2012 Indians 40-man Review: Who do they remove?
The official start to the 2012-2013 offseason is quickly drawing near.
Yes, the Indians have already been hard at work at their “offseason” since the season ended two weeks ago, but that work has mostly been on their search for a new coaching staff and having meeting after meeting to align their philosophy and revised approach to player procurement in advance of one of the most key offseasons for them in some time.
One of those things the Indians are discussing is the makeup of their roster for next season. Where they need to subtract, where they need to add, what they need to modify, and where they need to get stronger. The strength of a team often comes not just from the makeup of their 25-man roster in the big leagues, but the players that round out the 40-man roster and are stocked away in the minors as depth when injuries or poor performance at the big league level inevitably hits.
The deadline this year to add a player from within the organization to the 40-man roster is November 20th. This is a key date for teams as they their roster for the upcoming free agency and trade period in the offseason, decide who to keep and let go, and also determine which young players to add to the roster in order to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft in December.
Most of the additions to the 40-man roster are what the organization deems as their best young talent in the minors that is up for roster protection from the Rule 5 Draft. The rest of the additions come from signings through free agency with a few waiver claims or trades potentially sprinkled in. Teams conduct several meetings from the final month of the season until the roster deadline date as they work to whittle down the roster and finalize it before the deadline. Many decisions on who to remove and who to add from the roster are obvious, but other decisions are not so cut and dry.
Whether the players to be added are obvious or not, teams will often wait until right around the deadline date to officially make roster additions from the minors in order to let things play out. Teams rarely make roster additions well in advance of the deadline since there is no rush to do so and it could be a decision that results in disaster. What if the player being rostered is playing winter ball then goes out the next day and gets seriously hurt? This is a situation the team wants to avoid, and is why most of these decisions typically always go down to the last minute.
Occasionally, a team will open up a roster spot by trading a player already on the 40-man roster in exchange for a non-roster player that is not required to be protected. Even rarer are trades at this time of the year involving Rule 5 eligible players that teams may not have room on their roster to protect. This is mostly because other teams are in the same boat as everyone is under the roster crunch.
When it comes to filling out the 40-man roster at this time of the year, it all comes down to a combination of need and talent. For a team like the Indians that is already so young but in a transition phase with a new coaching staff and a modified organizational philosophy, who they add and how many they add are two questions that are not as cut and dry as in previous years.
With all this in mind, let's take a look at what decisions the Indians may make in creating room on the 40-man roster prior to the November 20th roster deadline. In a few weeks I will post a follow up to this piece and take an in-depth look at what players from their farm system the Indians will consider adding to the 40-man roster in advance of the November 20th roster deadline.
Currently the Indians have 45 players on the 40-man roster, four of which are on the 60-day disabled list and one is on the restricted list. There is no disabled or restricted list in the offseason, so by the November 20th roster deadline the Indians will need to put all players on the 60-day disabled list and restricted list back onto the active 40-man roster. These five players are RHP Carlos Carrasco, RHP Josh Tomlin, LHP Rafael Perez, OF Grady Sizemore, and LHP Nick Hagadone (restricted list).
Of the 45 players currently on the 40-man roster, there are 25 players that to me are a lock to remain on the roster this offseason (barring a trade): RHP Cody Allen, LHP Scott Barnes, RHP Carlos Carrasco, RHP Jeanmar Gomez, LHP Nick Hagadone, RHP Corey Kluber, RHP Justin Masterson, RHP Zach McAllister, RHP Chris Perez, LHP Rafael Perez, RHP Vinnie Pestano, RHP Esmil Rogers, RHP Danny Salazar, LHP Tony Sipp, RHP Joe Smith, RHP Josh Tomlin, CA Lou Marson, CA Carlos Santana, 1B Lars Anderson, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, SS Juan Diaz, 2B Jason Kipnis, OF Michael Brantley, and OF Shin-Soo Choo.
The question is who of the other 20 players currently on the roster will be removed, and what players will make up the final 15 spots on the roster. I will attempt to answer the first part of that question today, and then the second part of that question in my follow up “who do they add” piece in a few weeks.
The Free Agents
Immediately after the conclusion of the World Series players eligible for free agency will officially be removed from the roster. At the moment, the Indians have two players eligible for free agency: OF Grady Sizemore and 1B Casey Kotchman. Neither player is expected to be resigned in advance of the start of free agency, so the removal of these two players would leave the roster at 43 players.
These two decisions are given and are but a mere formality once the postseason ends, but several other decisions will come in advance of the start of free agency such as which club options to decline or pick up and also which arbitration eligible players they should tender or non-tender.
The Club Options
The Indians have three players that have club options for next season that they need to make a decision on: DH Travis Hafner, RHP Roberto Hernandez, and RHP Ubaldo Jimenez. Nothing formal has been announced, but the Indians will likely make their decision on the club options public at the conclusion of the postseason like they did with Sizemore and Hernandez last season.
The options for Hafner ($13M, $2.75M buyout) and Hernandez ($6M, no buyout) are not expected to be picked up, but the option for Jimenez ($5.75M, $1M buyout) is expected to be picked up. The removal of Hafner and Hernandez would get the roster down to 41 players.
The Arbitration Eligibles
Next, the Indians need to make some decisions on whether to tender contracts for some of their players eligible for arbitration this offseason. The players eligible for arbitration are RHP Justin Masterson, RHP Chris Perez, LHP Rafael Perez, LHP Tony Sipp, RHP Kevin Slowey, RHP Joe Smith, 3B Jack Hannahan, CA Lou Marson, and OF Shin-Soo Choo. Also, while not yet official or known for sure at this time, RHP Esmil Rogers and OF Michael Brantley could be Super 2 arbitration eligible as well.
The Indians have a lot of players up for arbitration and are expected to tender most of them, but Slowey and Hannahan are not expected to be tendered contracts which would make them free agents. This would get the roster down to 39 players.
The Forgone Conclusions
Of the remaining 13 players on the roster not discussed, I think it goes without saying that LHP Scott Maine, LHP Chris Seddon, and OF Vinny Rottino are the strongest of all the candidates to be removed from the roster.
The unfortunate reality is that the Indians have to create roster space not only to get under the 40-man roster, but to potentially sign a few free agents, make a few trades, and of course protect some of their young talented players from being scooped up in the Rule 5 Draft. This means that some hard decisions will need to be made to designate players for assignment. The three most obvious choices are Maine, Seddon and Rottino.
Of the three Seddon has the best chance of being retained, but even his chances are slim. He pitched well in 17 games for the Indians this past season, but the bottom line is he is a pitcher that has a very limited history of success, is a fringe Major Leaguer, and there are a lot of players like him available in minor league free agency that the Indians can sign to non-roster deals. Maine is intriguing because of his pedigree as a prospect and throwing from the left side with good stuff, but he can’t consistently command where the ball is going. As for Rottino, he should have never been on the roster to begin with.
The removal of these three players would get the roster down to 36 players.
This is the part of the roster where things get interesting.
After you consider the 25 players that I listed above as locks to remain on the roster (again barring a trade), the 7 players that are free agents, have club options for next season, or are arbitration eligible, and then the 3 players that are locks to be removed, this leaves 10 players that have an uncertain status this offseason for a variety of reasons.
These players are RHP Frank Herrmann, LHP David Huff, RHP Fabio Martinez, INF Jason Donald, OF/1B Matt LaPorta, INF Cord Phelps, OF/1B Russ Canzler, OF Ezequiel Carrera, INF Brent Lillibridge, and OF Thomas Neal. The future of these remaining ten players is questionable because of the hundred different directions the Indians could go in since these players are out of options, have underwhelmed at the Major League level, or have limitations or question marks about their Major League value.
It may seem unfair to include the likes of Herrmann, Donald, Phelps, Lillibridge, and Canzler in this grouping, but I do not see them as 100% locks to remain on the 40-man roster this offseason. Maybe they are 80-90% locks, but that is still not 100%, so hence why they are in this grouping. With that said, I expect these five players to remain on the roster.
Donald and Lillibridge have their shortcomings and are out of options, but I expect both to be in the mix for the utility job next spring and whoever loses it (maybe even both if someone else wins it) would be designated for assignment at the conclusion of spring training. Phelps is a solid handcuff to Kipnis at second base and I suspect the Indians will explore other positions on the field next spring like left field and even first base to get his bat into the lineup more. Herrmann and Canzler both have two options remaining, so even if they don’t make the team their roster flexibility is a plus and they serve as two good depth options to have on call in the minors.
But the future on the 40-man roster for the other five players Huff, LaPorta, Carrera, Martinez and Neal is interesting and hard to figure out.
The reasons to keep Neal are valid ones as he has options remaining, had a good season, was a trade pickup a year ago, is a right-handed hitting outfield option, and probably most importantly of all if he is designated for assignment again and clears waivers he can decline an outright assignment to the minors and become a free agent since he was already designated for assignment once already this past April. For those reasons alone I think he survives the offseason on the 40-man roster.
Martinez only pitched in High-A this season, but there is perceived value in him as the Indians claimed him off waivers this season, he has options remaining, and he has Danny Salazar-like stuff in the pen that the Indians are high on. I could see him being removed from the roster at any point this offseason, he clears waivers, and remains in the organization on an outright assignment….but for now think he will stay on the roster and only be removed if his spot is needed after a free agent signing or trade pickup.
As for Huff, LaPorta and Carrera, all three are out of options so would have to make the Indians’ opening day roster next season or be put on waivers by designating them for assignment. A strong case could be made that if the Indians were to designate either one of these players for assignment this offseason that they would clear waivers, and if that happened they would clear up a roster spot and also retain the rights to them since they have no choice but to accept an outright assignment to the minor leagues for the 2013 season.
Carrera is in the mix for a fourth outfield spot next season, so he will probably survive the longest out of the three, though he would certainly be on the chopping block by the end of spring training if he does not win the job. Huff and LaPorta are probably both looking forward to the opportunity to play in the big leagues with the Indians next season, or get claimed by another team, but the reality is that both are probably going to be removed from the 40-man roster at some point before the 2013 season, whether they are with the Indians or with someone else. The other reality is that they will both probably start the 2013 season in the minors as a non-roster player. Assuming they clear waivers if they are designated for assignment this means they would be at Triple-A Columbus again unless they are traded or flat out released.
But while Huff, LaPorta, and Carrera all look like they will be roster casualties at some point before the 2013 season, it is the timing as to when they are removed from the roster which is tough to pinpoint. All three could remain on the roster past the November 20th deadline, but be removed later in the offseason as the Indians sign free agents or need to make space on the roster for a player they picked up in a trade. Or they could simply just be removed at the end of spring training when they have to be. Either way, barring something unexpected happening, all three will probably be off the Indians’ 40-man roster by the end of spring training.
I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that one of Huff, Carrera or LaPorta are removed from the roster prior to the November 20th deadline (though I don’t know which one).
When determining who stays and who goes it should be noted that not all of the players will be removed at the same time. Some will be removed right away over the next few weeks or so while others may be removed as needed later in the offseason. As we have seen in the past the Indians have made roster additions as late as February and in each case needed to remove a player from the roster at that time by designating them for assignment.
There are certain to be a couple of guys kept on the roster that will leave people scratching their heads. As we have seen in the past a few “sacrificial lambs” will be kept on the 40-man roster in the event roster room needs to be made to add a free agent or trade acquisition. Teams keep a few of these players on the roster instead of loading up with straight prospects so as to not have to designate for assignment a prospect they might otherwise not want to.
So who will the Indians remove?
After the free agents Sizemore and Kotchman automatically come off, I will go ahead and predict that they decline the club options for Hernandez and Hafner, they non-tender Hannahan and Slowey, and they designate Seddon, Rottino, Maine, and LaPorta.
If all of this happens then ten roster spots would be cleared and leave the Indians with 35 players on the 40-man roster at the November 20th deadline. Whether or not that means five players from the minors would be added to the 40-man, or if they will make other moves later in the offseason to create more space remains to be seen, but that’s how I see things right now.
So what minor leaguers up for roster protection could fill those open spots? I'll take a look at all the options in the upcoming followup piece “who do they add” in a few weeks.
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I can't see any reason why the Indians would roster Lillibridge. A poor hitting/poor defending utility guy? No reason to risk anyone on Rule 5 for that.
Finally, I would like to see the Indians sign Sizemore for the league minimum. I feel he owes it to the tribe, and if they could do that, there would be little risk. Certainly better than rostering Lillibridge.
Scary when you look at the lack of talent on the 40 man. Francona has his work cut out for him.
doesnt matter who the manager is, this organization is horrible at player decisions and evaluations.