As we head get into August and the roster expansion of September 1 gets closer by the day, a fun annual game becomes “can [insert mediocre player here] hang on to his job long enough to make it to September, by which time roster limits aren’t an issue and it doesn’t make sense to DFA him?” Last year, we saw Dioner Navarro get the axe barely more than a week before the deadline; this year, that can be referred to as “the Juan Uribe & Adam Kennedy deathwatch.”
Yet while everyone thinks about that in terms of the 25-man active roster, this year’s constant stream of moves has made the 40-man roster all the more crowded, and that’s where players Uribe & Kennedy could find issues. Even with space-fillers like Ramon Troncoso, Michael Antonini, & Trent Oeltjen already having been dropped from the roster, the 40-man is tight, so tight that Chris Withrow is the only member of the roster with meaningful playing time this year who doesn’t already have major league experience. (Yasiel Puig is of course just getting going in Arizona, and Alfredo Silverio is out for the year due to injury.)
That’s what happens when injuries force unexpected moves to add reinforcements to the roster, like Luis Cruz & Elian Herrera, and when late-July trades add four 40-man players (Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Randy Choate, & Brandon League) while only removing two in Nathan Eovaldi & Josh Lindblom. As things stand, the Dodgers have one open spot on the 40-man roster, but potentially four recovering players on the 60-day DL who could be back before the end of the season – Rubby De La Rosa, Matt Guerrier, Ted Lilly, & Justin Sellers. (Todd Coffey won’t be back, and though I don’t believe Blake Hawksworth is officially out for the year yet, all indications are that he won’t make it back in time either.)
It might not stop there, either. If the Dodgers make a waiver move in August to reinforce the team – which I think we all agree they’ll do – that’s potentially one or two additional spots, assuming no current member of the 40-man is traded. And then if they want to promote Allen Webster, John Ely, or any other minor leaguer who doesn’t currently have a spot, that’s even more room they’ll need to clear.
So it’s not impossible to think that the Dodgers may want to add five to seven players who aren’t currently on the roster, and they currently have just one spot to play with. How is that going to work? Obviously, circumstances can change over the next few weeks as moves get made, players get injured, and so on. Here’s some thoughts on who might go:
1) Matt Angle. Angle was a nice waiver claim for depth last winter, but he’s hitting .272/.357/.371 away from Albuquerque and his trademark speed (just 8 steals after 27 in each of his previous 5 seasons) has disappeared. 27 in September, he’s no longer a “prospect”, and with Victorino, Gwynn, & Herrera around, the Dodgers are well-covered in center should Matt Kemp‘s hamstring act up again.
2) Justin Sellers. I think we all like Sellers, but when it comes to “good defensive infielders who can’t really hit,” well, isn’t that what Cruz is doing? Remember, the beauty of the DFA is that it’s not necessarily the end of a player’s tenure with the organization – Oeltjen remains with the Isotopes – and it’s probably not likely that Sellers would get claimed. If he does, not a huge loss. (If not Sellers, then Cruz. Seems hard to see them both on the 40-man.)
3) Alfredo Silverio to 60-day disabled list. Silverio was injured in a car accident last winter and will not play in 2012, but the Dodgers have resisted putting him on the 60-day DL (and off the 40-man roster) because it would require him to be promoted to the bigs and start accumulating MLB service time. It makes sense to not want to do that, yet with Puig already eating up a roster spot that may not be used for a while, it may be unavoidable now.
4) Kennedy and/or Uribe. Speaking of middle infielders who carry no value whatsoever… I was impressed somewhat by the Dodger decision to jettison Bobby Abreu this week, because while it seemed clear that Victorino’s arrival spelled the end of a role for Abreu, it’s not usually been like Colletti to let go of a veteran like that. With Jerry Hairston now available for more infield time, Dee Gordon on his way back, Ramirez in the mix, and Cruz being decent, there’s barely room for either one of these guys, much less two. I’d like to say both will be gone, but I don’t want to get too optimistic here. I’m not sure which one will go, but I guarantee one will.
5) Rivera and/or James Loney. This assumes the Dodgers make an August move for a first baseman. I’m assuming they will. If they do, there’s no room for two backup first basemen who can’t hit. (I’ll admit here how unlikely this seems, but it also illustrates just how packed the roster is right now.)
That’s a way to clear five spots, and it still might not be enough. (If the Dodgers do get Cliff Lee or another starter, maybe Stephen Fife gets a nice “smell you later”.) You could, I suppose, make a case for Ivan De Jesus or Josh Wall, though I think it’s probably not all that likely.
It’s complicated, but it’s also fun to be in situation where some of the bottom-feeders may be about to be shown the door. Moves are going to get made, that’s for sure – who do you think gets gone?