MLB teams up with toughest decisions ahead of 40-player roster protection deadline

Over the weekend, the Tampa Bay Rays traded right-hander Louis Head to the Marlins for a player to be named later or for cash. They also traded 2020 World Series hero third baseman Mike Brosseau to the Brewers for right-hander Evan Reifert.

These are the kind of minor moves that can quickly fade into the background. Head is a reliever who was optioned 12 times in a successful first season in 2021. Brosseau was demoted to Triple-A Durham for much of 2021 after struggling at home plate.

But those are both moves the Rays made more out of necessity than desire. Prior to those trades, Tampa Bay had filled its roster with 40 men. With a number of players who will need to be added to the roster by the 40-man roster protection deadline of Nov. 19, the Rays are one of the few teams that have to get creative in trying to find a way to reduce list congestion.

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The Rule 5 draft has long been baseball’s way of ensuring that no team can hoard talent. More importantly, it ensures teams have to make a decision. Once a player has reached a certain level of experience (four years after signing for players who originally signed at 19 or older and five years for those who were 18 or younger when they signed), teams must either add them to their 40-man roster or risk having them selected by other teams in the Rule 5 draft.

This Friday is both a dreaded day and an opportunity, depending on everyone’s point of view. For many players, this is a long-awaited day. Being added to the 40-player roster brings many benefits, such as a raise in salary, an automatic invite to MLB spring training, and an easier path to the major leagues. It can also be a shocking day for gamers. Being left unprotected is often a clear sign that a player’s team is willing to take the risk of losing him.

For teams, it’s all about perspective.

For the Rays and several other teams, protection time is about damage limitation. It’s about trying to retain players, shuffling the roster and making calculated decisions about which players may be left unprotected in the hopes that they won’t be selected or possibly fired. they are selected.

But for teams with leaner farm systems and/or 40-man roster space, this can also be an opportunity. The Oakland Athletics have one of the leanest truss systems in baseball. They also only have 28 players currently on their 40-man roster. This means they can potentially trade for a few of someone else’s tough decisions to help soften another team’s roster crunch.

Here’s a look at how many players each team had on their 40-player roster as of November 15. This number will likely change for several teams this week, and we’ll update the player count ahead of Friday’s protection deadline.

Team 40 men Team 40 men
Miami 40 Colorado 36
Arizona 40 Kansas City 36
Los Angeles (AL) 40 Milwaukee 36
New York (AL) 40 Seattle 36
Detroit 39 Texas 36
Pittsburgh 39 Atlanta 35
San Diego 39 Chicago (NL) 34
San Francisco 39 Saint Louis 34
Cincinnati 38 Boston 33
Houston 38 Chicago (AL) 33
Minnesota 38 Toronto 33
Tampa Bay 38 Baltimore 32
Los Angeles (NL) 37 New York (NL) 32
Washington 37 philadelphia cream 31
Cleveland 36 Oakland 28

Teams in a Jam

1. Tampa Bay Rays.

A few trades helped, but Tampa Bay still has more players to protect than spots to add them. Infielder Jonathan Aranda has gone from a tough protective decision before the season to an obvious addition now. Right-hander Tommy Romero also looks like an easy call. Between catchers Blake Hunt and Ford Proctor, infielder Miles Mastrobuoni, outfielder Ruben Cardenas and right-handers Calvin Faucher and Tobias Myers, the Rays have plenty of plausible protection options and a packed roster.

2. Cleveland Guardians.

Cleveland currently has 36 players on the 40-player roster, so it has room for additions. But he has nearly eight or more players he should at least consider adding.

Shortstop/second baseman Tyler Freeman, shortstop Brayan Rocchio, shortstop Jose Tena, outfielder George Valera and receiver Bryan Lavastida all seem like logical additions.

Outfielder Oscar Gonzalez had a stellar season, hitting 31 homers between Double-A and Triple-A. The Guardians have thought about him enough to re-sign him and keep him from becoming a minor league free agent, but now they have to decide if they want to protect him. Cornerman Jhonkensy Noel hasn’t played above Class A yet, but he’s hit .340/.390/.615 this year. Center fielder Steven Kwan hit .328/.407/.527 between Double-A and Triple-A. Infielder Richie Palacios, right-hander Cody Morris and left-hander Konnor Pilkington also have strong protective cases.

3. New York Yankees

Year after year, the Yankees are a team that always seem to make tough decisions when it comes to roster protection. Last year the team lost Garrett Whitlock and Trevor Stephan. This year, the Yankees currently have a full 40-man roster, having recently added wide receiver Donnie Sands and left-hander Joely Rodriguez to the 40-man roster. They’re expected to be busy this offseason in free agency, which means they’ll have to open up spots for those additions. But for now, they also need to protect shortstop Oswaldo Cabrera and outfielder Everson Pereira. New York doesn’t have as many protective decisions as some other teams, but it will have to create space to find spots.

4. Minnesota Twins

A year ago, the Twins lost Akil Baddoo to the Tigers in the Rule 5 draft, ensuring they had one of the most painful Rule 5 drafts of 2020. This year, the Twins sit at 38 players out of the 40 men with a fairly healthy roster of must-protects as well as an impressive roster of players worth checking out.

Shortstop Royce Lewis may have missed all of 2021 with a knee injury, but he’s an easy addition, as is second/third baseman Jose Miranda. Miranda was unprotected a year ago, but after being a top hitter in Double-A and then Triple-A, he’s a safe bet this time around. Right-hander Josh Winder is also a likely slam dunk. Decisions on right-handers Cole Sands and Chris Vallimont will be tougher. Right-hander Blayne Enlow is still an interesting talent, but his recovery from Tommy John surgery obscures his status.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers’ consistent ability to develop power hitters and weapons means they’re consistently a team that has to worry about losing players in the Rule 5 draft. Last year, Brett de Geus and Jordan Sheffield both were picked and stuck with new teams. Even more painfully for the Dodgers, the club also saw six players selected in the MiLB Rule 5 draft, including Tyler Gilbert, who later came out and outplayed Geus and Sheffield.

Once again, the Dodgers have a number of interesting hitters to consider protecting and Los Angeles already had 37 players on the 40-man roster. Infielders Eddys Leonard and Jorbit Vivas don’t have upper-level minor league experience, but they were some of the best hitters in Class A and have defensive value. Justin Yurchak has less defensive value, but he led the miners in batting average. Outfielder James Outman was also productive at Double-A. Right-hander Guillermo Zuniga is a reliever with a solid ground mix and success at the Double-A level.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates

Thanks to all the deals they’ve struck in the last few years and some shrewd drafting, Pittsburgh is facing a tighter roster. The Pirates have 39 players on the 40-man roster, and while they don’t have many guaranteed additions, they do have a large number of players who could lure a team if left unprotected. Shortstop Liover Peguero is an easy decision. But calls for outfielder Travis Swaggerty (missed most of 2021 and has 12 games above Class A), first baseman Mason Martin (high power, but hit tool issues), the right-hander Tahnaj Thomas (big advantage, but very limited CV) and outfielder Cal Mitchell (productive hitter but with a modest impact) will be all interesting.

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Space to spare

1. Oakland Athletics

With few tough protection decisions and only 28 players currently on its 40-man roster, Oakland has all kinds of room to make moves. Everything Oakland has done so far seems like it’s gearing up to tear this big league team down to the posts and rebuild it. If that’s the case, Oakland has the option to add multiple players in the moves that need to be protected out of the 40 players, which could allow it to land a bit more talent in the trades than at other times in the game. the year.

2. Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies currently have 31 players on their 40-man roster, and no one among their potential protections is safe to bet. There’s room here to add free agents and potentially get creative. They must, however, be careful with this creativity. A few years ago, they added Cristopher Sanchez from the Rays to a 40-player roster. The teenager the Rays acquired in return, Curtis Mead, is now one of the Rays’ top prospects.

3. New York Foods

The Mets currently have 32 players on their 40-man roster. They have a trio of likely additions in Ronny Mauricio, Mark Vientos and Jose Butto, but there aren’t many other candidates. With several candidates likely not to bid as well, there’s room to be creative when it comes to acquisitions, as well as adding free agents later in the offseason.

Neal T. Doss