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40-man Roster Crunch Brings Interesting Dilemmas

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Oakland Athletics v New York Yankees
“I ain’t going nowhere!”
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

In order to get Seth Brown and Sheldon Neuse on the 40-man roster, the A’s had to remove first Nick Martini (claimed by San Diego) and then Wei-Chung Wang (currently in DFA purgatory). In the words of Al Pacino, “I’m just getting warmed up!”

You see, getting guys onto the 25-man roster is easy — especially after tomorrow when the rosters expand. It’s adding them to the 40-man roster that forces Oakland to make some tough decisions. Two casualties are in the books, but more are likely ahead in the coming days.

Last night for Las Vegas, Jesus Luzardo showed he is ready and then some, tossing 6 outstanding innings (6 hits, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K) and reportedly hitting upper 90s with his fastball. You would think the A’s want him on the September roster, although it has been enough of a “lost season” for Luzardo that with the rotation set and bullpen already plush with Jake Diekman, Ryan Buchter, and A.J. Puk from the left side, the A’s could opt to avoid a 40-man roster move and shut Luzardo down for the season. Presumably, though, Luzardo will be added at the expense of the next victim.

Confirmed to added tomorrow is Sean Manaea, whose last start was electric (7 IP, 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 BB, 12 K). He has to be reintroduced to the 40-man at the expense of a current occupant.

Sometimes, the choice of who to DFA, and when, comes down to when a team thinks the player might sneak past waivers. In order to make a claim on a player who is out of options, the other team has to be willing to find room on not just their 40-man roster but also their 25-man roster. The timing works against the A’s here because every team is about to have ample space on their expanded big league rosters.

Here is the landscape in regards to who might be next on the chopping block...

- Corban Joseph could be a victim of not “going all Seth Brown” in his big league trial. Let’s face it: if Brown were 4 for 22 right now he might be vulnerable, but with 7 straight hits, many of them clutch, Brown isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Joseph, though, hasn’t been “all that” (.189/.225/.324), and with Jurickson Profar, Franklin Barreto, Jorge Mateo, and now Sheldon Neuse, in the 2B mix, the 30-year old likely has no future with the team let alone a present. He seems like a strong candidate to be DFA in favor of the Luzardo/Manaea lefty duo.

- Tanner Anderson, Paul Blackburn, and Daniel Mengden are candidates for different reasons. Anderson has the least chance, it would appear, of becoming a serviceable starting pitcher, but on the flip side he has options remaining and some intrigue as a reliever. Blackburn is not exciting but has some track record of big league success, and while Mengden is the highest profile of the three, the fact that he is out of options (and that there were whispers of arm discomfort recently) could make him somewhat of a surprise candidate.

Normally the A’s are reluctant to part ways with starting pitching depth, especially someone of Mengden’s pedigree, but in this case you have to factor in that currently all three of these pitchers occupy a spot on the 40-man. So losing one means still keeping two others, and realistically all three have fallen pretty far down on the depth chart.

Consider that going forward, the A’s will hope to lead with Fiers (one more season), Montas, Manaea, Luzardo, Puk, and Bassitt, and ahead of this “DFA risk trio” you have Jharel Cotton, Grant Holmes (just promoted to AAA), Parker Dunshee, and Brian Howard, with James Kaprielian and Dalton Jefferies not far behind.

So a reasonable expectation, if the A’s add Luzardo and Manaea this week, might be for the A’s to DFA Joseph and one of Anderson-Blackburn-Mengden. A “dark horse” alternative, if Stephen Piscotty’s ankle injury looks to be season-ending, is to move Piscotty to the 60-day IL thereby freeing up a spot on the 40-man.

The A’s are known for the occasional surprise, such as when they DFA’d Jack Cust just before the season only to re-sign him to a cheaper contract, but if you’re looking for a shocker — such as the out of options duo of Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo — then you are underestimating their trade value despite their lack of big league success. These guys are not getting DFA so that Oakland can hang onto the likes of Joseph, Tanderson, Blackburn, and Mengden. The closest I can see to a “shocker” would be Mengden, and honestly that wouldn’t shock me.

So, two down and likely two to go. It’s a bit of an unnerving time to be that guy who is hovering at around #39 on the list.

ADDENDUM: Following the publishing of this article, the A’s announced that Sean Murphy will be called up Sunday (necessitating a 40-man move) and that Paul Blackburn is being called up (meaning he is not on the chopping block), as is Franklin Barreto.

Poll

Who would you cut to make room for Luzardo and Manaea?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Joseph and T. Anderson
    (291 votes)
  • 13%
    Joseph and Blackburn
    (72 votes)
  • 6%
    Joseph and Mengden
    (32 votes)
  • 4%
    Two of the pitchers
    (24 votes)
  • 12%
    IL Piscotty to save one of those 4
    (64 votes)
  • 4%
    Leave Luzardo out of the mix to save one of those 4
    (22 votes)
  • 2%
    None of the above (explain in comments)
    (11 votes)
516 votes total Vote Now