As the postseason gets closer to coming to a conclusion (come on Brewers!) fans of all teams not included are anticipating what should be another intriguing offseason. With turmoil in key cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, there should be plenty of exciting offseason developments.
One of the key dates to look forward to before any of that action really starts to heat up is November 18th when 40-man rosters need to be finalized in preparation of the Rule 5 draft on December 9th.
Teams like the Mariners will have big time decisions to make heading into the offseason of who to release in order to make room for free agent acquisitions, trades and those players with 4-5 years of service time in the minor leagues that they want to protect from the Rule 5 draft.
For those who don’t know what the Rule 5 draft is, a quick definition is that it involves minor league players with at least 4-5 (4 if drafted out of high school or college, five if signed as an international free agent) years of service in a team’s organization.
So once those players become eligible for that draft, teams have to either put them on their 40-man roster or risk losing them to another franchise. The purpose is to give players toiling in a particular organization’s minor league system (due to being blocked by more talented players at the major league level or a team hoarding talent, etc.) a better chance to reach the majors with another.
Currently (as of Oct. 12th) the Mariners 40-man roster looks like this:
Pitchers: Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, Jason Vargas, Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush, Anthony Vasquez, Brandon League, David Aardsma*, Shawn Kelley, Dan Cortes, Josh Lueke, Jeff Gray, Steve Delabar, Tom Wilhelmsen, Chance Ruffin, Danny Hultzen, Cesar Jimenez, Yoervis Medina, Mauricio Robles and Jamey Wright.
Infielders: Justin Smoak, Mike Carp, Dustin Ackley, Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, Kyle Seager, Alex Liddi, Luis Rodriguez and Adam Kennedy.
Catchers: Miguel Olivo, Adam Moore*, Josh Bard and Chris Gimenez.
Outfielders: Ichiro Suzuki, Franklin Gutierrez*, Trayvon Robinson, Casper Wells, Greg Halman, Michael Saunders, Wily Mo Pena, Carlos Peguero, Johermyn Chavez and Mike Wilson.
If you’re counting at home, that’s 43 players, three over the max as a result of having three players (denoted by an asterisk) being on the 60-day DL. Those players don’t count against a team’s 40-man roster during the regular season but do need to be added to the roster prior to the deadline or be released.
Gutierrez and Moore are locks to be added but given the fact that Aardsma is coming off of Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready to pitch until the summer at the earliest, he’s likely to be released.
Another point to keep in mind is that teams like to be well under 40 as the offseason gets under way for flexibility purposes. Last year the Mariners, I believe, were at 32 after making all of their moves so expect about the same.
Likely additions to the roster include shortstop Carlos Truinfel, 21, third baseman Francisco Martinez, 21, and outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang, 23, acquired from Boston in the Erik Bedard trade. There are other names but these three are locks to be added prior to the deadline.
Those three plus the two in Moore and Gutierrez means the Mariners need to at least clear five spaces just to get to 40 and, like I said, will likely clear another five plus for flexibility purposes.
I’ve bolded 15 names of the most likely candidates to be released from the 40-man (not including Aardsma who really isn’t on it right now to begin with) heading into the November 18th deadline. Let’s take a closer look at each, though.
Luis Rodriguez, Wily Mo Pena, Chris Gimenez, Adam Kennedy, Josh Bard and Jamey Wright are all not under contract for 2012 and are six players you can take off the roster right now.
So with those six cleared and the five I’ve already mentioned added, the roster now stands at 39. I think the Mariners release another five to get to 34 so who are the most likely candidates to be parted with by November 18th?
1. Mike Wilson: he made his major league debut last season in May but didn’t do much and now is a part of a crowded outfield group at the age of 28 looking to become the starting left fielder.
2. Anthony Vasquez: he received an extended look in the starting rotation at the end of the season due to the fact that the M’s were trying to preserve some of their arms and wanted to see what he could do. Quite frankly, he’s not ready at this point in time and may not ever be a major league caliber pitcher.
3. Jeff Gray: was picked up in May and finished with a 4.28 ERA in 48 IP with 21 walks, 23 k’s and a .275 avg against. The Mariners have a ton of young relief candidates already on the roster and more (Stephen Pryor and Forrest Snow in particular) knocking on the door. He turns 30 on Nov. 19th.
4. Cesar Jimenez: turns 27 in a month and is a career 5.40 ERA pitcher who has dealt with serious arm problems which have killed his velocity. The one thing going for him is that he’s a left hander, of which the Mariners only have two (Furbush and Robles) who are likely bullpen candidates heading into ’12.
5. Yoervis Medina: 23-year-old really struggled in 2011 between A and AA affiliates with a 1-14 record and 6.18 ERA in 24 starts. The Mariners like his promise which is why he remains on the roster currently but it’s doubtful he makes it through the next round of cuts with the pitchers coming up through the system.
I think you’ll see all five be released prior to the deadline. The other bolded names — Saunders, Peguero, Robles and Vargas — are serious candidates to be dealt this offseason.
Make no mistake about it, there will be serious attrition on the Mariners roster this winter and it will start in early November with the cleaning of the 40-man roster.