The Phillies Crowded 40 Man Roster Will Cause Off-Season Movement

Both of these guys could feel the roster crunch this Winter. Photo by Richard Wilkins Jr.

Both of these guys could feel the roster crunch this Winter.
Photo by Richard Wilkins Jr.

The Phillies have a full 40 man roster. Full, with 46 players that is. In a quirk of roster rules in Major League Baseball, players on the 60-Day DL do not count on your 40 man roster, and the Phillies have six players on there right now, freeing up six extra spots. For now, that is. After the season, the Phillies will have to get this roster back down to 40 players, and in fact even less for practical purposes. If the Phillies want to protect any players in their minor league system who are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, sign any major league free agents, or make a Rule 5 pick themselves, they will need a number of free spots, possibly meaning they will need to free up as many as 16 spots for this off-season.

There are some no-brainers. Cliff Lee, Chad Billingsley, and Jonathan Pettibone should go from the 60-Day DL to off the roster this off-season. Aaron Harang, Jerome Williams, Adam Loewen, Erik Kratz, and Brian Bogusevic all will probably lose their roster spots. I can’t see any rationalization for why Jordan Danks would remain on the roster if he’s not up this Tuesday, especially since Bogusevic got the call ahead of him. Even with those rather obvious moves though, the Phillies go from 46 players to 37 players. This is adequate enough to start, and free agents like Jeff Francoeur could also exit the roster, but the Phillies will need to make more moves to free up roster space if they want to be active this off-season. Besides that, some of the players mentioned, such as Francoeur, Kratz, or Bogusevic, could interest the Phillies for next season, and having some flexibility to offer them a contract later is necessary.

So what other moves are out there for the Phillies? Where else is there to make a move? Here’s a few thoughts:

  • The Phillies have Matt Harrison, Aaron Nola, Adam Morgan, Jerad Eickhoff, and Alec Asher currently in-house as starting pitchers who are either on the team or the DL right now. In addition, David Buchanan, Severino Gonzalez, Jesse Biddle, and Joely Rodriguez are in-house starting pitchers who are on the 40 man roster. The reality is that there are other guys in the system the Phillies would probably rather protect as starters. I think Biddle’s spot on the roster is safe going into the off-season, unless he’s in a trade, as he’ll get at least one more shot to work out as a starter, and probably would still get a shot as a reliever too. Rodriguez is a little more interesting case, but he also probably will get moved into relief next season. This means that Buchanan and Gonzalez are both guys that could be on the block going into the Winter.
  • One would think that Dom Brown is a strong non-tender candidate this off-season. The fact is, he’s just never repeated his 2013 campaign since, and a two year slump is good grounds to not give someone a substantial raise through arbitration.
  • The Phillies are effectively carrying three first basemen right now, and their upside is pretty limited. Ryan Howard is in his mid-30s and has his issues at this point in his career. Darin Ruf has simply not become the player it looked like he might be. Tommy Joseph has now converted into a first baseman at AAA as well. While a Howard-Ruf platoon makes a lot of sense for 2016, it also is a significant devotion of resources to the position for a team that could use some roster spots. Moving on from at least one of the three would free up a spot. I don’t think it will be Howard though unless he is traded, or unless they finally decide to give Ruf the job for a shot. I’m not holding my breath though, as Ruf’s season doesn’t scream for more time. Even so, with Franco and Alfaro also having first base ability, I don’t know that all three survive the off-season.
  • If the Phillies choose not to do anything at first base, or even if they do, they also have to utility infielders on their roster right now. Andres Blanco and Darnell Sweeney bring similar versatility, and both are under club control. Blanco is arbitration eligible and Sweeney will still be club-controlled for a while. If they move one of their first basemen, the Phillies could certainly keep both versatile players and get good value, but if not, trading Blanco could be an option.
  • Behind the plate, Ruiz, Rupp, and Alfaro all would remain on the roster. Gabriel Lino in AAA is Rule 5 eligible if they don’t protect him, and I’m sure they’d like to get Andrew Knapp onto the roster sooner or later. The Phillies could seek to aggressively shop Ruiz by eating much of his $8.5 million salary for 2016, to make him an affordable back-up option for a different club. This would free up a spot at least for Lino.
  • The Phillies have pretty decent bullpen depth right now, but no real primary set-up man. I would expect Giles, Garcia, Araujo, and Gomez to be brought back, but De Fratus and Neris are definite trade chips. Hinojosa, Murray, and Roberts are all guys who don’t have a firm grip on roster spots. Ogando and Hollands would seem to be the more secure spots right now.

All of that could free up as many as eleven spots on the roster for the off-season. I doubt they will do all of these moves, but if they can get their 40 man roster back down to about 30 players heading into the off-season, it will allow them to make the moves they want to make in the off-season. With a number of major protections needed, and some free agency needs to make next year’s team mildly competitive, the Phillies will have to creatively move to give themselves maximum flexibility in the off-season.


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