Monday, March 16, 2009
Let The Roster Games Begin
Today's roster cuts by Our Washington Nationals provided the preamble to the final 25-Man Roster to be set for Opening Day. Everyone that has been optioned or assigned so far could be moved without jeopardizing their standing within the team. That all changes now for several reasons.
Washington has a full 40-Man Roster. If any single person from the non-roster invitee list makes the final cut, and there is more than one that just might do it, then a corresponding move must be made to remove a player off that 40-Man Roster. Additionally, from my understanding, and in no way am I sure this list is complete--the following players are Out Of Options. This means Anderson Hernandez, Kory Casto, Ronnie Belliard, Willie Harris and Wil Nieves all must be placed on waivers (exposed to the other 29 teams) to be outrighted to The Minor Leagues.
This is really what The Opening Day Roster always amounts to--putting your best product on the field for now--while holding on to those important to your near and long term future for later. Some times, a player makes the team whether they deserve to or not. Mediocre play is not the only factor considered.
First up--Terrell Young is a Rule V Pick. He must stay on the 25-Man Roster all season or be offered back to The Cincinnati Reds if he clears waivers first. Washington could also trade someone in their system to retain his rights and outright him to the minors. Has he shown enough promise to gain Baseball Operations Trust? So far--I would say yeah, Terrell has a shot at the final roster. But I would bet a deal is made with Cincinnati and Young is optioned to The Minor Leagues. If they keep him, he remains on the 40-Man Roster. Washington probably doesn't want to keep him on the team because they have many other factors to consider to round out their lineup.
Take a look at The Starting Pitching: John Lannan, Daniel Cabrera, Scott Olsen have three starting spots locked up--no question about it. Washington probably doesn't need a 5th starter over the first two weeks of the season due to a handful of off-days. This plays to Shawn Hill's advantage. Our Number 41 pitched injury free today in Jupiter, but he's certainly not stretched out to give anyone 80 pitches in a start during the early days of April. So, expect Hill to start the season in extended Spring Training. That move giving Jordan Zimmermann the serious possibility of making the 25-Man Roster. J-Zimm has been nothing short of outstanding during his Rookie Grapefruit League appearances so far. I would love not to see him rushed into The Major Leagues. The National League Scouts still don't have the book on him yet. But it's very hard at this point NOT to give Our Number 27 a legitimate shot to start in The Big Leagues in April. Collin Balester, struggling with control this spring, might be the odd man out and optioned to Syracuse.
Zimmermann making the team amounts to the first 40-Man Roster Move. Jordan Zimmermann has earned the opportunity. So a corresponding 40-Man Roster move will have to be made on someone else.
Acting GM Mike Rizzo and Our Manager Manny Acta are going to keep at least 11 pitchers on that 25-Man Roster. Joel Hanrahan is set as closer. Saul Rivera as one of the setup men. Jason Bergmann should make the team based on versatility alone. He can start, be a long man, throw middle innings and in my opinion--be an excellent setup man in the 8th. I can't imagine Jason Bergmann not making the team. The same for Michael Hinkley and Steven Shell. Both had excellent first seasons in The Major Leagues in 2008. They have been far from perfect in Spring Training 2009--but Washington's not going to give up on them over a few early outings in the spring. DC's Team has no reason to rush Julian Taverez or Kip Wells into their rotations either. They are emergency call ups and Mr. Rizzo is probably not going to make a corresponding 40-Man Roster Move just to put them on the roster when Jesus Colome is also going to have to be added. "Bling-Bling!" has been pretty outstanding so far in camp and has done nothing to show Our Washington Nationals he doesn't belong--maybe also play the Set Up man for Hanrahan. Garrett Mock and Shairon Martis are probably vying for the last bullpen spot if only 11 guys are taken early. Martis has future starter written all over him--let him eat some innings in at AAA Syracuse. Wil Ledezma is outrighted to AAA Syracuse to be ready as the bullpen lefty, if Hinkley falters. Ryan Wagner gets assigned to Syracuse to build up arm strength.
Colome making the team amounts to the 2nd 40-Man Roster Move.
Unless Jesus Flores starts the year on the Disabled List with his continuing sore elbow (a possibility), Javier Valentin has virtually no chance of making the Opening Day Roster. Valentin has rarely caught a game over the past few seasons--he's not the guy Washington wants calling the pitches behind the plate--unless it's a emergency. No way Our Washington Nationals attempt to move Wil Nieves off the 40-Man unless someone extremely better comes along. He's an excellent catcher. Luke Montz becomes the number one guy at Syracuse.
No corresponding roster moves need to be made right now over catchers.
Nick Johnson, Anderson Hernandez, Cristian Guzman and Ryan Zimmerman round out our starting infield. Ronnie Belliard the backup, along with the ultra-versatile Willie Harris playing everywhere. Harris is an important component to rounding out the clouded outfield situation because he can play both infield and outfield. If he has options available, Alberto Gonzalez (as well as he's played) probably doesn't make the team now as well. Gonzalez is the Ronnie Belliard type sub of our future. Brad Eldred, Pete Orr, Jose Castillo and Alex Cintron should all be assigned to Syracuse. Dmitri Young starts the year in Extended Spring Training. Kory Casto is out of options and is in Nowhere's Land. A decision must be made on his long-term role with the team very soon.
Super Sub Willie Harris makes it extremely possible for Our Washington Nationals to keep Lastings Milledge, Elijah Dukes, Austin Kearns, Josh Willingham and Adam Dunn all on the Opening Day Roster--whether they have a place to play them or not (Willingham & Dunn 1st Base Backups). Either Washington sends Wily Mo Pena to extended Spring Training or they simply release him and eat his $2 Million Contract. As well as he's played--Roger Bernadina gets optioned to AAA Syracuse for more seasoning and Ryan Langerhans--who I have always felt is a perfect complimentary 4th outfielder in a powerful lineup that needs a defensive player--will be held back playing for Syracuse as well--until the roster shakes out during the regular season. Corey Patterson is assigned to Syracuse. Patterson makes the team only if others go down injured.
Barring any trades or injuries, that's 24 Players that should all make The 25-Man Opening Day. Baseball Operations can choose whichever other person from those lists to add that last player to this jigsaw puzzle for April 6th. But Washington must also realize that Shawn Hill will be added to the active roster early in April. He's your 25th guy, if healthy. So whomever that last player is to make the team out of Spring Training--will realize he only has a short time to make a final impression--because unless something unexpected happens--he's gone--possibly for good.
Without a doubt, Matt Chico will be placed on the 60-Day Disabled List. Chico still recovering from elbow reconstruction surgery. That move allows Washington a valuable 41st person to the 40-Man Roster. 60-Day DL Players do not count toward the 40-Man. So Chico provides an out to move either Jordan Zimmermann or Jesus Colome to the active roster. Wily Mo Pena, Kory Casto are other players on the bubble--possibly Tyler Clippard and Mike O'Connor as well. One of those guys MUST BE moved off the 40-Man Roster by Opening Day. Our Washington Nationals have no other choice. Someone is going to lose their Major League Job, and possibly be claimed by another Big League Club. If Washington adds any more non-roster players, then all four are in jeopardy of being moved to another team.
Who would you choose? The faces of the jigsaw puzzle are slowly coming together. As The African Queen said tonight: "This is like a Chess Match." And she's right. The Pawns are being moved around. The Roster Games have begun in earnest. It's going to be really interesting watching how Our Washington Nationals maneuver through the final few weeks of Spring Training. Will someone get traded? Or will someone else go down to injury? Those unexpected moves that shake up the roster even more.
The 25-Man Roster (Barring Trade or Injury--24 Of Whom Should Definitely Make The Team out of Spring Training)
Pitchers: Lannan, Cabrera, Olsen, Zimmermann (Hill Extended Spring Training)
Bullpen: Hanrahan, Rivera, Bergmann, Shell, Hinckley, Colome & Mock
Catchers: Flores & Nieves
Infield: Johnson, Hernandez, Guzman, Zimmerman, Belliard & Harris
Outfield: Milledge, Dukes, Kearns, Wllingham & Dunn
On The Bubble: Balester, Martis, Terrell Young, Pena, Casto & Alberto Gonzalez.