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Oakland A’s offseason preview: Trimming the roster down to 40

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Which players might be expendable when the season ends?

It doesn’t even matter which Smith this is.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 campaign has nearly a month remaining, and even with the Oakland A’s in last place there’s a lot to watch with all the rookie auditions. However, there is one early part of the offseason that we can already start thinking about: How to get the roster down to 40 players in the weeks after the World Series. I’m considering only the following:

  • Outrighting/releasing/DFA’ing any immediately expendable chaff
  • Activating members of the 60-day disabled list
  • Protecting prospects from Rule 5 draft
  • Non-tender candidates

Let’s not get too hung up on exact deadlines. Most of this stuff will have to happen by mid-November, if not earlier (except tender deadline, slightly later). Furthermore, this is not a post about trade predictions, even though Oakland has a tendency to strike early in that regard and so such moves could actually wind up affecting this conversation in real life. Let’s keep it simple and just look at the current in-house situation.

The A’s have the full 40 players on their roster right now. They also have four more on the 60-day DL. Finally, I’m protecting four prospects from Rule 5 (listed in italics); that number is meant to be overly generous, especially with no crucial names on tap for eligibility (like, say, Franklin Barreto last winter). Even if you don’t agree with the exact minor leaguers I chose for Rule 5*, the point is to reserve plenty of space for whomever you want. The full list:

Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Sean Manaea (L)
Kendall Graveman (R)
Jharel Cotton (R)
Paul Blackburn (R)
Daniel Gossett (R)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Andrew Triggs (R)
Jesse Hahn (R)
Frankie Montas (R)
Heath Fillmyer (R)
Casey Meisner (R)


Relievers

Blake Treinen (R)
Chris Hatcher (R)
Santiago Casilla (R)
Ryan Dull (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
Daniel Coulombe (L)
Simon Castro (R)
Sam Moll (L)
Raul Alcantara (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)
Bobby Wahl (R)
Chris Smith (R)
Josh Smith (R)
Michael Brady (R)
Corey Walter (R)
Catchers

Bruce Maxwell (L)
Josh Phegley (R)
Dustin Garneau (R)

Infielders

Matt Olson (L)
Ryon Healy (R)
Jed Lowrie (S)
Marcus Semien (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
Renato Nunez (R)
Joey Wendle (L)
Yairo Munoz (R)
Jorge Mateo (R)

Outfielders

Khris Davis (R)
Matt Joyce (L)
Boog Powell (L)
Chad Pinder (R)
Mark Canha (R)
Jake Smolinski (R)
Jaycob Brugman (L)
Dustin Fowler (L)
B.J. Boyd (L)

* Some other Rule 5 options: Tyler Marincov, Jake Sanchez, Lou Trivino. I would have protected Sanchez except that he’s out with a long-term injury containing the word “ulnar,” so there’s probably no need for now.

I protected Boyd because I think he could make an MLB bench next year anyway, so someone might take a flyer slightly early. Also Boyd has simply earned it, even if he’s a bit redundant behind Boog and Bruggy. I chose Fillmyer and Meisner because if Dylan Covey got picked last year then they are at risk and worth keeping — they’re unquestionably better prospects, with more upper minors experience as well. Similar idea with Walter, but I picked him partly just to overstate the amount of Rule 5 space needed and make this whole rosterbating exercise a bit more difficult. He’s probably a long shot in real life.

If you prefer, protect three Rule 5 guys and then claim another Sam Moll-type on waivers. Or two and two. Point is they’ll need space for something in November. I’m working with the somewhat cherry-picked number of 48 players for 40 spots, meaning we need to make eight cuts. It won’t be this simple in real life, but let’s work with what we’ve got for now and see what we come up with.

Important disclaimer — Cutting a player from the 40-man does not necessarily mean losing him. Last year the A’s outrighted 12 players to Triple-A after the season and wound up keeping five of them, whether by them accepting their assignments or re-signing as minor league free agents.

OK, with that in mind, here are the pitchers I’d drop:

  • Chris Hatcher
  • Simon Castro
  • Chris Smith
  • Josh Smith
  • Michael Brady

Sorry, I’m not releasing Casilla and eating his salary; he’ll have to go later in a trade of some kind. There’s still time for Hatcher to prove himself, but so far the results have been pedestrian. Brady and the Smiths are filler, and Chris was retained last year even after being outrighted off the roster in October. Castro is the toughest cut for me, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him re-signed afterward.

(I almost risked cutting Bobby Wahl, but I’m giving him one more chance to stay healthy next year. I considered non-tendering Liam Hendriks, but he’s cheap enough to keep around. I also could have non-tendered Jesse Hahn, but I still want to try him as a reliever.)

And some hitters:

  • Josh Phegley
  • Joey Wendle
  • Jake Smolinski

Phegley is entering arbitration and can’t stay healthy. Even if he costs less than $2M, that’s all it takes for a reliable free agent veteran. (Avila, Iannetta, Suzuki, Hundley, were all at or below that price last winter.) If you prefer, though, you can drop Dustin Garneau instead and commit some money to the 2018 disabled list via Phegs. Elsewhere, Wendle is clearly not part of Oakland’s infield plan, so move on already. And there are too many righty corner/DH bats, meaning one of the fringe platoon guys has to go — I chose to keep Canha over Smolinski, but both are arbitration-eligible and have significant injury histories so you might prefer the opposite.

There are 24 games left in the season, plus a couple potential offseason trade candidates (Lowrie, Joyce, Casilla, etc.), which means plenty of time for all of this to change. This is meant as a cursory look and conversation-starter. Which of these picks/cuts do you like, and who will you be watching closely these next few weeks for final judgment? What would your 40-man roster look like in mid-November?