Two spots needed on the 40-man roster. How will the A’s make space?
The Oakland A’s signed a pair of free agents Sunday night, in relievers Yusmeiro Petit and Sergio Romo. You can read all about these two moves, both of them bargains for quality veteran pitchers, by clicking here for Petit and here for Romo.
But there’s still one more piece to this transactional puzzle. The A’s didn’t have to trade anyone away in order to ink these free agents, but they do need to add them both to the 40-man roster. That roster was full entering Sunday, which means two names must be removed to make space for the new pickups.
The signings aren’t quite official yet, with formalities like physicals to finish up, so the team hasn’t announced what corresponding moves they’ll make. The news could come five minutes after I publish this, or it could wait until tomorrow, but either way that gives us some time to guess. Guessing is fun!
Here is the 40-man roster as it stands now. (Players in –-italics haven’t yet debuted in MLB, and those with asterisks** are Rule 5 draft picks who can’t be sent down to the minors.)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Jake Diekman (L)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Sean Murphy (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Mark Canha (R)
Here are a few quick thoughts of my own, and then we can discuss in the comments. To be clear, this is all pure speculation based on the public facts at hand, not any kind of reporting.
First, the A’s are now at 23 pitchers and 19 hitters. That usually evens out to a 20/20 split by Opening Day. It doesn’t need to get there today, but it’s worth considering for the longer-term.
Also remember that teams don’t usually carry two Rule 5 picks, and now we know rosters will be only 26 players rather than being expanded to 28 again like last year. If Oakland doesn’t think it’s likely that both Ka’ai Tom and Dany Jimenez will stick, then this would be an opportune moment to cut bait with one of them and return them to their old team.
Next up is options status. Paul Blackburn and Dustin Fowler are out of options, so they would need to make the Opening Day roster or else be DFA’d anyway after the spring, and neither appear to be front-runners in any positional battles. In pure musical roster chairs terms, you can either cut them now, or cut someone else now and also cut this pair at the end of March.
And finally, among the rest of the roster, there are recent positional implications. They just traded away a middle infielder in Sheldon Neuse and a catcher in Jonah Heim, and they just added a (non-roster) DH candidate in Jed Lowrie to complicate the list of lefty hitters who are competing for an OF/DH spot. So, one thin area (infield) got slightly thinner, and one logjam (OF/DH) got slightly more jammed, while catcher went from packed to slightly uncertain.
That makes Nate Orf marginally less expendable with Neuse gone, as the emergency backup middle infield defender, and without much immediate competition in spring camp for his spot. It also means 28-year-old Seth Brown and 27-year-old Skye Bolt have an even more crowded path to the majors than they did before, with another pair of higher-rated prospects coming up close behind them (Deichmann and Barrera). However, Brown and Bolt have both been above Fowler on the depth chart in the recent past, and they still have options to stash in Triple-A, so they’re probably safe.
The most logical guess is probably that the roster clocks have run out on Blackburn and Fowler. Both have gotten opportunities in the majors but haven’t capitalized enough to stick long-term, and there are just too many other candidates surrounding them at their positions who also have the advantage of being optionable to the minors.
However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of the Rule 5 picks go instead, and either way I’ll be shocked if at least one of the departures isn’t a pitcher. Or, something completely different could happen, like another trade to clear someone out.
What do you think, Athletics Nation? Stay tuned to find out what moves the A’s actually end up making! I look forward to linking back to this story for laughs when we’re celebrating Fowler’s 2023 MVP award, or a clutch Blackburn playoff performance, since that’s how baseball seems to go sometimes.