The Phillies currently have 46 players on their 40-man roster. This in itself is not strange – with the advent of the 60-day disabled list (DL), teams can carry up to 25 active players and 15 players in the minors as reserve, with any player who is anticipated to miss 60 days or more not counting against the final 40.
The Phillies currently have six players on their 40-man who are on the 60-day: Mike Adams, Ryan Howard, Jeremy Horst, John Lannan, Jonathan Pettibone, and Michael Stutes. Adams and Howard have guaranteed contracts for 2014, while Horst and Pettibone have cheap, renewable contracts, and Lannan and Stutes are arbitration-eligible.
These six players will all count toward the Phillies 40-man sometime shortly after the World Series concludes, making the 40-man roster 46 deep. Uh oh.
Where do you even start in a situation like this? In addition to the six players coming off of the 60-day DL, there are an additional 11 players (12 including Lannan) that are arbitration eligible, at least 19 players eligible for selection in the Rule 5 Draft if not added to the 40-man roster, and at least five minor leaguers that can opt out of their contracts to become Minor League free agents. Oh, and you’ll have to make room for any free agent or trade acquisitions.
Good luck, right?
As impossible as it may seem, this situation happens yearly for most MLB teams and there are usually very few surprises. Let’s review what the Phillies are faced with.
No, not the Sly Stallone movie. Instead, this is the group of players that you would be able to Designate for Assignment and have clear waivers or release and have a pretty good shot at re-signing them to a Minor League deal. Michael Martinez and Pete Orr fit this bill perfectly – light-hitting infielders that a team could pass through waivers but re-add to their squad in the event of an emergency. Or in the case of Martinez, the team having a bizarre fetish with one of baseball’s worst players. Add to this group Joe Savery and you have three folks off the 40-man.
Including Lannan, the Phillies have 12 arbitration eligible players for the 2014 season. They are: Antonio Bastardo, Roger Bernadina, Kevin Frandsen, Kyle Kendrick, Cesar Jimenez, Martinez, John Mayberry Jr., Zach Miner, Ben Revere, Raul Valdes, and Casper Wells. Mayberry Jr., Miner, Valdes, and Wells very nearly made my expendables list: two below-replacement level outfielders and two below-replacement level relievers. None of these four players have any value to any other team, so you could not trade them.
Non-tendering or DFA’ing, my choice for Mayberry, those four, plus non-tendering or DFA’ing Martinez and Orr gets the 40-man roster to 39. Hooray! That was easy!
Protecting Your Prospects
By my count, the Phillies have at least 17 players they must protect in the Rule 5 draft. There are no-doubt-about-it additions to the 40-man roster like Kelly Dugan (20 HR, .291/.352/.506 across Clearwater and Reading in 2013), athletic projects like Aaron Altherr (.275/.337/.445 with 12 HR and 23 SB for Clearwater in 2013), minor league successes like Mike Nesseth (2.50 ERA in 68.1 IP across Clearwater, Reading, and Lehigh Valley) and David Buchanan (4-2 in 6 GS for Lehigh Valley after being called up from Reading), and former top prospects like Brody Colvin (6.40 ERA in 21 G, 14 GS for Reading). Oh, and don’t forget catching prospect Tommy Joseph. At age 22, question marks surround the former blue chipper’s health and ability to catch again.
Dugan, Altherr, and Nesseth seem to have the inside track at 40-man roster spots, or at least their ability to play themselves into one, after being invited to represent the Phillies in the Arizona Fall League. With the lack of depth in the outfield, the Phillies will likely want to keep Dugan and Altherr, so look for the Phillies to protect them by adding them to their 40-man roster. Buchanan and Nesseth wouldn’t surprise me as additions, either, and would be slam dunks in years where the 40-man is a little thinner. It would be quite surprising to let the bounty of the Hunter Pence trade go after just one bad-luck, injury filled season after a promising Spring with the big club and equally surprising to let the return for Michael Young, Rob Rasmussen walk.
Let’s say Dugan, Altherr, Rasmussen and Joseph are locks – Dugan and Joseph are slam dunks to be, at worst claimed in the Rule 5 and Altherr is the speedy pinch runner/defensive replacement type outfielder that is perfect for a team to hide on their roster for a year. The 40-man roster is back up to 43, eh?
Other notable players that are Rule 5 eligible: Seth Rosin, Kyrell Hudson, Steven Inch, Nick Hernandez, Perci Garner, Mario Hollands, Tyler Knigge, Carlos Alonso, Bob Stumpo, Ethan Stewart, Nefi Ogando, and Art Charles.
The Minor League Fun Doesn’t Stop There
No, no – there are more minor leaguers to make decisions on!
After sneaking them both through the Rule 5 draft last season, the Phillies must decide whether or not to offer Major League contracts to outfielders Leandro Castro and Jiwan James. Castro hit .256 with 8 HR and 20 SB in his first year with Lehigh Valley while James hit .270 with career-lows zero HR and eight SB, repeating High-A Clearwater. Castro is an intriguing name but his ceiling is likely that of a fifth outfielder in the Majors so I do not see the Phillies signing him to a Major League deal. And James? James had his second consecutive hugely disappointing season. I will pass on both.
Steve Susdorf saw a cameo with the big club but can also elect to become a minor league free agent. The popular Susdorf may, and likely will, be brought back on a separate minor league contract.
The two names that intrigue me from this pool are two players Joe Jordan lured away from the Orioles organization: Justin Dalles and Tyler Henson. Dalles, 24, has big arm behind the plate and hit well in a small sample against pitching that he was about two to three years older than in Clearwater and Reading. Henson ended the season on a hot streak after being called to Lehigh Valley to replace the promoted Cody Asche, hitting .316/.376/.526 with 8 2B, 4 HR, and 3 SB in 111 PA. With renewed catching depth in their system, Dalles will likely not be protected but will likely be a target to bring back on a Minor League deal with the third baseman Henson had the kind of season scouts expected from him after his 2007-2010 ascension from Low-A to Double-A.
Henson’s primary position is third base but is blocked by Asche and, presumably, Maikel Franco but his bat could play well in the outfield. It is truly doubtful the Phillies protect Henson but they may have found a diamond in the rough. Henson will get a longer look in 2014 from a Major League team after bouncing back at age 25.
There are no names from this group, but Henson really makes me pause. The 40-man roster stays at 43.
The Free Agents – Both Coming and Going
Because we’re still stuck at 43, we have to revisit the non-tender group and make some of them free agents. With Adam Morgan, Jesse Biddle, and possibly Austin Wright manning the IronPigs starting rotation in 2014 and Tyler Cloyd either making the team or being shuttled back and forth again, Kendrick becomes expendable, as does Lannan. With these two moves, the 40-man roster is back down to 41.
Don’t stop there, though. Even with Roy Halladay‘s encouraging performance last night, I wouldn’t bring him back. Without Halladay, Kendrick, Lannan, the 40-man roster is down to 40 with Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Jonathan Pettibone, and Ethan Martin as your presumed 2014 rotation, with a pinch of Morgan and Cloyd. It would not surprise me if Morgan beat out Martin for the final spot in the rotation or if the Phillies signed an additional starter. In this scenario, Morgan or the free agent starter becomes your 41st on the 40-man.
Whether or not Chooch is resigned, the Phillies will sign a catcher. Chooch’s spot behind the dish is a net zero.
While the Phillies outfield may look set with Domonic Brown, Ben Revere, and Darin Ruf, don’t be surprised if the club signs a starting-caliber outfielder, bumping the 40-man up to 42. This is where the first semi-surprises would come: the Phillies would designate Sebastian Valle and J.C. Ramirez for assignment to get back down to 40. If the Phillies choose to sign another player, here are, in order, my choices to designate for assignment to get them back under 40: Tyson Gillies and Jeremy Horst. Designate one of those two and the Phillies are at 39 – designate them both and you have room for a free agent pitcher AND Morgan as well as two other players.
Under these circumstances, the 40-man would look like this for 2014:
Pitchers: Adams, Aumont, Bastardo, Cloyd, De Fratus, Diekman, Garcia, Gonzalez, Hamels, Jimenez, Lee, Martin, Papelbon, Pettibone, Robles, Rasmussen, Rosenberg, Stutes, Free Agent Signing
Catchers: Chooch/FA, Kratz, Rupp, Joseph
Infielders: Asche, Frandsen, Galvis, Hernandez, Howard, Rollins, Utley
Outfielders: Altherr, Bernadina, Brown, Collier, Dugan, Revere, Ruf, Free Agent Signing
Free spaces: 2
Not on 40-man: Castro, Henson, Horst, Kendrick, Knigge, Lannan, Nesseth
Keeping on 40-man: Hewitt, Jimenez, Rasmussen Stutes
Internal Candidates for 2014 that do not need to be protected: Biddle, Franco, Morgan
This has the makings of being one of the most important winters in Phillies history – it also has the possibility of being one of the most hectic and confusing.
(Edited at 4:33 PM to address additions of Rob Rasmussen and Nefi Ogando, who were originally missed in the Rule 5 eligible count)