Teams Face Roster Crunch As 40-Man Deadline Approaches
While the 2022 season has come to a close, the mechanisms of roster construction have just begun to turn. Teams have until 6 p.m. ET to add eligible players to their 40-man rosters or risk losing unprotected players during the Rule 5 draft. A number of teams face a roster crunch as the deadline approaches with a lack of available 40-man roster spots to accommodate all the eligible players. Throughout the day teams will make a variety of maneuvers to open up space to add eligible players.
Throughout the day we’ll have up to the minute reactions to the names added prior to today’s 6 p.m. ET deadline.
Heading into the deadline no team faces the crunch that the Rays do. With a full 40-man roster and nine Top 30 Prospects eligible to be added, the Rays are likely to make a flurry of moves ahead of the deadline. The victim of their own success, the Rays have faced similar roster crunches in recent years, often trading older prospects with forthcoming protection decisions for younger prospects years away from eligibility.
In one of those trades, at the 2019 roster-protection deadline the Rays dealt soon-to-be Rule 5-eligible righthander Cristopher Sanchez to the Phillies for an Australian second baseman who’d yet to play anywhere other than the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Now three years later, Curtis Mead, that Australian third baseman, is a Top 100 Prospect, and he is one of the players the Rays have to find room for on a crowded 40-man roster.
Among those nine Top 30 Prospects, two—Taj Bradley and Mead—are Top 100 prospects. While Bradley and Mead are slam dunk adds the remaining seven could all potentially be appealing to a club with space to fill on the 40-man roster and an opening on the active roster. Among those players all but Heriberto Hernandez have experience at the Double-A level or higher.
That group includes Xavier Edwards and Brett Wisely, two players with multiple years of upper-minors experience and defined roles. While there’s a dichotomy between the two players' skill sets, each is a bat-first second baseman with a hit tool-driven offensive game. While Wisely may not have the pedigree of Edwards, he has proven to be the superior offensive player in recent seasons. Each could fit as a bat-first utility player or platoon option at second base for the right team.
Beyond this group there’s a number of notable players outside the Rays Top 30 who find themselves eligible for the first time. While the Tampa organization will do its best to get as much talent consolidated headed up to the deadline, historically, groups as talent laden as the Rays are in 2022 tend to lose a player—or two—during the MLB portion of the Rule 5 draft.
How the Rays manage this impending deadline will be one of the day’s biggest stories.
If you’re looking for other potential organizations feeling the crunch of the impending deadline, you don’t have to leave the AL East—the Blue Jays face a 40-man conundrum of their own. While Toronto’s depth outside its 40-man roster is nowhere near the level of the Rays, it does face a handful of tough decisions.
With their 40-man roster currently sitting at 39 players, the Blue Jays have an open spot to play with. The Blue Jays, like the Rays, have nine Top 30 Prospects eligible to be added for today’s deadline, although none of the nine eligible Blue Jays Top 30 Prospects are currently ranked among the Top 100 Prospects.
Orelvis Martinez, the most famous name of the nine, previously had ranked on the Top 100 but fell off due to a difficult season at Double-A New Hampshire. Martinez set a FisherCats club record with 30 home runs in 2022 but hit .203 while striking out in 28.5% of his plate appearances. He’s likely to be added, alongside a pair of former New Hampshire teammates that enjoyed breakout 2022 campaigns.
Both righthanded pitcher Yosver Zulueta and shortstop Addison Barger burst onto the scene in 2022 with strong showings. Neither ranked within the Blue Jays Top 30 Prospects entering the season but each has ascended to the top half of the system by season’s end.
While Martinez, Barger and Zulueta seem like clear additions, things get murky beyond that. Another 2022 breakout, Gabriel Martinez, is eligible for the first time, but at 20 years old he’s likely two years away from major league impact. With the high risk nature of a player like Martinez, a team would more likely pursue the outfielder via trade rather than running the risk of selecting Martinez in the Rule 5 and having to roster him on the active MLB roster for the entire season. In addition to the loss of roster flexibility, the lost development time has often derailed prospects who are stashed that way.
The most likely candidates on the bubble with potential to be selected during the Rule 5 draft are first baseman Spencer Horwitz and righthanded reliever Adrian Hernandez. Both Horwitz and Hernandez have full seasons of upper-minors experience and developed enough of a role to be viewed as ready-made contributors in the major leagues.
Hernandez spent a majority of this season with Triple-A Buffalo, making 31 appearances for the Bisons. While Hernandez struck out 32.1% of the batters he faced, he struggled with home runs and posted a 4.96 ERA. An unusual profile, Hernandez is a changeup-first righthander whose four-seam fastball sits 89-91 mph and acts more as a change-of-pace pitch to the offspeed. Hernandez’s changeup is a true plus pitch, but it might not be enough to get outs consistently at the major league level.
Horwitz, an older prospect at 25 years old and a former 24th-round pick, has hit his way into the 40-man conversation. While Horowitz’s results at Triple-A were mediocre, he possesses the sort of balance between plate discipline, contact and power model-driven clubs will value. With enough redundancy at that position at the major league level for the Blue Jays Horwitz could end up on the outside looking in when the dust settles.
In the National League two clubs with very different trajectories from the Rays and the Blue Jays face deadline crunches of their own. Two rebuilding clubs in the NL Central in the Pirates and Cubs face a dilemma leading up to the deadline. Each has a large group of talented prospects to protect with limited space to protect them all.
The Pirates currently have a full 40-man roster with nine Top 30 Prospects to be protected. Current Top 100 Prospects Endy Rodriguez and Mike Burrows seem like slam dunks, while the remaining seven pose one case or another for addition. How the Pirates clear space on their currently full 40-man roster will be the biggest question facing the front office as the deadline approaches. Trades and possible designations for assignment are all possibilities for players currently on the Pirates 40 man.
One name to look out for is outfielder Matt Gorski. While his swing and miss is a non-starter for some, his combination of power, athleticism and a plus throwing arm make him an intriguing Rule 5 target should he go unprotected.
As for the Cubs, they have a bit more leeway with which to play. While the Cubs have a whopping 11 Top 30 Prospects eligible for protection before the deadline, the team's 40-man roster currently sits at 34 players. It’s conceivable that more than half of the eligible 11 will be protected. Most notable among this group are righthander Ben Brown and outfielders Brennen Davis and Kevin Alcantara.
A rash of other teams face loaded 40-man rosters and not enough space. Much like the Rays, roster space is a continual issue for the Guardians.While the Guardians have less big-name prospects facing eligibility than in years past they have a collection of intriguing players who are first-time Rule 5-eligible candidates if not protected including infielder Angel Martinez, lefthander Joey Cantillo and oft-injured righthander Ethan Hankins, the club’s first-round pick in 2018.
Another club to watch is San Francisco, currently with a full 40-man roster and a pair of big-name prospects in Marco Luciano and Luis Matos, whose talents warrant protection. How they free up the needed spots will be worth monitoring.
Below are each team’s 40-man roster numbers as they currently sit entering the day.
Atlanta Braves - 40
Arizona Diamondbacks - 39
Baltimore Orioles - 34
Boston Red Sox - 37
Chicago Cubs - 34
Chicago White Sox - 36
Cincinnati Reds - 40
Cleveland Guardians - 40
Colorado Rockies - 33
Detroit Tigers - 40
Houston Astros - 34
Kansas City Royals - 39
Los Angeles Angels - 40
Los Angeles Dodgers - 33
Miami Marlins - 40
Milwaukee Brewers - 35
Minnesota Twins - 36
New York Mets - 31
New York Yankees - 37
Oakland Athletics - 37
Philadelphia Phillies - 36
Pittsburgh Pirates - 40
St. Louis Cardinals - 38
San Diego Padres - 32
San Francisco Giants - 40
Seattle Mariners - 36
Tampa Bay Rays - 40
Texas Rangers - 34
Toronto Blue Jays - 39
Washington Nationals - 38