1. Why is it impossible for Brad Halsey to be the Player to Be Named Later in the Chris Denorfia/Marcus McBeth trade?
2. When the A's needed a roster space earlier this year, why was Adam Melhuse, rather than Bobby Kielty, sent down to AAA, even though Kielty was mostly immobile and hitting poorly at the time?
3. Why did the A's shift Bobby Kielty from the 15-day DL to the 60-day DL, even though his calf strain won't keep him out that long?
#1 Why Halsey will never be a PTBNL:
A Player to Be Named Later (PTBNL) cannot be a player who has played in the same league as the player he's being traded for. That's why PTBNLs are often minor leaguers. In other words, if the A's make a trade to an NL team, and include a PTBNL in the deal, the PTBNL can't be a player who's played in the majors for a National League team.
Halsey can't be the PTBNL in the Snelling deal, or the Denorfia deal, because he played for the Diamondbacks, Yankees, and A's.
For that matter, with MLB service time in both leagues, Halsey can never be a PTBNL in any deal. If he's ever dealt, it'll have to be announced the day of the deal, not later.
#2 Adam Melhuse - Counting the Days:
A Player with five years of Major League Service Time can refuse to be sent down to the minor leagues without his written consent. If he refuses, the team is forced to open him up to waivers. Therefore, you'll almost never see a guy with more than five years of service get sent down to the minors - no matter how poorly a guy is playing, of course he doesn't want to be there.
This MLB rule has had a dramatic impact on the lives of Adam Melhuse and Bobby Kielty the past two years.
Last year, Bobby Kielty was sent down for a while and was none too happy about it. This year, it was Melhuse's turn. Why?
Kielty entered this season with 5 years, 46 days of Major League Service (5.046). He can refuse to ever spend another day in the minors if he so chooses. He gained that right late last season, when he hit five years.
Melhuse entered this year with 4.123 years of MLB service, a mere 49 days shy of being able to refuse a minor league assignment. He was sent down briefly in April, but in a few weeks he too will hit that magical five year mark.
This rule also explains why the Padres released Todd Walker this spring, rather than send him down to AAA until a spot potentially opened up. He could refuse such an assignment, in hopes of playing for someone else, which of course worked out for him with the A's.
It also explains why Witasick (9 years) will never be sent down, even if he endures a very rough stretch like last year. He has SOME value just for the sheer fact that he's a healthy below-average reliever. The A's wouldn't DFA him and lose him to someone else, because that would squander whatever value he did have.*
#3 60-Day Disabled List - "The New Triple A" for Underperforming Veterans
Bobby Kielty's calf strain won't keep him out 60 days. He was shifted from the 15-day DL to the 60 in order to clear a 40-man roster spot for Hiram Bocachica, who is swinging well, healthy, and plays CF - three things Kielty isn't.
This is yet another example of the A's managing their 40-man roster very well; sure, they have some very unfortunate injuries, but those injuries have allowed them to protect more players (44) on their 40-man roster than any other franchise. That has value when you consider that the A's evaluate fringe players better than anyone. The more fringe players they can acquire and hold on to, the better. This was a partial reason for the Denorfia/McBeth trade: It freed up an extra 40-man roster slot, since Denorfia's on the 60-day DL all year. That slot eventually became Chris Snelling.
Back to Kielty: What that 60 days allows the A's to do is give Kielty a de facto demotion without him ever having to accept it. A position player on the DL is allowed 20 days in the minor leagues for a rehab assignment. In Kielty's case, the A's can wait until he is fully healthy (a few weeks?), and then still have 20 days left over for him to go to Sacramento, get in a groove playing every day, and return to the big club in a groove - ready to contribute the first day back, rather than struggling to find a rhythm.
This doesn't happen as easily when a player is on the 15-day DL; he's using a 40-man roster slot, so there's more urgency to get his productivity back once he is near healthy. The 15-day DL also probably encourages both sides - player and the organization - to rush the rehab process, rather than benefit from getting back in the groove of seeing live pitching every day. When the 15 days are up, the player's inclination is to immediately want to be back with the team, and of course the team wants him back as well. But if Kielty rushed back and returned healthy from the 15-day DL to the tune of his early-season performance (.476 OPS) as he worked out the kinks, who has he helped?
Better to let him get back into form in AAA. The disabled list, especially the 60-day version, affords the team that luxury.
Every player goes through hot and cold spells. There is a lot of value in acquiring/yanking players up to the big leagues right when they get hot (Dan Johnson, Jack Cust). Through the power of the 60-day DL, the A's have the luxury of waiting for Kielty to get hot in AAA without wasting a roster spot on him until then. It's smart of them to use that flexibility.
Finally, back to point #2 very briefly...
From an organizational standpoint, it makes a lot of sense to have the majority of your players on the 40-man roster with 0-5 years of service time. If we think of them as assets, they have more liquidity than veterans with 5 years and beyond, as the Kielty example shows.
Hypothetically, if a team had 40 players in its organization, all somewhere between fringe and average, and all of them had between 0 and less-than-5 years of service, the team would have more than just an incredibly cheap roster:
They could shuttle some struggling players and hot players between AAA and the big leagues at will, essentially shielding themselves from horrible slumps. Examples: Putnam's not hitting, and Cust is crushing the ball in AAA? Acquire Cust, and send down Putnam. Buck starts to struggle, after starting the season strong? Send him back down eventually, until he gets hot (and healthy) again, without burning his service time in between.
The liquidity of a roster full of 0-5 year players allows a team to essentially ride the hottest hands all year long, without burning the service time of a struggling player (like the Royals are doing with Alex Gordon).
That's the direction the A's are increasingly moving in - Cust, Denorfia, Snelling, Putnam, Buck, Braden, keeping Halsey down, the avoidance of Durazo, sending DJ down when he struggled in '06 - all these low service-time guys on the roster can be sent down if they struggle, and brought back up when they are hot again.
That's the way the roster will always be constructed, and not just because those players are cheap. The A's can't have too many players that can't be sent down and still have great roster flexibility. The team needs that liquidity the A's currently have and continue to pursue.