
Take a look up and down the Phillies’ 40-man. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Back now? How’s your stomach? Did you puke? There are five (at least) guys on there who probably don’t belong in the major leagues. There’s another three or four (at least) about whom I really wouldn’t blink if they were suddenly released. So if General Manager Matt Klentak tells us Eshleman isn’t getting an audition because the team didn’t want to use up a spot on the 40-man, you’ll know he’s lying to you. Not that anyone on this team is worth multiple prospects, but if we hear the team turned down deals because there wasn’t enough room on the 40-man to add multiple guys, you’ll know it’s trash.
The rostering of guys like Ty Kelly, Cam Perkins, Mark Leiter Jr. and a few others should not be holding up any deal, or any earned promotion. The Phillies should be comfortable DFA-ing a few of these guys who obviously are expendable and hold very, very little value so we can see the guys who have proven they are ready.
But the Phillies have gotten away with the 40-man excuse for so long, they might just try it again. Let’s make sure we don’t let them.