The Roster Crows

It’s always an interesting time of year after the season and post season have ended and the free agent feeding frenzy has begun. This brief period of time just before the Winter Meetings are held is when teams must finalize their 40-man roster. A lot of people may wonder why that is so important since there are not that many transactions happening during the off-season. While that may be true that a team might not make a lot of changes there are some things that play into the 40-man roster that need to be taken into consideration.

One of the most important aspects that could be impacted by the setting of the roster will occur towards the end of baseball’s Winter Meetings being held in Nashville in early December. I’m talking of course about the Rule 5 Draft. For those who might not be familiar with the bizarre nature of this baseball rule let me briefly explain. This rule was put in place in order to prevent a franchise from stockpiling minor league talent that might otherwise be major league ready. This is named after a section of the baseball collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball owners and players. It basically stipulates that a player who is not protected on the 40-man roster and has played 4 years since being drafted (if the player drafted was 19 years old or older. If the drafted player was under 19 then he must have played 5 years since being drafted) is eligible to be drafted by one of the other 29 franchises. The Rule 5 taken player must remain on the team’s 25-man roster the following season or he must be offered back to the team he was taken from for $50,000. I have no idea what the significance of $50,000 is but I am sure there is a story there. While in most cases losing a player to the Rule 5 Draft might not be that bad; there are exeptions. In 1999 the Florida Marlins selected a young pitcher that the Houston Astros declined to put on their roster. That pitcher is now playing for the Minnesota Twins; you might have heard of him his name is Johan Santana. The Diamondbacks were likewise victimized when the Florida Marlins selected minor league second baseman Dan Uggla who went on the following year to make the National League All-Star team in his rookie season.

With the depth of the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system it is becoming difficult to be able to protect all of the players that need to be. The Diamondbacks have a difficult decision ahead of them if they hope to retain the players they have in their minor leagues. Today the team announced that they had added 3 players to the 40-man roster. These roster spots were available due to the fact that Jeff Cirillo, Livan Hernandez, and Tony Clark have all filed for free agency. The three players added were right-handed pitcher Esmerling Vasquez who just completed his season with the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League. Vasquez looked very impressive during his stint with Scottsdale until the final game of the season when he injured his shoulder diving for a ball. At this point it is unclear whether the shoulder will need to be operated on or if rest and strength training can resolve the problem. First-baseman/Outfielder Javier Brito who played for Mobile in the Southern League was added to the 40-man roster. Brito is another Diamondbacks minor-league corner infielder who has good plate discipline and rarely strikes out. During the 2007 season he led the league with a .327 batting average which included 29 doubles, 2 triples, and 11 home runs driving in 72 runs. His defense is average to above average making you wonder how he will fit in with Conor Jackson/Chad Tracy seemingly entrenched at first base and an outfield of Eric Byrnes/Chris Young/Justin Upton set for the next few years. This addition to the roster was definitely a defensive move by Arizona who would probably lose a talent such as Brito to the Rule 5 Draft. The final roster spot was filled by catcher Wilkin Castillo who also played in Mobile last season. Castillo hit .302 with 31 doubles, 3 triples, and 6 home runs accounting for 46 runs batted in. While Castillo was predominantly used at catcher he also saw brief stints at second base and third base making him quite versatile. The only remaining question is what will happen if or when the Diamondbacks re-sign Tony Clark? Which player will lose their roster spot? That’s a problem that a lot of teams wish they had to deal with this off season.

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