Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Reviewing the 40-Man Roster

As I mentioned a few days ago, I've decided to quash my "What I'd Do" post due to extreme length and general incomprehensibility. In lieu of that post, however, I'm going to be analyzing various off-season issues as they come up. This post is devoted to the current state of the 40-man roster -- including my judgments on who the Twins should remove from the roster prior to November 20, the deadline for adding players to the roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Here goes nothing, position-by-position:

The Twins in previous years have typically carried only 3 catchers on the 40-man roster at any given time unless circumstances dictated otherwise (such as late this season, when the Twins ended up with 5 catchers on the roster due to injuries). Joe Mauer and Mike Redmond obviously aren't going anywhere, as they fill the starter and backup roles.

The other two catchers on the roster are Chris Heintz and the recently added Jose Morales, coming off of a great season in Rochester. Heintz has been the Twins primary third-string catcher for a couple of years now, and has one option year left. Morales hasn't yet been optioned at all, meaning the Twins could continue optioning him to the minors through 2010 without having to make an ultimate decision on him.

My preference is to keep both of these players on the roster as insurance against injury. Morales is an obvious keep because of his apparent upside and the long period for which the Twins can keep him around. Heintz is a tougher call, however, and I could see the Twins choosing to part ways with him. The first reason is simply that Heintz doesn't actually catch all that much anymore -- when he's in Rochester, he plays a little infield and DH's some. Second, he's getting a bit long in the tooth (he's 33-years-old, compared to Morales, who is just 24). Finally, Morales also seems to have a higher upside at the plate. As a result, it may make sense to take Heintz off the roster to clear room for another player. As I said before, however, a player with his experience is still a useful commodity, and I'd keep him around for his last option year.

Infielders (7)
This is a position where I'd expect the Twins to do some active re-tooling over the course of the off-season. The only two positions that I think are set in stone for next year are starting First Baseman Justin Morneau and starting Shortstop Jason Bartlett. Beyond that, the Twins have already stated that Nick Punto is virtually certain to start the season as the starting Second Baseman.

Beyond that, Third Baseman Brian Buscher and Middle Infielder Alexi Casilla may or may not make the team out of spring training, but they aren't going to be removed from the roster anytime soon, either. Casilla is still viewed as the Twins eventual second sacker, and Buscher played well enough at third to at least get a chance to continue developing in that role throughout next season, either with the Twins or in AAA.

That leaves two players who the Twins will actually have to make decisions about this off-season. The first is Middle Infielder Chris Basak, who the Twins claimed off waivers from the Yankees in August. I would not keep Basak on the roster, because I think the Twins have numerous other options available in the minor leagues who could fill his role (although with Luis Rodriguez having been claimed by the Padres and Tommy Watkins possibly not returning, the competition has thinned a bit). Nonetheless, the Twins almost certainly didn't claim Basak without having a plan for him, so I expect him to stick around at least through Spring Training, with a chance to win Luis Rodriguez's old job.

Finally, there's Garrett Jones, who possibly should be classified as an outfielder at this point. Either way, Jones is out of options and has struggled at the big league level in limited appearances. As with Basak, the Twins will probably keep Jones around through Spring Training to give him a chance to claim a job. Also as with Basak, I probably wouldn't be so generous. While Jones started to improve offensively at the end of the season, I don't think he'll be a significant contributor to the team, and I'd give his roster spot to someone else.

Outfielders (7)
First, it's clear that Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel aren't going anywhere in this off-season, despite being arbitration eligible. Cuddyer will be the starting Right Fielder again next year, and Kubel will get a chance to win either the left field or DH jobs, depending on who the Twins pick up through free agency. Also a virtual certainty to be back is backup outfielder Jason Tyner, who once again had a decent season for the team, and who can now fill the Lew Ford role without having to look over his shoulder AT Lew Ford (as should have been the case last year). The Twins also aren't going to take Center Fielder Denard Span off the roster this off-season -- even though it's extremely unlikely that he'll start the season in the Majors.

That leaves three more players -- one of whom will be gone, one who might be gone, and one who probably should be gone. We'll start with the easy one: Rondell White is eligible to file for free agency when the World Series ends, and he will do so. While he's likely to retire, it's still good practice for a retiring player to file for free agency to kep his options open. The player who might be gone is, of course, Torii Hunter. I've made clear previously that I would do everything in my power to bring him back, and hopefully the Twins can find a way to keep him around. If they don't, scoring runs next season will become that much more difficult. I don't know what's going to happen with Hunter -- but I'm not encouraged by the lack of any rumblings indicating that negotiations are ongoing.

Finally, the Twins still have Darnell McDonald on the roster. McDonald was acquired from the Nationals for the rights to Levale Speigner over the summer, and is now out of options. Considering that the outfield situation is in flux, the Twins will probably keep McDonald around for a Spring audition. I would not, however -- McDonald is about to turn 29 and he has a career .269 average in the minor leagues. I don't see any reason to keep him on the roster.

Pitchers (21)
First, there are a lot of players who simply aren't going to be removed from the roster at this point in the off-season, and I'm just going to name them and get them out of this discussion: Scott Baker, Boof Bonser, Jesse Crain, Matt Garza, Matt Guerrier, Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins, Dennys Reyes, Juan Rincon, Johan Santana, and Kevin Slowey will all be with the team next year barring a trade or something unforeseen -- even Baker, who is out of options and in need of a solid spring to earn a starting job (although he's easily a front-runner for one of the spots that's going to be available next year). That's 13 players we no longer have to discuss.

The only player who is a virtual lock to be removed from the roster is Carlos Silva, who is eligible to file for free agency after the World Series and who will do so in a heartbeat -- he's in line to be one of the better starters available on the market this winter, which means he's probably in line for a pretty hefty payday. It's always possible that the Twins could decide to bring him back, but I think it's pretty unlikely.

That leaves seven more pitchers to consider, and I'll go through them in alphabetical order. First up is Ricky Barrett, a lefty who will be 27 when the season rolls around next year. Barrett has been on the roster since November 2006, so he has 2 option years left. He's also pitched reasonably well in Rochester over the past couple of years. Unless the Twins find themselves in a position where they desperately need to free up a roster spot, I'd keep Barrett around.

Next up is Nick Blackburn, and I don't think too much discussion is necessary here -- Blackburn exploded last year, pitching brilliantly and making his way onto the 40-man roster in September. The Twins aren't going to turn around and remove him now when he looks to be on a Major League trajectory -- probably not for 2008, but quite possibly by 2009.

That brings us to Carmen Cali, a lefty who was brought in for Spring Training 2007 to compete for a spot in the bullpen. While he didn't make the club out of spring training, he ended up getting 21 innings of work with the big league club, posting a 4.71 ERA. He was much better in AAA, getting 47.2 innings of work and putting up a 2.45 ERA. Cali is now out of options, but there's no reason not to bring him back and let him compete for a job in Spring Training (yes, I know I've been saying that quite a bit). I would keep him around, and I think the Twins will do the same.

Next up is Julio DePaula, and I don't think there will be a significant question over what to do with him this off-season. DePaula was horrid with the Twins this year, posting an 8.55 ERA in 20 innings of work -- but he's been really good in his minor league career, and last year (2.90 ERA in 83.2 innings) was no exception. DePaula has two option years left, so while I don't expect him to be pitching for the Twins next year (barring injuries), I don't see the Twins taking him off of the roster.

Fifth on the list is Jose Mijares, a lefty who spent most of his 2007 season in New Britain. Mijares has just one option year left, and it's almost certain to be used next year -- but as with DePaula there's no reason to remove him from the roster now. He put up a 3.54 ERA in 61 innings for New Britain last year -- nearly identical to the 3.55 ERA in 63.1 innings he posted for Ft. Myers the year before. Those are respectable numbers, and he's a lefty -- the Twins might as well keep him around and see if he can develop in time to contribute for the 2009 season when he'll be out of options.

Sixth on the list is another lefty, Errol Simonitsch, who missed most of last season due to injury. Simonitsch is a starter with reasonable numbers, but he has just one option year left and will almost certainly be starting next season either in Ft. Myers or New Britain. I don't think that the Twins would face a significant risk of losing him if they removed him from the roster, but even if they did I'm not convinced at this point that it would be a significant loss. With a number of other players in a better position to contribute, and in more danger of being lost to the club, I would remove Simonitsch from the roster -- and I think there's a fairly good chance that the Twins will come to the same conclusion.

Finally, we come to Oswaldo Sosa, a right-handed starter who was really great in Ft. Myers last year (2.23 ERA in 105 innings) and was mediocre after being promoted to New Britain (4.50 ERA in 48 innings). Sosa has two option years left, and seems to be moving up the organizational ladder at a reasonable pace. As a result, I don't think he's in any danger of being removed from the roster at this point.

The Twins currently have 39 players on the 40-man roster. At least two more (Carlos Silva and Rondell White) are virtually certain to come off of the roster, and for now I'll assume that Torii Hunter will be sticking around. In addition to the free agent losses, I would waive the following players to make more room: Chris Basak, Garrett Jones, Darnell McDonald, and Errol Simonitsch. That would leave the Twins with a 33 players on the 40-man roster -- plenty of room to add three or four prospects to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft while also making a couple of free agent additions. I'll be watching closely over the next month to see what Bill Smith ends up doing prior to the November 20 deadline.

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  • At Sun Oct 14, 07:17:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I think it is fair to add Jose Mijares, Nick Blackburn, Oswaldo Sosa and Julio DePaula to the definitely will be kept group. In fact, the only one that you could make any argument about not making the roster would be Blackburn. I would drop Cali and Simonitsch for certain, as well as Heintz and Basak. They need to open up some spots. Basak isn't good, and Tolbert needs to be added to the roster (and Watkins will be around). In my mind, there really aren't any very tough decisions.

    Great write-up! I really enjoyed it!


  • At Sun Oct 14, 09:25:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    It seems to me who they keep starts with who they want/need to protect. How valuable a player like Cali is depends on the alternative. Without a list of potential players to replace them, anyone looks like they deserve a roster spot.

    Its important to remember any player taken off the roster now needs to pass through waivers. I don't think that is true of players who are non-tendered later. So they could non-tender Cali, for instance, and sign him to a pre-agreed to minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. If they outright him to Rochester every other team has a shot at claiming him on waivers first.

  • At Sun Oct 14, 09:41:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    Seth -- thanks for the comments. I think the Twins are more likely to keep Cali and Heintz than you think they are, but we're generally in agreement elsewhere.

    Anon -- you're absolutely right that divorced from context, it's difficult to make determinations. Unfortunately, the first version of this post (which discussed pretty much everything associated with this off-season) was so absurdly large that I had to compartmentalize. I believe you're right about outrighting vs. non-tendering, so non-tendering Cali could be a way to go (we'll find that out in December, but that's pretty much what they did last year with Luis Rodriguez).

  • At Mon Oct 15, 07:35:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    My main opinion though is that Cali is very replaceable, and if it means the team goes with all righties in the bullpen, they're better off. Guys like Cali are a dime a dozen. The Twins have brought in 2-4 veteran lefty relievers to spring training the last few years. They're all over the place. Heintz really serves no purpose, and no one is going to claim him either. Again, there are always guys like Sal Fasano and Kelly Stinnett and long-time big league backup catchers available in spring or during the season if the need arises.


  • At Mon Oct 15, 09:41:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Heintz caught in about half his games at Rochester. He was hurt for a good part of the season which is why he had so few starts at catcher.

    My main opinion though is that Cali is very replaceable,

    Well no, he isn't. Neither is Heintz. Its funny how these "easily replaceable" players get hard to replace once the season starts. There are 30 teams out there that all need lefties and backup catchers. Unless there are about 60 free agent lefties out there comparable to Cali, he is not easily replaceable.

  • At Mon Oct 15, 10:57:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    do you think Matt Macri has a shot of making the team next year?

  • At Mon Oct 15, 11:06:00 AM , Blogger JST said...

    Re: Macri

    Yes, I do think he has a shot at making the team. Macri didn't play particularly well after joining Rochester, but he had just 47 AB's, so I'm not that worried about his low batting average. Historically, he's been a reasonably good hitter with a little bit of power, which makes him potentially valuable. I honestly don't know anything about his defense, though -- if it's not where the Twins want it to be, then he'll stay in the minors until it improves.

    Ultimately, Macri's chances depend on how the rest of the field pans out. He'll likely be battling against guys like Alejandro Machado, Matt Tolbert, Chris Basak, and maybe even Tommy Watkins if he comes back. Nonetheless, as I said above, I do think he has a chance to play for the Twins for at least part of 2008.

  • At Mon Oct 15, 01:20:00 PM , Blogger Curveball said...

    The other area to consider is that you kinda keep a couple of guys around (Heintz, Jones -- for example) who you MIGHT have to drop if you sign some free agents, or your own free agents. You make the decision on these guys (like Rabe and Rodriguez, last season) that they won't be going anywhere and will be happy for the "split" contract and an invite abck to spring training.

    Losing to Rule 5, the guys have to be able to stay on a roster for a year.

    Minor league free agents: letting guys walk means other teams do the same. You can, more than likely, find that 4th catcher (maybe not, remember Brad King in spring training) or do the lefty thing the Twins have done the past couple of seasons (May, Choate, Venafro amongst others). If you are looking for the 24th or 25th player on the roster, chances are you can find them with a spring training invite.

    You don't necessarily have to keep the Rabes, Heintz, Calis, Gassners around for your own minor leagues, as the guys they replace elsewhere will be looking for jobs somewhere. Just the matter of making them an offer they like and can live with.

    Li,e if the Twins sign a "real" third abseman, do they keep Buscher (imagine Glenn Williams will walk after 3 seasons at Twins AAA). That's an example of a guy on the bubble if another name comes into the clubhouse.

    Barrett will probably stay past the November deadline and then get cut during the winter if a roster spot needs to happen (or maybe the other guy in a trade).

  • At Tue Oct 23, 05:45:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    After looking at the minor league rosters these look like the players with any shot at being added to the roster.




    Its not really a very impressive list. I am not sure any of the position players are very likely to get taken in the rule 5 draft. Martinez is the only player there that seems like a lot.

    The others that seem likely are
    Moses, just because of the potential of his bat. Roberts because his speed and defense are the kinds of tools that fit the 14th player on a team. (Although I am not certain Roberts is eligible). Sawatski because he's a lefty.

    You can make a case for Winfree, Tolbert and Peterson. Fox was a high draft choice but has been hurt. Its possible some team would take a flyer on him.

    But its not clear the Twins will need more than the four open spots they have.


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