The next deadline for Major League Baseball’s offseason arrives Tuesday, when teams must decide which players to add to the 40-man roster, and which players they can afford to expose to the Rule 5 draft.
The White Sox shouldn’t have much of a problem navigating this particular hurdle. The calls were much tougher last year, when the Sox felt compelled to reach into A-ball to protect guys like Micker Adolfo and Luis Basabe. The Sox may find themselves racing the lock in two years when the options run out, but at least both players improved their stock over the course of their first option year.
This time around, the White Sox’ 40-man roster is at 35, because they did most of the heavy lifting in August and September. Looking back at the shape of the 40-man bubble in mid-August, the majority of the cases are settled. They added Michael Kopech, Caleb Frare, Ryan Burr and Jose Ruiz to the roster, which takes care of most of it. From there:
*Dylan Cease is the other no-brainer for 37.
*Kodi Medeiros probably climbs aboard for 38 as the key return from the White Sox’ in-season dealings.
After that, the White Sox could face a musical chairs situation with two spots left for three players — Jordan Stephens, Spencer Adams and Danny Mendick, and I’d prioritize them in that order. All three are nice to have in the high minors, but none seem especially poised to usurp any of the guys ahead of them for consideration. Stephens is the one who gives me pause, since we haven’t seen the Sox explore his relief ceiling, and he has arm strength Adams lacks. When assessing them only as starting pitchers, well, Manny Banuelos jumped that line.
The fact that the Sox could max out their roster ties into the Sox’ reported shopping of Avisail Garcia before the non-tender deadline. It’s not like the White Sox would cut Garcia specifically to make room for the Mendicks of the organization, because guys like Ian Clarkin and Charlie Tilson are there to absorb those blows. However, the Sox would probably like a 40-man spot to play with while protecting everybody of note and getting somebody mildly intriguing in return.
That’s probably a pipe dream, and not just because of Garcia’s flaws. A lot of teams could find themselves in a similar position.
One veteran market reader today predicted a larger-than-usual number of non-tenders at the end of this month. With free agent volume so high, adding more players to the market could depress prices even more and drive players to accept what in the past would've been subpar deals.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 16, 2018
And when you look at MLB Trade Rumors’ list of non-tender candidates, he’ll have a lot of company in the you-could-do-worse department. Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, Jonathan Schoop and Devon Travis are up there, and Joe Panik and Kevin Pillar aren’t safe, either.
Another thing complicating Garcia’s case is that he and the White Sox went to arbitration last year — with Garcia winning — and Ken Rosenthal says more hearings could be on the way:
In 2014, only seven teams were known to employ the “file-and-trial” approach to salary arbitration, in which clubs treat the figure exchange date as a hard deadline, going straight to a hearing if no deal is reached.
The number of teams employing the strategy has steadily increased in the years since, and sources say the union anticipates that all 30 clubs will use it this offseason, potentially leading to an increased number of hearings.
The clubs believe the “file-and-trial” system encourages settlements, often at more favorable terms than they might have negotiated otherwise. But 22 cases went to hearings last year, the most in at least 25 years, a source said.
The White Sox are among the teams previously reported as file-and-trial early adopters, and the agents for Garcia and Yolmer Sanchez seemed to fight fire with fire last year, at least the way Rick Hahn told it. Hahn says the agents negotiated before their deadline with a number the Sox balked at, then apparently came in at a lower number for the hearing. Both players came out on top, although maybe after a bit of emotional bruising.
At any rate, as the 40-man deadline comes and goes, it shouldn’t result in that great of agony. The more personal personnel decisions will come at the end of the month at the contract tendering deadline, and if these antagonistic reads of Rosenthal and Passan are correct, I imagine those won’t be fully resolved until February.