At this point, with Duchscerer on the shelf for the foreseeable future, Gio and Devine battling injuries and no one else really available either on this team, on other teams or on the free agent market, it's becoming obvious that the A's best strategy to put a winning team on the field to begin 2009 is to roll the dice and open the season with Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill in the rotation and Andrew "Throwin' Zeroes" Bailey in the bullpen. I think the decision to get those guys up to the big leagues is a fairly easy one at this point and probably has already been made by A's brass.
But what's not easy, or what's not going to be easy, is finding a way to fit them all on the 40-man roster, since all three are currently non-roster players. The A's have done some 40-man roster trimming in the past few months, but the list is currently at 39 and, by glancing on the names on it, there doesn't seem to be any more obvious name(s) to cut.
In the short-term, I'm guessing the team could get around the logjam by placing Duchscherer on the 15-day or 60-day DL, thus opening up one 40-man roster temporarily. The same could be said for Devine if he were to need surgery or more rest and rehab after this latest elbow fiasco. However, the DL-route is clearly a stop-gap/temporary solution at best, and if any of these guys (Anderson/Cahill/Bailey) prove that they can open the season and last in the majors from here on out, a more permanent spot would need to be opened up sooner rather than later anyways.
All of the pitchers currently on the A's 40-man seem fairly youthful and useful to the major league team at this point, so I don't really see anybody that could be sacrificed from that area (possibly Jeff Gray, but he's reportedly looked pretty good this Spring). On the positional side of the equation, the list opens up a few possibilies to me:
2B Eric Patterson: Eric seems like a fantastic 5-tool Triple-A player, but kind of a man without a real niche at the major league level. I'm sure given 500 at-bats in a season he could put up decent numbers for 2nd basemen...however, he's not nearly good enough defensively at 2nd base to make it worth a team's while to give him that many at-bats and he's certainly not powerful enough to handle left-field full time. He may need a change of scenery (San Diego perhaps?) to get those at-bats and the opportunity. With Crosby, Pennington and Petit all ahead of him on the 2nd base depth chart in Oakland, he's not going to get that opportunity here.
OF Javier Herrera: I'm sure Javy still has some "tools" and "projection" left, but let's face it, he's not going to be up in Oakland any time soon and he's lost a LOT of the luster that once made him a top prospect. His hamstring issues have likely sapped him of the speed that once made center field a possibility for him and his once cannon-like arm has been somewhat mitigated in its effectiveness after he succumbed to Tommy John surgery a bit ago. So, at this point, he's a 24-year old left-field prospect without a lot of refinement to his game and only 12 at-bats above Double-A to his credit. With Denorfia, Davis and Cunningham already on the 40-man roster, I don't think the team will really miss Javy that much...
OF Ben Copeland: Copeland's case is interesting. He was having a nice spring as a Rule V draftee, but really didn't have any chance of sticking with the A's past Spring Training. Then, he got pretty banged up on an outfield play and now he's having all sorts of medical trouble. At this point, one of three things can happen with him: a) he gets offered back to the Giants and they take him back, b) the A's work out a trade/arrangement with Giants to keep him in the Oakland system while he rehabs his injury(s) or c) the A's put him on the DL right now and he sticks with A's. In any case, a spot will open on the 40-man, at least temporarily.
Others will probably say, "Just trade Crosby to open a spot" or "DFA Hannahan." I would discourage that line of thinking since the big league team has a fairly brittle infield and both Hannahan and Crosby bring a little versatilty, semblance of health and nominal defensive value to the table at least; while, in my opinion, neither Patterson nor Herrera can claim to do so at this time.
The A's need to make moves, that much is sure, just to simply get these guys on the roster so that they can even pitch in the big leagues. However, with an injury-filled veteran corps, the team can't sacrifice that much depth in order to open up these roster spots. I wouldn't recommend that the A's do the work around "DL Duke, Devine and/or Copeland" and see what Cahill, Anderson and Bailey can do with a few weeks or 60 days and then make more permanent roster cuts once those DL-ed guys are healthy. I'm thinking a few guys might be on the chopping block real soon...what do you all think?