When Spring Training began, the Arizona Diamondbacks roster was mostly settled. There were a few spots that needed to be filled but for the most part the team had already been built through returning players and those brought in with off-season moves.
As the Cactus League season progressed more decisions were made and the roster began to be finalized. With the conclusion of the final exhibition game today, the team would have to make their cuts to get down to a 25-man roster.
Going into the last game there was just one last roster spot up for grabs and two deserving candidates to fill that slot. The Arizona Diamondbacks needed a utility player who could come off the bench late in the game to pinch it and to play a myriad of positions giving the regulars some rest.
The candidates for this position came down to Rusty Ryal and last year’s winner of the final roster spot Ryan Roberts. Both players are capable of meeting the team’s needs. Both can play multiple infield positions and can fill in for an outfielder in a pinch.
Going into Spring Training Roberts was thought to be a shoe-in to make the team. The thoughts were it would be Ryal and infielder Tony Abreu fighting over the final spot. Abreu blew away everyone’s expectations and catapulted over the other two to make the team.
Ryal likewise had a very good Spring Training and turned heads with his ability to adjust to playing several positions. As a benefit, Ryal brought some power; something the Diamondbacks were in desperate need of last season.
Roberts on the other hand seemed to struggle all spring not looking at all comfortable. As camp broke Roberts found himself having to push to make the team. He helped his chances yesterday with a game winning home run against the Chicago Cubs.
Unfortunately that did not seem to be enough for Roberts to survive. Manager AJ Hinch had to have the difficult discussion where he had to break the news that Roberts would not be lining up on the third base line at Chase Field on Opening Day.
Instead he was being sent to Triple-A where he would be part of the Opening Day roster for the Reno Aces. This is not just a baseball decision though, it has personal implications too.
According to the Business of Baseball, the league minimum salary for a Major League Baseball player is $400,000. The minimum salary for a minor league player who is on a team’s 40-man roster is $67,000.
It is not just about the salary though, there are family implications too. Roberts, his wife, and their baby came into Spring Training expecting to be part of the Diamondbacks Opening Day roster. They had shopped around the Phoenix area to find a house to live in during the season. Having found what they thought would be a great place to live, the family put down a non-refundable deposit of $5,700 to hold the house until they could move in once Spring Training was over.
Now after a conversation with the manager Roberts was faced with the prospects of not only losing $333,000 in salary but he would also have to go home and tell his wife not to unpack the boxes. Instead their belongings would be sent to Nevada where they would have to start looking for another home to live it, this one much more modest based on their income.
In a way Roberts is lucky, at least his family is young and the baby is unaware of being uprooted at a moment’s notice. For other players who have older children that means going home telling their kids they are moving away from their friends, their schools, and everything they have known.
This was undoubtedly a difficult situation not just for Roberts but for the Diamondbacks as well. Although the decision seemed simple when represented by the statistics such as batting average, runs batted in, and fielding percentage it is much more difficult when you consider the family ramifications of each deal.
To his credit, Roberts accepted the decision and will undoubtedly go down to Triple-A and work hard so that he is ready when the Diamondbacks need a player. Still, it will be hard on Monday when the public address announcer introduces the Opening Day roster not to think about Roberts and his missed opportunity.