The Arizona Diamondbacks generated a fair amount of excitement yesterday when they promoted Yasmany Tomas. After the experiment to play Tomas at third base had failed, or at least been tabled for awhile, during Spring Training, Tomas was sent to Triple-A Reno where he had been playing right field. With A.J. Pollock in center field, Mark Trumbo in right field, and Ender Inciarte off to a fast start in left field, there did not appear to be a spot for immediate playing time for Tomas, fueling speculation that perhaps another move was in the offing. Excitement and speculation soon yielded to confusion as Tomas was not in the starting lineup and news that Tomas had been brought up as a bench bat.
The Diamondbacks called up their $68 million investment to sit on the bench, the problem arising due to an unusual roster construction and injuries to two of the three catchers on their 40-man roster with significant experience at the position. When the season started, Arizona put 12 pitchers and 13 position players on the 25-man roster. After Gerald Laird hit the disabled list, the Diamondbacks chose to supplement the bullpen with an additional arm for a few games, calling up A.J. Schugel.
After a few games with the loaded bullpen and shorthanded bench, the Diamondbacks decided to move back to the more traditional setup of having 13 position players and 12 pitchers on their active roster. Due to injuries at catcher, the Diamondbacks were faced with a difficult decision on their roster. Prior to making a move the active roster looked like this (Players on the disabled list in italics):
|Tuffy Gosewich||Nick Ahmed||A.J. Pollock||Josh Collmenter||Andrew Chafin|
|Jordan Pacheco||Paul Goldschmidt||Mark Trumbo||Rubby De La Rosa||Randall Delgado|
|Oscar Hernandez||Aaron Hill||Ender Inciarte||Jeremy Hellickson||Daniel Hudson|
|Gerald Laird||Jake Lamb||David Peralta||Chase Anderson||Evan Marshall|
|Cliff Pennington||Archie Bradley||Oliver Perez|
|Chris Owings||Patrick Corbin||Addison Reed|
Jordan Pacheco started the season as an emergency catcher of sorts, having played 41 of his 317 games at the position entering this year. Pacheco could play catcher if need be, but the teams was free to use him as a utility player in the infield without the Diamondbacks having to worry about not having a catcher at the end of games if they brought in a backup when that player was injured. After Laird went down, Pacheco was elevated to backup catcher and the Diamondbacks lost that flexibility, leaving the Diamondbacks effectively with just three available hitters on the bench. The Diamondbacks needed to make a move, but were limited in their options.
With four players on the disabled list, the Diamondbacks were left with ten players on the 40-man roster the Diamondbacks could call up when they sent A.J. Schugel back to the minors. Of those ten players, seven are pitchers leaving the Diamondbacks with just three options. While the Diamondbacks injuries ultimately put them in this predicament, the Diamondbacks decision to structure their 40-man roster with an alignment heavy towards pitcher contributed greatly to their problem. Below is the roster construction for all teams’ 40-man rosters divided between pitchers and position players.
No team has more pitchers on their 40-man than the Diamondbacks. Most teams have a full 40-man roster. The Mets actually have fewer position players than the Diamondbacks, and they are down a roster spot with Jennry Mejia not counting against them during his suspension. The Chicago Cubs are down a roster spot at the moment, although Kris Bryant waits in Iowa to take that spot. The Pirates also appear to have retained some flexibility with their roster. The Diamondbacks do not have the same flexibility. By placing 23 pitchers on their 40-man roster with just 17 position players, the Diamondbacks left themselves vulnerable to injury with just four extra players in addition to the standard 13 on most rosters. Committed to carrying Rule-5 pick catcher Oscar Hernandez for the whole season, his spot on the disabled list early in spring seemed like perhaps a convenient way to keep him on the team without giving him a spot on the 25-man roster. That apparent convenience has disappeared as options for the active roster have dwindled.
The Diamondbacks had several options, all of them unappealing. The first option to clear space would be to take one of the players on 15-day disabled list and transfer that player to the 60-day disabled list. They had two options in Patrick Corbin and Matt Stites, but Arizona expects each player to return before the 60-day period is up and thus were not considered options to clear roster space. Whether pushing back their return by a week or two was really worth this is up for discussion, but Arizona clearly didn’t think so.
The second option is to take a pitcher currently on the 40-man, but not the active roster, and put them through waivers. This risks losing those players and have another team claim them. The options, as well as their age and current level are listed below.
There is not a lot of potential there, but the Diamondbacks may be correct that all of the pitchers could be claimed given the need for bullpen arms close to the majors. The additional consideration when potentially losing a player to another team or losing a major league player’s services for longer than necessary on the 60-day disabled list is the player that would be added to the 40-man. Presumably the team would add one of the catchers in Reno in 31-year old Blake Lalli or 32-year old Matt Pagnozzi. Neither option is enticing, and “catcher of the future” Peter O’Brien is currently getting a mental break from the position after developing the yips.
The last option, and the one the team decided on, was to promote one of the three position players on the 40-man roster to be a bench bat on the major league team. Brandon Drury and Socrates Brito are a pair of 22-year-olds currently in Double-A. Drury was ranked fourth by Kiley McDaniel in his evaluation of the Diamondbacks prospects, but neither player looks ready to handle major league pitching. That left the organization with no other option but Tomas, valuing the current roster construction over getting their prize free-agent acquisition plate appearances to develop. This move is another puzzling one, something becoming increasingly common for the Diamondbacks organization.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.