40-Man Crunch Situations: National League

Yesterday, I wrote about the American League clubs whose trade deadline behavior might be influenced, at least in part, by impending 40-man roster crunch. That piece, which includes an intro diddy explaining this whole exercise, can be found here. As a reminder, All of these rosters have a talent foundation at the major league level that won’t be moving, and which I’ll ignore below. Instead, I’m focused on the number of players on the 40-man right now, how many free agents will come off that number at the end of the season, which prospects might be added (or not), and who currently on the 40-man is in danger of being passed by the prospects. For the two categories where the rubber meets the road and it’s unclear what will happen (fringe current 40-man members vs. prospects who’ll possibly be added), I italicize the players I view as less likely to stay, or be added to the 40-man. Today, we’ll consider the National League teams with such crunch.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Current 40-man Count: 46 (40 + six 60-day IL players)
Pending Free Agents: 7 (Clayton Kershaw, Corey Knebel, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, Kenley Jansen, Jimmy Nelson, Albert Pujols), plus Joe Kelly’s club option
Must-Add Prospects: Jacob Amaya, Michael Grove
Current 40-man Fringe: Billy McKinney, Luke Raley, Jimmie Sherfy, Sheldon Neuse, DJ Peters, Darien Núñez
Prospects on the Fringe: Jose Martinez, James Outman, Jeren Kendall, Guillermo Zuniga, Zach Willeman, Gus Varland, Devin Mann, Ryan Noda

The Dodgers have lots of both low-impact overage and viable big leaguers, but aside from Jacob Amaya, none are likely to be more than a 1-WAR type of role player or middle inning relief piece. The number of departing free agents is high, making Amaya and Grove (who has the best stuff of the potential additions but has been wild this year) comfortable adds, but the rest of the group might find roster equilibrium elsewhere.

Milwaukee Brewers

Current 40-man Count: 43 (39 + four 60-day IL players)
Pending Free Agents: 6 (Eduardo Escobar, Manny Piña, Brett Anderson, Travis Shaw, Brad Boxberger, Hunter Strickland), plus Avisaíl García’s club option.
Must-Add Prospects: Korry Howell, Reese Olson, Max Lazar, Victor Castaneda, Payton Henry
Current 40-man Fringe: Pablo Reyes, Daniel Vogelbach, Corey Ray, Tim Lopes, Miguel Sánchez, Kyle Lobstein, Hoby Milner
Prospects on the Fringe: Carlos Rodriguez, Cam Robinson

There’s less volume here, but the per-player impact of Milwaukee’s upcoming additions is notable. I do think teams might be motivated to pursue some of Milwaukee’s 40-man fringe — a rebuilding club might want to give Corey Ray a look, Holby Milner could be the second lefty in someone else’s bullpen, and Daniel Vogelbach and Rowdy Tellez are redundant but definitely fit as big league bat-only pieces, so one of them might move — or they could make a buyer’s trade using the prospects. Either way, something has to get done because pound-for-pound group this is a good with needle-moving industry standing. Even Max Lazar, who had TJ in March, merits mention since teams view that as a feature, not a bug, in the Rule 5 Draft.

Philadelphia Phillies

Current 40-man Count: 43 (39 + three 60-day IL players and one on the paternity list)
Pending Free Agents: 8 (Archie Bradley, Chase Anderson, Brad Miller, Matt Moore, Brandon Kintzler, Matt Joyce, Vince Velasquez and Héctor Neris), plus Odúbel Herrera and Andrew McCutchen’s club options. A whopping 10 departures.
Must-Add Prospects: Luis García
Current 40-man Fringe: Matt Vierling, Damon Jones
Prospects on the Fringe: James McArthur, Jhailyn Ortiz, Ethan Lindow, Abrahan Gutierrez, Kevin Gowdy, Cristian Hernandez, Rodolfo Durán

The Phillies should realize that they’re not real contenders and use the deadline to be opportunistic sellers, leveraging their 40-man space to take excess talent from teams that have crunch. It still enables them to help the team in the short-term (next year) without making a shortsighted buyer’s trade with the next couple of months in mind. The Phillies have a deep lineup and if their best two starters are humming, they can tango with any team’s top two arms. But their rotation is shallow, and their defense and bullpen are bad. On a team that’s actually contending, Ranger Suárez is working four-to-six low leverage outs. José Alvarado couldn’t crack the Rays playoff roster and he’s Philadelphia’s set-up guy. The Cardinals are in a similar bucket, with virtually no must-add prospects on the docket and several impending free agents.

New York Mets

Current 40-man Count: 50! Wow! (40 + 10 60-day IL players)
Pending Free Agents: 7 (Rich Hill, Jeurys Familia, Marcus Stroman, Jonathan Villar, Aaron Loup, Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto)
Must-Add Prospects: Mark Vientos, Jose Butto, Ronny Mauricio
Current 40-man Fringe: Jerad Eickhoff, Robert Stock, José Martínez, Mark Payton, Albert Almora Jr.
Prospects on the Fringe: Carlos Cortes, Nick Meyer, Ryley Gilliam

Carlos Carrasco’s return from the 60-day IL is imminent and Jordan Yamamoto has been throwing bullpens in Florida, but several of the other injured pitchers are unlikely to create an in-season problem. In this situation, the sheer number of players coming off the books and the relative lack of prospect additions make things fairly comfortable even though it looks scary at first glance.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Current 40-man Count: 42 (38 + four 60-day IL players)
Pending Free Agents: 2 (Trevor Cahill and Chasen Shreve), plus Gregory Polanco’s club option.
Must-Add Prospects: Travis Swaggerty, Hoy Park, Mason Martin, Diego Castillo, Canaan Smith-Njigba, Cal Mitchell, Omar Cruz, Cody Bolton, Liover Peguero, Tahnaj Thomas
Current 40-man Fringe: John Nogowski, Michael Perez, Wilmer Difo, Phillip Evans, Duane Underwood Jr., Sam Howard, Ka’ai Tom, Erik González
Prospects on the Fringe: Jack Suwinski, Steven Jennings, Travis MacGregor, Yerry De Los Santos, Eddy Yean

One drawback of loading up on depth during a rebuild is the inevitable crunch created by all those prospects. Assuming lots of turnover near the bottom of the Pirates roster in favor of the young Bucs, this wave of youngsters is pretty manageable. Even the positions of the players coming matchs up nicely with who is perhaps likely to get cut.

Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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1 year ago

ST, Eric says better than I had in previous posts as to why the Pirates’ situation is fairly manageable.
All FA’s are definitely gone. I’d guess all the fringe, save Perez is gone. I don’t think Jennings or YDLS are protected, nor do they warrant it. It’s likely one of Newman/Tucker is gone, possibly both. Add in that they’ll likely trade RR/Stratton or both. Pretty easy to rectify.

1 year ago
Reply to  gettwobrute79

I think it almost works as it is, but if they trade Stratton or Rodriguez and get more than two guys who will need 40-man roster protection it will make things harder.

In any case, it’s not a problem with the 40-man, its with filling out the 26-man and having depth in AAA.

If you lose Cahill and Shreve and dump Polanco, that means you have one space. If you DFA Nogowski, Difo, Evans, Underwood, Howard, Tom, and Gonzalez, that means you have eight more, for a total of nine spots. You can dump Perez but that would leave Stallings as the only catcher on the 40-man which is clearly untenable, so he or someone like him has to stay. There are ten must-adds, so you’d have to DFA Tucker too (not a crazy idea). That leaves you with exactly 40 so if you don’t worry about losing Suwinski (who might be eligible for minor league FA as well), Lolo Sanchez, or de los Santos then it’s fine (all of whom are plausible 40-man candidates)

But then you have to have guys on the 40-man roster who you’re fine with them not playing every day and not developing, and other guys to serve as upper-level pitching depth in AAA. The pitching part might be okay. Maybe. Contreras, Yajure, and Keller are plausible starters, and Peters (or a replacement) is there as a reliever. If you’re willing to convert Cruz or Bolton to relievers to cover short-term issues then it should be okay. If not then you’ll need to start DFA’ing guys when you have more than two relievers on the 10-day IL. And if Stratton and Rodriguez get traded they probably won’t be traded for relievers, so they’ll need another couple of spots there as well.

For the guys who aren’t playing every day, they will need a guy to replace Difo, Evans, and Polanco, plus one more player to replace the pitcher (they have 14 pitchers on there right now, in 2022 you can only carry 13). Because it’s an exact match at the moment, those four players have to come from the list of players already on the roster. In this scenario Tucker has been DFA’d, so he’s not available. Park makes sense as one of them. Swaggerty should be ready, so that’s two as long as Swaggerty doesn’t totally embarrass himself out there and get demoted. They could solve another one if they’re willing to put one of Oneil Cruz, Cal Mitchell, and Canaan Smith-Njigba in right field and demote Gamel to a fourth outfielder. That would be three. Then you probably need one more infielder as a reserve, and the only one left is Diego Castillo unless you are willing to let Cruz butcher his way through shortstop at the big league level or Marcano play out of position (which would let them turn Newman into a backup).

This is a long way of saying this is going to be close if nothing else happens. If they trade Rodriguez and Stratton things will probably be out of balance again.