The White Sox confronted their 40-man roster crunch today, and their additions may be a reflection of a potential trend in Major League Baseball.
They added Eloy Jimenez, Casey Gillaspie, Luis Alexander Basabe, Ian Clarkin and Micker Adolfo to the 40-man roster. In order to make room, they outrighted Chris Beck and Tyler Danish to Charlotte, which leaves one roster spot open for a future addition.
Jimenez and Gillaspie were the obvious choices of the group. Jimenez is a top-five prospect who could make some serious noise in spring training. Gillaspie, acquired from the Rays in the Dan Jennings trade, is a former top-100 prospect whose steady climb hit a snag in Triple-A last year, but he offers some potential as a switch hitter with some pop.
The other three are surprises, as they didn’t seem like classic Rule 5 draft material. Clarkin had the best case as a lefty with a track record of respectable performances only marred by injuries, but the lack of durability kept him from advancing past High-A this season. (I didn’t have Clarkin in my predictions, but I gave him and Tito Polo a significant chance of being added, because it’d suck to lose a major component of the Tommy Kahnle deal so quickly.)
Basabe, the third player in the Chris Sale return, hit just .221/.320/.320 over 107 games at Winston-Salem. He’d picked up his play during the second half, but his season ended with an injury on Aug. 13. Adolfo, who turned 21 in September, hit .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers, two triples and 28 doubles at Kannapolis. The tools that earned him a $1.6 million signing bonus out of the Dominican Republic finally turned into some production, but he also struck out 149 times to just 31 walks in A-ball, so he still needs a whole lot more refinement.
The additions of Basabe and Adolfo seem like a reaction to the San Diego Padres, who carried three Rule 5 picks all the way through the 2017 season, including 21-year-old Allen Cordoba, who had no experience above rookie ball. They all struggled, contributing rather equally to a cumulative -2.6 bWAR, but they’re all part of the Padres’ farm system now.
We’ll see whether this marks a start of a trend, but it takes commitment. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun watching the White Sox carry Dylan Covey. Now imagine two more of him.
For the time being, the White Sox protected themselves from that outcome, choosing true upside over more rosterable players. Jake Peter’s omission surprised me if only because Rick Hahn recently called him an under-the-radar prospect (the same label he gave Gillaspie and Adolfo). Then again, the Sox might have tipped their hand when they didn’t add Peter to the expanded roster in September despite a great performance in Charlotte.
Jordan Guerrero’s absence might be the most controversial, as he improved in his second attempt at Birmingham after an ugly April (3.58 ERA, 103 strikeouts over 120 innings afterward). He’s a fastball-changeup lefty who put himself in a position to get spot starts in between the arrival of Michael Kopech and Alec Hansen, among others. He doesn’t look like a fixture, but the Sox will need some sixth and seventh starters as the long-term rotation takes shape. If you’re miffed about this, well, Guerrero is, too.
Beck seemed destined for outrighting this winter, as he followed up a 6.39 ERA over 25 innings in 2016 with a 6.40 ERA over 65 innings in 2017, allowing a whopping 16 homers over the past season. Danish’s removal from the 40-man roster is a bit further off the board, although he struggled as in 2017 as a starter, doesn’t have a great reliever’s arsenal, and will be working his way back from an injury to his non-throwing shoulder in a car accident.