How Will Tampa Bay Rays Create Room On 40-Man Roster?
By Drew Jenkins
With the recent signing of reliever Michael Kohn, the Tampa Bay Rays filled their 40-man roster to its maximum capacity. That represents a problem for the club, because they need to make room on their 40-man roster. First of all, they need to activate Matt Moore and Jerry Sands from the 60-day DL. Then, it seems the Rays will need at least four additional spots to accommodate Justin O’Conner, Mikie Mahtook, Ryan Brett and Adam Liberatore in order to protect them from the Rule 5 draft (though there’s a chance the Rays could leave Liberatore unprotected). So how will the Rays create room to add these players onto the 40-man?
First of all, the Rays will need to decide whether to keep Sands around and whether to protect Liberatore, with Moore’s activation and Mahtook, Brett, and O’Conner’s inclusions on the 40-man guaranteed. Sands has shown promise in his minor league career, as he posses a career .275/.364/.522 line. But in the big leagues his line is .240/.317/.372, and at 27 years old he still has yet to establish himself at the level. In the end, the Rays will add Sands to the 40-man as a procedural move, but they will immediately designate him for assignment, so he will not require a spot.
The left-handed Liberatore, meanwhile, has dominated to the tune of a 2.40 ERA, 10.8 K/9, and 3.0 BB/9 in parts of three seasons at Triple-A. But, he is older at 27 years old, the Rays have plenty of relief depth, and his stuff means he is likely no more than a lefty-specialist moving forward. Still, Liberatore will get recognized for his Triple-A dominance and will receive a 40-man roster spot. Essentially, this means that the Rays will need five spots to be opened up on the 40-man.
The fact that the Rays need five spots is an issue, because there are no obvious players to cut. One way the Rays could open up a spot is by either trading Joel Peralta or simply not picking up his option. Peralta had his worst season as a Ray in 2014, posting a 4.41 ERA. But his $2.5 million option still seems like a good deal, as Peralta’s 10.5 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 indicate he was a better pitcher than his ERA shows. That said, the Rays have enough relief depth that they could afford to lose Peralta, so expect him to be nearing his final days on the Rays roster.
The next two players to go would be infielders Cole Figueroa and Vince Belnome. While both players saw big league time in 2014, Figueroa because of his versatility and Belnome because of his smooth left-handed swing, neither have much of a future with the club. The acquisition of Nick Franklin and a healthy Tim Beckham give the Rays two higher-upside options in the infield. Thus, Figueroa and Belnome will be designated for assignment, and the Rays will hope they can manage to slip them through waivers.
The last two spots are where things get really tricky for the Rays. For one reason or another, players like Sean Rodriguez, Brandon Gomes, Mike Montgomery, Cesar Ramos, Jose Molina, or Kirby Yates could potentially be designated for assignment. However, each also has a reason why they should be kept around. In the end, Ramos and Rodriguez will be the ones to go among this group. Though he has been a solid contributor to the Rays in a swingman role, the Rays have higher-upside options than Ramos that will be at the league minimum. Meanwhile Franklin will replace Rodriguez in a utility role, and Beckham offers another lefty-mashing, versatile option. The Rays might be able to trade both for a minimal return, or they could simply non-tender them.
Of course, a trade or two could completely shake up the Rays 40-man roster picture, but you cannot rely on the Rays managing to deal someone from their 40-man roster and acquire players who would not need to be added. Losing these five players is nothing something the Rays will want to do, but the good news is that they have plenty of quality players around that make their losses acceptable. In the next few weeks, we will receive some clarity on the Rays 40-man roster as they maneuver to keep as many of these players in the organization as possible.