It was only a couple of days into the FanSided Faux-Winter Meetings that I began to understood the true value of 40-man roster spots. I knew that I would need to designate some marginal players for assignment to clear room for prospects that would need to be protected, but there is another dimension involved that could be even more important.
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As I worked on a trade with another Faux GM on a trade, I came to a harsh realization: I was about to execute a favorable deal, but I was one 40-man roster spot short. I could have switched out one of the prospects I was set to receive in the trade, but there was no perfect comparable for either of them that happened to be a year away from needing protection. Either I was going to suggest a higher-upside prospect and risk alienating my negotiation partner or a lower-upside one and be less satisfied with my end of the deal. I tried to get the other Faux GM to take a player like Kirby Yates or Sean Rodriguez, but he needed every 40-man roster spot on his end as well–that very well could have been the reason he was willing to give me these two particular prospects.
The funny thing about a trade like this right before the Rule 5 protection deadline on November 20th is that the players who you were already planning to DFA are totally irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how you get rid of those players because whether you trade them or DFA them, it clears up the same amount of spots. With that in mind, to create a 40-man roster opening, I needed to either designate a player with some value for assignment or get a minor trade together very quickly. That is where Sean Rodriguez came in.
As the Tampa Bay Rays look to trade Sean Rodriguez, they are three major considerations that will come to mind. The first will be how critical he will be to their success next season, and their verdict will be that he is replaceable. The second will be how they could better use his roster spot, whether to accommodate a current prospect or to give them flexibility in future trades. The other trade I was negotiating seems quite unlikely to happen in real life, but what if a team offers two impressive prospects than need 40-man roster spots in exchange for Matt Joyce? Are the Rays going to risk everything just because they didn’t have enough space?
The final question is value–no one wants to trade a potentially useful player for nothing. With that in mind, I began looking through every other team’s roster and farm system trying to find a destination for Rodriguez. A couple of teams did begin to stand out, and then I had to figure out what I would ask them for. I was hoping for a pretty decent prospect, but putting a deal together quickly was just as crucial as the prospect I would get in return. If I couldn’t put together a trade fast enough, then my trade partner in the other deal would lose the advantage he was getting from opening up a 40-man roster spot and that could not be enough to nix the trade.
I quickly zeroed in on relief prospects as I talked with teams. Obviously I wanted a player with more upside, but teams were reluctant to give up such prospects for one year of a utility player, even if they were miles from the big leagues. That made relief arms so interesting because I had a chance to receive a pitcher who could touch the mid-90’s and be in the big leagues before too long. Best of all, once the possibility of being a starting pitcher is out of the equation for a prospect, his team thinks less about trading him. That could very well be what happened when the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were willing to give up Mark Sappington for Cesar Ramos, and I pulled off a trade in a similar vein.
At the end of the day, I traded Rodriguez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for right-hander Jimmie Sherfy. Sherfy is coming off an inconsistent season between High-A and Double-A this season, but he still managed a 68-23 strikeout to walk ratio in 49 IP and showed an impressive arsenal. His fastball has touched as high as 98 MPH and he also showed an impressive slider. Maybe he wasn’t the ideal, but what could I complain about?
The Rays have proven over the years how easy it is to build a bullpen, but acquiring a relief prospect netted me good value for Sean Rodriguez and opened up the spot I needed to execute a bigger trade. You’ll see what that other deal was tomorrow here at RCG. In addition, we do have a lesson here as we see whether the Rays will decide to hold onto Rodriguez or not. At the end of the day, a trade could be more likely than we think because the Rays would love to have roster flexibility as they talk to teams about players like Matt Joyce and Desmond Jennings. Prospects are commodities, but 40-man roster spots are as well.