Last winter, the White Sox drew more attention to the players they didn't add to the 40-man roster. Kenny Williams only focused on securing John Danks' future, leaving Jordan Danks unprotected. Terry Doyle's amazing run in the Arizona Fall League didn't buy him a spot either.
Phil Rogers, who takes Buck O'Neil's rule about women in red dresses and applies it to soft-tossing righties with nice minor-league ERAs, mourned the loss when the Twins selected Doyle in the Rule 5 draft:
It's hard to argue that the Sox have enough minor league pitching depth to risk losing an overachiever like Terry Doyle for $50,000.
Instead, the Sox only protected Charlie Leesman (as expected) and Deunte Heath (off the radar). And you know what? The decisions pretty much worked out across the board:
- Heath earned a couple call-ups in 2012, and Leesman probably would have joined him in September, except he tweaked his knee trying to avoid a collision during the International League finals.
- Before protecting Heath and Leesman, the Sox effectively did the same thing with some outside talent, signing Jose Quintana and Donnie Veal to major-league contracts.
- Danks wasn't selected in the Rule 5 draft, so he returned to Charlotte again. But he improved at Triple-A, earned a promotion to Chicago, and outlasted Brent Lillibridge and Kosuke Fukudome to become the primary defensive replacement for a couple of months. And he would've lasted the whole season if it weren't for that meddling Dewayne Wise! Instead, he had to settle for most of it.
- Doyle's bid for a 25-man roster spot in Minnesota proved premature. The Twins returned him to the Sox, who made $25,000 off Terry Ryan's risk, and Doyle headed to Charlotte, where he had never pitched. After two months, the Sox granted Doyle's requested release to pitch for Fukuoka in Japan.
- Ultimately, it worked out for Doyle, too. Fukuoka released him in late October, and two weeks later, the New England native signed a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training with the Boston Red Sox.
Score five for the "Everything Happens For a Reason" camp. Unless you're Leesman, maybe.
The White Sox's lack of high-ceiling prospects and the defanged Rule 5 draft remove much of the danger of roster protection decisions, even when there are open roster spots and borderline cases like Doyle.
This time around, there's even less to discuss about the 40-man roster's newest additions, as Jared Mitchell, Andre Rienzo, Josh Phegley and Santos Rodriguez were four obvious choices. Charles Shirek did register as a surprise since the Sox added him later in the day, but he makes sense. Unlike Doyle, he throws in the low 90s and pitched 170 quality innings at Charlotte last year (walking just 29 guys), so he would be real Rule 5 fodder, even if he doesn't figure to make much of an impact.
With those five in the fold, the Sox have used 39 of the 40 roster spots (with Blake Tekotte the lone outside roster addition, a la Quintana/Veal). That generates its own intrigue, because now it's time to think about guys who might find their way off the roster if Rick Hahn needs some flexibility.
Hahn has places to cut, but it's a sign of progress that the candidates aren't as readily apparent. Anthony Carter currently occupies the Freddy Dolsi Endowed Chair in Weird Timing, but if the Sox needed to look beyond one name, Hahn will have some choices in deleting from depth:
Right-handed relievers: Heath, Brian Omogrosso, Jhan Marinez
Based on quotes and past protection/promotion decisions, the Sox seem to like all these guys. Omogrosso is probably their favorite child, and the Sox made the unexpected choice to protect Heath. Marinez is a guy who hasn't found a foothold, but in a Mark Gonzales article in Baseball America a couple weeks ago, Don Cooper said, "He didn't do anything to hurt himself." Plus, Marinez has a rapport with Richard Dotson from working together in Charlotte. If Dotson replaces Juan Nieves as bullpen coach, Marinez might have an advocate.
Left-handed relievers: Leesman, Leyson Septimo
Leesman has the makings of a reliever, but he hasn't pitched out of the bullpen yet, so he might have a little bit of hidden value. The Sox thought enough of Septimo's talent to keep him on the roster over the last three months, even though Robin Ventura's strict LOOGY and garbage-time use in the end suggested that Septimo hadn't built up any trust. Veal passed him by, and Hector Santiago rediscovered his arsenal, too.
Then again, Leesman and Septimo might hold an appeal for the Sox if they choose to reduce their ranks of lefties from the top down by trading Quintana, Santiago, Veal and/or Matt Thornton.
Spot starters: Shirek, Dylan Axelrod
I'm a fan of Axelrod's story, but he's The Sixth Sense of sixth starters -- he has one twist that doesn't seem likely to hold its mystique through repeat viewings. If the Sox feel the same way, they could use him as a deal additive, with Shirek taking his place. Or Shirek could be dealt, and Axelrod remains a depth guy.
(I suppose Simon Castro and Nestor Molina would fit in this group, but they don't seem likely to be dumped with the primary purpose of creating roster space. They'd be moved with a purpose.)
Left-handed reserve outfielders: Tekotte, Mitchell, Jordan Danks
There are only six outfielders on the 40-man roster, which is good for a starting outfield, bench and a backup in Charlotte. By the end of the year, though, there may be little to distinguish these three from each other when it comes to major-league value. Plus, if you believe that the Brothers Danks must never play together for the White Sox, moving him might be a moral obligation.
Floating AAAA talent: Hector Gimenez, Dan Johnson
Both of these guys did all they could to help during their September call-ups, but the Sox acquired them because other teams cycled them out of their systems. Johnson is back to being blocked, and if Hahn acquires a partner for Tyler Flowers from the outside, the Sox will have one catcher too many.
(Johnson is going to stump a future generation of White Sox fans when they flip through B-Ref and see his .364/.548/.818 line, much like I scratched my head looking at Nyls Nyman's stats from 1974.)
Non-tender candidates: Philip Humber
Do you believe a kid from Nacogdoches, Texas, could throw a perfect game, only to be unceremoniously dumped at the end of the year because his team couldn't see how said kid could justify an estimated $1.1 million price tag?