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The White Sox’ 40-man roster crunch is coming

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Who wins the game of roster spots?

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays
Casey Gillaspie
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve talked a bit about how this offseason will see the White Sox scrambling a bit with their 40-man roster. One of the good problems of having a deep farm system is that you’ve got a lot of talent, the kind that other teams want. Unfortunately for the team, MLB has some rules that prevent them from simply warehousing players in the minors.

One of those is the Rule 5 draft, which permits teams to select certain non-40-man roster players from other teams. Of course, as we’ve seen with Dylan Covey, there are restrictions which generally (I see you Padres) mean near-major league players are the ones selected. If you want to ensure those players stay in your organization, you need to add them to the 40-man roster prior to the draft in December.

Another is minor league free agency, which frees non-40-man roster players with sufficient minor league service time or other qualifications from their teams. If you want to ensure those players stay in the organization, you need to add them to the 40-man roster prior to them electing free agency.

Currently, there are 37 players on the White Sox 40-man roster (I’m including those on the 60-day DL, since they will have to be returned to the roster at some point). Of those, there are just four players who will be free agents: Derek Holland, Miguel Gonzalez, Mike Pelfrey and Geovany Soto. So, if the White Sox were to make no other additions or deletions, they’d have a maximum of seven spots.

Rule 5 Eligible

Rule 5 eligible players are essentially (1) those drafted out of college in 2014 or prior; (2) those drafted out of high school in 2013 or prior; and (3) international amateur free agents signed in 2013 or prior. (Bolded players are those I think will need to be added to the 40 man to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Italicized players are those I think will be called up and added to the 40-man this season.)

This list includes:

  • Casey Gillaspie — Potential lefty power bat.
  • Ryan Cordell — Seem like he won’t make it back to play this season but potential decent outfielder.
  • Jake Peter — Potential utility player.
  • Jace Fry — He throws with his left hand, low to mid 90s with a nice curve.
  • Brian Clark Also throws with his left hand, though more of a finesse guy.
  • Louie Lechich — Recently converted to pitcher, throws with left hand and sits low 90s.
  • Matt Cooper — Might’ve been worth protecting but hasn’t played since June for a non-baseball reason.
  • Jordan Guerrero — Lefty with backend rotation potential.
  • Ian Clarkin — Oft-injured and in A-ball.
  • Danny Hayes — Hasn’t played well in Triple-A. Hard to see a future for him with Gillaspie existing.
  • Eloy Jimenez — Duh.
  • Micker Adolfo — Playing well but far from majors so unlikely to be drafted.
  • Tito Polo — An interesting one but I don’t think he’s polished enough to be drafted.

MiLB free agents

Those eligible for minor league free agency include players (1) who have had their first contract renewed six times and have spent all or any part of at least seven separate seasons on a minor league roster; (2) who have been previously released or non-tendered in their career and their present contract has expired; and (3) who were outrighted this season, as well as another time previously in their career.

For the White Sox, this list likely includes:

  • Rymer Liriano — I think he’s going to get a shot next month and I think he’ll stick into the offseason but would be a bubble guy always on the verge of being removed.
  • Michael Ynoa — Currently on Charlotte’s DL, he’s probably used up his last chance with the White Sox.
  • Rob Brantly — If Soto isn’t back by September 1 or so, top candidate for Third Catcher for September, a tradition like no other. But outright candidate after season.
  • David Holmberg — Can consume empty-calorie innings. But bye after season.0
  • And a bunch of older relievers (Al Alburquerque, Danny Farquhar, Jean Machi, etc.) — They need arms so we’ll probably see at least one of these types. Unless they’re completely amazing, though, bye after season.

So, if you were counting along at home, you’ve noticed that I’ve got eight guys bolded for seven open spots. Maybe you think there’s a few more who need to be protected, maybe less. Either way, the White Sox will need some more open spots because it’s safe to assume they’ll want to sign at least a few free agents, make a waiver claim or two, make a Rule 5 pick, or otherwise need spots for outside acquisitions.

Current 40-man players on the bubble

What kind of detritus exists on the 40-man right now, in descending order of vulnerability?

  • Alfredo Gonzalez — Catcher hitting .200 in Double-A.
  • Chris Beck — Hasn’t shown any ability to get major leaguers out.
  • Jacob May — Hasn’t shown any ability to not get out in the majors.
  • Alen Hanson — Meh.
  • Gregory Infante — 30 years old and has been pretty meh.
  • D.J. Peterson — Former top prospect recently claimed, I don’t see the appeal.
  • Jake Petricka — Has looked pretty toasty the last couple seasons but may well be worth the $1 million he’d cost to give him a final chance to show otherwise next season.
  • Dylan Covey — He’s well-illustrated his need for more time in the minors. But would likely merit a waiver claim.
  • Kevan Smith & Omar Narvaez — Both have been meh or worse but the White Sox need catchers.

This offseason, the White Sox will probably have to make some harder choices than in the recent past.