There’s two ways teams can look to enhance their lineups from now to the end of the year. Earlier, Fred took a look at some possible waiver-trade moves. This write-up focuses on the options that could be available within the organization. Unfortunately, there are some complications involved.
Major league baseball teams maintain two different rosters: the “active” (a.k.a., the “25-man” roster) and the “40-man” roster. Players on the 40-man list can be immediately placed on the active roster, should the need arise. Players not on that list would have to be added before being promoted to the majors. Kameron Loe is our poster child for this discussion as he was both added and removed from the 40-man roster in the space of a week in late July, as he was promoted and returned to Gwinnett.
Here is the list of players currently on the 40-man list who are not disabled and not in the majors:
- Cory Gearrin – relief pitcher, currently in AAA
- David Hale – starting pitcher, currently in AAA
- Juan Jaime – relief pitcher, currently in AA
- Aaron Northcraft – starting pitcher, currently in AA
- Christian Bethancourt – catcher extraordinaire, currently in AA
- Ernesto Mejia – 1B with thumper bat (27 HR), currently in AAA
- Tyler Pastornicky – utility guy, currently in AAA
You’d think there would be more than 7 – like maybe around 15 names? Due to the spate of recent injuries, there are a bunch of these guys already in the majors: Jose Constanza, Todd Cunningham and Paul Janish, to name three. There are eight guys on the disabled list from the major league roster; two more from the minors. As a result, there are actually 42 names currently on the 40-man roster, which does limit the flexibility that the Braves have right now for making any kind of personnel moves. There are some things that can be done to make space, however:
- Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters are on the 60-day DL. That status permits the Braves to add another name to the 40-man list, and hence why they are allowed to carry 42 players on the 40-man roster. In a pinch, there are a other players that could be legitimately placed on the 60-day list: Tim Hudson, Ramiro Pena, Blake DeWitt, and Cristhian Martinez.
- The Braves could “outright” a player – declaring their intent to remove him from the 40-man. This is what happened to Kameron Loe. The catch here is that you could lose that player to another team – without compensation. Thus, this isn’t done unless either (a) the risk of losing the player is low; or (b) the organization is willing to part ways. Of the candidates, I could see Atlanta outrighting either Blake DeWitt or Cristhian Martinez, but given their current status, a move to the 60-day DL would be more likely.
- Trading away a 40-man player. This is possible, but subject to the waiver rules in play.
So… are there things the Braves can do internally to bolster its bench?
When September starts, anyone on the 40-man list can be brought up to to the majors. Given this enormous lead that the Braves have suddenly amassed, I expect you’ll see Mejia, Pastornicky, Gearrin, and possibly David Hale. In addition, Paul Maholm would likely be back by then. The rest of the injured position players are trickling back in now, so guys like Cunningham and Constanza may bounce back to Gwinnett and then back to Atlanta over the next month.
Again – and the point of all the stuff above – if you’re gonna go with anybody else, you’d need to make a move to add him to the 40-man roster… and that’s a pretty significant event: it means that the organization values you, and is offering you that protection. At the same time, you do not want to over-extend yourself with this list at the risk of losing players later (that’s pretty much how Atlanta acquired Eric O’Flaherty and Luis Ayala).
I have seen some calls for Tommy La Stella, second baseman for the Mississippi Braves. This kid is on fire right now. He is now the owner of the longest hit streak (23 games) in the history of the M-Braves. But while a September call-up would be a nice reward, I don’t see that happening because of 40-man issues. But do keep an eye on him: he could be positioned as the heir apparent to second base once Dan Uggla‘s contract ends.
The only other non-roster name I could see getting a call is Alden Carrithers, currently at AAA Gwinnett. His defense is good enough (4 errors on the year) and he’s hitting about .300 while OPS’ing nearly .800, while walking more than he’s striking out (21 vs. 20). If Chris Johnson were to get hurt, he’d be a logical replacement, but there’s other reasons I expect the Braves will hold off on adding him to the roster unless they’re forced to.
Um, What Reasons are You Talking About?
Specifically, there are some off-season roster moves that will be necessary to protect players from the Rule 5 draft in December. Players with the organization for several years who are not on the 40-man list can be subject to being taken by other teams. This is a rule that can give some players a chance with another team if they seem to be blocked otherwise.
I do not have the full list, but I believe that Edward Salcedo and Robby Hefflinger will need to have that 40-man roster protection in December – possibly others. So adding other guys (such as those named above that aren’t Rule-5-eligible) would just make life trickier for Frank Wren between now and next Spring.
So… the bottom line: the injuries have hurt… but they have also made the wheeling and dealing part of the General Manager’s list a bit harder as well. As a result, the difficultly of getting bench help from inside or outside has increased.
The good news? The injured players are getting healthy again – and the team hasn’t missed a beat in the meantime!