Very quietly – so quietly that only pal Chris Jackson of the Albuquerque Examiner was sharp enough to notice it at first – the Dodgers outrighted Triple-A outfielder Matt Angle off the 40-man roster this week. The news went by with such little attention, I’m guessing, because most fans probably have never even heard the name. After being claimed from Baltimore last winter on waivers, Angle did little to distinguish himself in Albuquerque this year, being the only member of the 40-man roster (aside from Chris Withrow, who was often injured) to stay with the organization for the entire season without getting called up. If we noted Angle at all this year, it was only to continually call him out as the next head to roll when a new acquisition needed a spot. Largely due to the never-ending stream of players pushed to the 60-day disabled list, he managed to survive. Until now.
The Dodgers currently have, as you can see on the depth chart page here, 37 players on the 40-man roster. That’s comprised of the 35 guys who finished the season on the active roster or on the 15-day disabled list plus minor leaguers Scott Van Slyke & Yasiel Puig. Counting the whopping nine players on the 60-day disabled list (a number which was ten before Blake Hawksworth was outrighted yesterday as well) the Dodgers technically have 46 players on their 40-man roster. They would have until November 20 to get down under the limit and reset their 40-man roster. Angle & Hawksworth, apparently, are just the first steps.
The most immediate way to lose players is to have their contracts expire or otherwise disappear, and there’s ten players who fall under that category. (I’m assuming here that the declining of three team options will all happen.) This group includes Bobby Abreu, Joe Blanton, Randy Choate, Todd Coffey, Adam Kennedy, Brandon League, Juan Rivera, Matt Treanor, Shane Victorino, & Jamey Wright. The seven free agents will officially be off the roster the day after the World Series ends; the three with team options (Coffey, Rivera, & Treanor), assuming they are all declined, will have that paperwork completed within the next few days after that.
So taking that 46 and eliminating 10 would get them back down to 36, and we can stop acting as though players on the 60-day disabled list are separate because the disabled list disappears five days after the end of the World Series, not to return until camps open.
36 doesn’t seem like a lot, but we’re not quite done yet. That November 20 date is also when they’ll have to add any eligible players to the 40-man to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, like Stephen Fife was last year. We’ll get into who exactly falls under this category much more closely as the deadline draws near, because the eligibility here is always a little squishy. For now, they alleviated this worry somewhat by trading Ethan Martin & Allen Webster, but expect Matt Magill at the very least to be added, and guys like Gorman Erickson, Rafael Ynoa, Aaron Miller, & Blake Smith could be part of the conversation. (No, not Zach Lee; he doesn’t need to be protected yet.)
Let’s say they add three names. So without adding a single new free agent to help in left field or the rotation or the bullpen, or retaining any of the other guys they may want to keep, like League, the Dodgers will already be at 39 players. That gives you just one spot to play with going into an offseason where you can conservatively expect that at least three to five players will be added to the team, whether they be newcomers or returnees.
So what can they do? The obvious answer is, “something we don’t expect.” They’ll make a trade we never saw coming, because that’s what always happens. But with that in mind, five possibilities to open up spots as needed…
1) Whack Justin Sellers. This one seems pretty obvious to me. The Dodgers have about 84 infielders under contract, and Sellers has not only proven little in the bigs, he’s coming off a year nearly entirely lost to a back injury. He won’t get claimed, and if he does, it’s not a loss.
2) Whack or trade John Ely. I like Ely and so do you, but when you’ve fallen behind Fife on the depth chart, it’s not a great thing. Considering that they already have six veteran starters under contract plus Fife plus whomever they inevitably add, it’s not a great place for Ely to get an opportunity. Ely was already removed from the 40-man once last winter and went unclaimed, so perhaps that could happen again and he’d remain with Albuquerque. However, given his PCL Pitcher of the Year award, there might be some extremely limited trade interest.
3) Give Juan Uribe a viking funeral. No, that’s not a euphemism for releasing him. I’m legitimately suggesting that we float him into the ocean on a burning pile of wood. (And yes, I have made that joke before.) I know that it almost seems like a fantasy that we could finally be rid of Uribe after he somehow managed to last through the entire season, but who among us really thinks there’s still value to be had here? He was useless from day one, and with the infield stuffed with Puntos, Ramirezes, & Cruzes, there’s no way to justify him hanging onto a roster spot. Swallow your pride, Ned.
4) Whack Elian Herrera. Herrera, as you’ll see when we get to his review, was an incredibly welcome surprise at a dark time in the season. He’s also going to be 28 in May and was awful once his initial hot streak wore off, and hardly has a stellar minor league record. Endless thanks for what he brought, but he’s not likely to make the Opening Day roster and what he brings is easily replaceable.
5) Whack or trade Josh Wall. Those first four were relatively easy, but now I’m struggling a bit. DFA Nick Punto? I’d love to, but Ned Colletti would never do it. DFA Scott Van Slyke? Maybe, because I don’t think all that much of him, but you still have to fill out a Triple-A roster and his righty power could be useful depth for Crawford & Ethier if needed, in addition to being an option at first base. DFA Silverio if his injuries from last year’s car accident are too much to overcome? Only if it’s dire, since his 2011 was very good. Find a way to ship out Lilly or Aaron Harang or Chris Capuano? It’s unlikely that all three start next year in the rotation unless Billingsley is cooked, yet it’s hard to see those moves happening right now.
So all I can see is dropping Wall. It’s not even that I really want to be rid of Wall, who converted from a lousy starter to a decent reliever in 2011, it’s just that the his ceiling is pretty low and the Dodgers already have seven relievers under control for 2013 – Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario, Javy Guerra, Paco Rodriguez, Scott Elbert, Matt Guerrier, & Shawn Tolleson, each of whom have a good claim on a spot for Opening Day. That’s without bringing back any of League / Choate / Wright or adding anyone new. Wall’s good depth to have around, but is hardly irreplaceable.
How much of this will happen? I have to think Sellers & Ely are as good as gone, at least when it comes to the 40-man. Let’s see how the Dodgers surprise us for the other necessary moves.