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Looming Roster Crunch

Matt Tuiasosopo
It is Lent right now, so the number 40 comes up.

Certainly, it's going around the M's front office too.

Picking the 25 players that open the season with the M's is going to be interesting enough, though most of the wide open battles are between relatively little-known players vying for relatively low impact positions. It's hard to get all that pumped up because of it.

However, the real interesting battle will be with the 40-man roster. There are going to be players cut, and some might grab headlines.

Here is the issue: the Mariners don't think many of their younger players are ready for the majors yet. So, stopgaps have been brought in as non-roster invitees. A handful of them are very strong candidates to make the roster. However, to be added, they have to also be on the 40-man roster - meaning someone has to get removed.

First of all, let's start with who might get added:

  • Josh Bard - Adam Moore may end up on the opening day roster, but it doesn't really matter for my point here. Pretty much every team has three catchers on their 40-man roster, because it is a position where injuries tend to happen. Granted, Miguel Olivo is remarkably durable, so maybe the M's can get away with only two catchers on the 40-man right now. However, I wouldn't bank on it if I were a GM (especially with Olivo hurt right now). I would always reserve three spots on my 40-man roster for catchers, which means I think Josh Bard (or Chris Gimenez) should get added.
  • Adam Kennedy - It seems to be more or less assumed that Kennedy will be on the opening day roster, possibly even starting at second base. The M's have other options, but let's go ahead and go with popular opinion. Kennedy needs to get on the 40-man roster.
  • Ryan Langerhans/Gabe Gross - Both are non-roster invitees, so it doesn't matter who wins the fourth outfielder spot for the purpose of this post (my money is on Langerhans though). Milton Bradley looks like he has nailed down the starting job in left field, and it makes sense to send Michael Saunders down to AAA to get ABs, and get used to his new swing. Langerhans and Gross are both great fits in a reserve outfield role for pretty much any roster...but, they are both non-roster invitees. That means another spot has to be opened up.
  • Jamey Wright, Manny Delcarmen, Fabio Castro, Chris Ray, and perhaps others - I doubt all of these pitchers end up in the bullpen, but I also doubt that they all get cut. I think it is quite realistic that two or three make the team, meaning there are two or three more 40-man spots that need to get opened up.
In total, I think it is realistic to say that at least three spots have to be opened up, which isn't too bad. However, that number could balloon to six or seven, depending on how the rest of spring training unfolds. That could make things difficult, or even factor into decisions.

Who would get cut then? Here are the guys that I think would be targeted:

  • Josh Wilson - He probably was signed to a non-guaranteed MLB deal for a reason. If Adam Kennedy makes the team, it's probably at Wilson's expense.
  • Matt Tuiasosopo/Matt Mangini/Mike Carp - I don't see how all these players stay on the roster, even though they are prospect-ish kind of guys. They are redundant, and spots need to be cleared. Tui would be my pick as odd man out, but once again, he's having a good spring. Given his name, his rather young age, and the fact that he could be sent to the minors without being released, I think cutting him wouldn't go over well. However, he has had chances to show what he can do in the majors, and he simply hasn't been good. Mangini is still an unknown, and I like to think his left-handed stroke is a bit better suited for the ballpark. Ultimately, maybe Carp is the odd man out, since he was the first to get cut this spring.
  • Cesar Jimenez/Garrett Olson - If other lefties besides these guys make the bullpen, one of them has to be cut. It's probably Jimenez, and he has a decent chance to pass through waivers. However, Olson is out of options, so if he doesn't make the bullpen, he has to be cut.
I can't come up with others I'd be comfortable cutting. Maybe that's plenty, but I'm still uncomfortable cutting 23-year-olds to keep veterans as a rebuilding team. I think it is inevitable that it will happen though.

My best guess is that four non-roster invitees make the team, and Josh Wilson, Mike Carp, and Cesar Jimenez get cut loose (with Jose Flores, as a rule 5 draft pick, getting returned as well). I suppose that's not so bad, but with how things look in camp right now, roster numbers might keep a veteran invitee from making the team, even if they look like one of the 25 best in camp.