The Texas Rangers' 40 man roster has seen quite a bit of change since the start of the season, and with a little less than two months to go in the regular season, plus the trade deadline being behind us, it seems like a good time to take a look at the state of the 40 man, as well as who will need to be added this offseason, and who are potential casualties when room needs to be created.
The 40 man roster is currently full, and there are five players on the 60 day disabled list as well, giving us 45 players to address. The 20 players at issue who are not currently on the active 25 man roster are:
In the minors
Chi Chi Gonzalez
60 day disabled list
Of the players on the 60 day disabled list, Holland and Lewis are definitely being activated (barring another injury or a setback), and Prince and Hamilton are definitely not being activated. Scheppers could potentially be activated in September, if he shows enough while rehabbing for the team to decide he warrants a roster spot.
Two spots on the 40 man roster will need to be cleared to make room for Holland and Lewis. Michael Roth seems like the most obvious potential roster casualty -- he's a lefty who provides some depth, but he appears to be superfluous at this point. That leaves open the question of who else the Rangers would remove from the 40 man to clear a spot. Lucas Harrell might be an option, given that he was acquired to essentially fill a rotation spot until Holland and/or Lewis return. You'd think the Rangers would like to keep him in the bullpen as a long man and potential spot starting option in September, but he would appear to be expendable.
Alternatively, the Rangers could recall someone from the minors and place them on the 60 day disabled list. Whoever that player is would have to be someone the team would be comfortable keeping on the shelf the rest of the season. Yohander Mendez, the 21 year old lefty who just was promoted to AAA, is well past his previous career high in innings, and would seem to be someone you could put on the 60 day d.l. for shoulder soreness or whatever as a way of shutting him down for the year while clearing a roster spot. Chi Chi Gonzalez, who has had a very difficult 2016 season, could also get that treatment.
There's also the possibility that the player to be named later in the Milwaukee deal is someone already on the 40 man roster -- if that player has cleared revocable waivers, and the Brewers opt to identify him as the player they want, that player could be sent to Milwaukee and a roster spot cleared out. Connor Sadzeck is someone rumored to be on the list, and if he does go to the Brewers, that would open up a spot.
So moving on...who will be off the 40 man roster, as a free agent, once the season is over?
So even if the Rangers don't remove anyone else from the 40 man roster in the interim, the players becoming free agents clear enough spots for the Rangers to activate their 60 day d.l. guys and stay at 40.
The Rangers have team options on two players -- Jonathan Lucroy and Derek Holland. Texas will definitely pick up Lucroy's option. The decision on Holland isn't quite so clear-cut, and likely depends in part on how he looks the rest of the way. However, at $11 million for 2017 with a $1.5M buyout, it would effectively cost the Rangers $9.5M to bring him back next year. And given the state of the Rangers' rotation depth, and the way the pitching market for the coming offseason looks, that seems like a reasonable investment.
Now, what about minor leaguers who need to be added to the 40 man roster this season? Scott Lucas's handy-dandy chart here provides a good reference point for us, but generally speaking, a college player drafted in 2013 or earlier has to be added, or else he is eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 draft. The same applies to a high school player drafted in 2012 or earlier, or an international free agent signed in 2012 or earlier. Sadly, the one guy who was the easiest add, Lewis Brinson, isn't a Ranger anymore.
(pauses to shed a tear that Brinson is no longer in the Rangers system)
There appear, at this stage, to be three obvious, slam-dunk adds for the Rangers -- RHP Ariel Jurado, OF Ryan Cordell, and 1B Ronald Guzman. However, other than those three, I'm not sure there's anyone who is a real strong candidate to be protected. RHP Pedro Payano has had a nice breakout season, but his year was cut short by a line drive back up the middle, and he hasn't pitched above low-A (and could be going to Milwaukee anyway). LHP Frank Lopez hasn't shown a ton this year, and while RHP David Perez has made it to the Frisco bullpen, his stuff appears to be well off from where it was pre-TJS.
Two dark-horse candidates to be added to the 40 man roster would be Drew Robinson and Victor Payano. Both players are minor league free agents after the season. Robinson is a versatile utility type with contact issues but a very good approach at the plate, and has had a nice season in AAA Round Rock. Payano is a LHP with impressive stuff but awful command. Texas could opt to add one of them to the 40 man in lieu of them becoming free agents, though I think that's still unlikely.
So you need at least three spots for guys to be protected from the Rule 5 draft. And you're probably going to look to add players from outside the organization, either via free agency or via trade, and thus will likely need a few spots for them (if nothing else, Colby Lewis is coming back, right?). So we are at a point where there's probably a half dozen players, minimum, who currently are on the 40 man roster, and who aren't free agents after the season, that Texas will have to remove from the 40 man roster this offseason.
We discussed Roth, who, as I mentioned earlier, seems unlikely to stay on the 40 man roster all offseason, and who is a likely roster casualty. Harrell is still under team control after this season, but I'd be shocked if the Rangers opted to go through the arbitration process with him -- he's almost certainly going to be dropped in October, if not before.
And then there's Josh Hamilton, who almost certainly gets put on waivers after the season. He's unlikely to ever play again, and no one is going to give him a major league deal. The beats have all indicated that he's expected to be waived, clear waivers, and then be offered a minor league contract for the 2017 season. Texas and the Angels will still be on the hook for their respective shares of what he's owed for 2017, but he won't be taking up a roster spot.
No doubt there will be a question of -- why not do the same with Prince Fielder? The difference with Prince is that the Rangers will be seeking to have insurance pay a portion of his contract -- roughly half of the $72M that Texas will owe him from 2017-20. In order for them to claim that, he has to be on the roster. Texas will activate Prince from the 60 day d.l. at the end of the season, carry him on their 40 man roster in the offseason, and then put him back on the 60 day d.l. come February...but in the meantime, he'll be taking a 40 man roster spot.
That still leaves us with 3-4 potential roster spots to be opened up. And yes, it is possible some guys get packaged in a deal for a starting pitcher, but if that doesn't happen, you've still got to clear some room.
Jared Hoying is probably going to end up on the waiver wire. At the age of 27, he's nice AAA depth, and having a solid season for Round Rock, but he's not someone who would appear likely to have a role on a championship contender. I'm sure Texas would like to keep him around if possible, and will look to outright him if he clears waivers, but he's likely not sticking on the 40 man all offseason.
Brett Nicholas is the only other position player who you would view as a possible DFA candidate this offseason, but as the third catcher on the roster, and someone who has had a solid 2016 season, my guess is he sticks around as depth for AAA.
That means that the remaining guys on the chopping block would be pitchers. Tanner Scheppers has missed the entire season due to injury, and is arbitration-eligible (although his arb salary would likely still only be around $1 million). The Rangers have always liked his arm, but after what has been essentially three lost seasons in a row, and with Scheppers turning 30 before the start of the 2017 season, Texas may be ready to move on, and look to either waive Scheppers or deal him elsewhere to a team that thinks he would benefit from a change of scenery (keep an eye on San Diego there).
Nick Martinez has not performed well while in the majors, but he provides some useful swingman depth for Texas. He could be a roster casualty, but my guess is that Texas looks to keep him around for the time being. Chi Chi Gonzalez, similarly, has disappointed this year, but he has that first round pedigree and options remaining, so I would be surprised if he were DFA'd right now.
Shawn Tolleson is an interesting case, as the Rangers will have a tough decision to make with him. He is arbitration eligible, and after making $3.275M in 2016, is likely going to get at least $3.5-4M in 2017 if he goes through the arbitration process, despite not having a good season. The Rangers have a full bullpen right now with Tolleson in the minors -- they could see if Tolleson is willing to take a discounted salary to stay with his hometown team, and otherwise non-tender him, especially if he struggles the rest of the way.
The other pitchers who I could see get dealt -- either before or after a DFA -- to clear roster space are Dario Alvarez, Andrew Faulkner and Luke Jackson. All are currently in the minors, and Jackson and Faulkner have had very disappointing 2016 campaigns, while Alvarez was a waiver claim in May by the Braves that the Rangers acquired (along with Lucas Harrell) for Travis Demeritte in July. Of the three, LuJack would seem to be the most likely to go, as he's out of options after next season and has not shown the improvement in his command the Rangers were hoping for this year. He's someone another team may view as a buy-low reclamation project that the Rangers need to move for roster flexibility purposes.
And then finally, there's A.J. Griffin. My assumption is that Griffin, who is arbitration-eligible after the season, will be kept around as rotation depth for the few million dollars he will likely command through the arbitration process. However, if the Rangers aren't confident in his health or his ability to hold up in a starter's role, then he's a potential non-tender, as well.