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State of the Rays 40-man roster

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The ultimate offseason question: who stays, who goes?

Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The offseason will officially begin once the World Series ends. The first thing the Tampa Bay Rays will have to deal with is determining their 40-man roster. To save them some time, let’s do that ourselves.

The Rays have eight free agents who will be removed from the 40-man roster: Alex Cobb, Logan Morrison, Lucas Duda, Tommy Hunter, Steve Cishek, Sergio Romo, Peter Bourjos, and Trevor Plouffe. Colby Rasmus will also be removed from the restricted list and will become a free agent.

Also, once the season officially ends, players on the 60-day disabled list have to be added back to the 40-man. That means Matt Duffy, Nathan Eovaldi, Taylor Guerrieri, and Shawn Tolleson will revert to occupying a roster spot.

With nine players coming off the 40-man roster, and four players being added, it would seem that the Rays will have plenty of room for offseason additions, but there are many other moves they still have to make — like protecting prospects from the Rule 5 draft — so let’s look at the tough decisions the Rays will face.

The starting point for the 40-man roster at the beginning of the offseason is 36.

The Starting Rotation (9)

Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, Matt Andriese, Nathan Eovaldi, Austin Pruitt, Jose De Leon, and Taylor Guerrieri are the nine starting pitchers on the Rays 40-man as we begin the offseason.

Do the Rays pick up Nathan Eovaldi’s $2MM option?

It is very likely his option will be picked up, since he finished the season with some positive appearances during his rehab to end the season.

Do the Rays try to pass Taylor Guerrieri through waivers?

Taylor Guerrieri spent almost the whole season on the disabled list. He was removed in middle of his second start and never returned. He was added to the 60-man disabled list for the last couple weeks of the season to create space. I expect he’ll be designated for assignment. There’s a chance he gets through waivers because of his injury history. There is a real possibility he gets claimed due to his past prospect pedigree and passes through the league as teams try to get him off their 40-man roster. The Rays will likely need the space more than keeping Guerrieri in the organization.

Do the Rays trade a starting pitcher as a way to save money and clear roster space?

The only pitchers that are projected to make more than minimum are Archer, Odorizzi, and Eovaldi. Archer is under contract for $6.25 million and could be moved if somebody pays the high price tag the Rays would require to trade for the four years of team control remaining at reasonable rates. Odorizzi is projected to make $6.5MM. The Rays have in house replacements that will only make the minimum.

JT’s Prediction: Odorizzi is the one that is likely dealt to save money and the Rays will use Eovaldi and their depth to round out the rotation.

The Relief Pitchers (13)

There will be 13 relievers on the 40-man roster: Alex Colome, Brad Boxberger, Xavier Cedeno, Dan Jennings, Chase Whitley, Shawn Tolleson, Jose Alvarado, Ryne Stanek, Chaz Roe, Jaime Schultz, Chih-Wei Hu, Andrew Kittredge, and Hunter Wood

Which veterans do the Rays keep who are arbitration eligible and don’t have options?

Colome, Boxberger, Cedeno, Jennings, Whitley, and Tolleson are six relievers that have significant major league service time and are arbitration eligible.

Alex Colome - $5.5MM
Brad Boxberger - $1.9MM
Xavier Cedeno - $1.4MM
Dan Jennings - $2.5MM
Chase Whitley - $1.0MM
Shawn Tolleson - $1.0MM

This is a place the Rays have decisions to make. Tolleson is an easy non-tender after succumbing to Tommy John surgery in the middle of May. The remaining relievers are making reasonable salaries for what they provide, but the Rays are in a position where they have more flexibility while also being able to save some cash.

JT’s Prediction: The Rays likely have to choose between one of the arbitration eligible left handers in Cedeno and Jennings. Boxberger likely gets dealt to save money leaving Colome, and one of Cedeno, Jennings, or Whitley as returning experienced relievers.

Which pre-arbitration eligible relievers do the Rays keep?

Jose Alvarado, Ryne Stanek, Chaz Roe, Jaime Schultz, Chih-Wei Hu, Andrew Kittredge, and Hunter Wood are the seven remaining relievers with limited to no major league experience remaining on the 40-man, and Roe is the only one that doesn’t have options remaining.

JT’s Prediction: I expect all of these to survive the offseason, with Wood being the likely first cut if the Rays need space. The team needs a lot of relievers to make it through the season, so this is necessary depth with the potential for multiple relievers among this group to make the opening day roster.

The Position Players (14)

The Rays start the offseason with 14 position players on the 40-man roster.

Wilson Ramos, Jesus Sucre, and Curt Casali are three catchers that begin the offseason on the roster. Ramos is the starter. Jesus Sucre is likely to return as the backup catcher as he’s likely to only get a small raise in arbitration. Casali is likely to get designated for assignment or traded. Regardless it is highly unlikely there won’t be at least three catchers on the roster even if they are different players.

Evan Longoria, Adeiny Hechavarria, Brad Miller, Matt Duffy, Daniel Robertson, and Willy Adames are the six infielders remaining.

The Rays have five outfielders on the roster in Kevin Kiermaier, Corey Dickerson, Steven Souza Jr., Mallex Smith, and Cesar Puello.

JT’s Prediction: Puello is the easiest cut on the roster. Miller likely gets traded or non-tendered to save some cash, and Adames is likely to start the offseason in the minors as the only player without MLB experience.

Rule 5 Protection

Earlier today I highlighted the 26 minor league players eligible for the Rule 5 draft this offseason, and had the following conclusion:

The Rays will likely add six to nine players to protect from the rule 5 draft, and those they cannot find room to protect will likely be included in trades in the upcoming off-season, because several of the players above could easily have major league projections, even those not included on the Rays Top-30 prospect list.

JT’s Prediction: I would protect Honeywell, Bauers, Williams, Castillo, Ciuffo, Yarbrough, Ott, and Genesis Cabrera if he’s eligible. Let’s assume he is, and that Yonny Chirinos is traded, requiring eight of the cleared roster spots above, .

UPDATE 10/31 7:55 AM: I’ve been told that it is understood that Genesis Cabrera won’t be Rule 5 Eligible this winter.

The resulting 40-man roster stands at 36

Traded, DFA’d, or non-tendered
Jake Odorizzi
Brad Miller
Brad Boxberger
One of Xavier Cedeno/Dan Jennings
Shawn Tolleson
Curt Casali
Taylor Guerrieri (prospect)
Cesar Puello
Yonny Chirinos (prospect)

These are moves that need to be made for a combination of financial and space reasons. This leaves the Rays with 36 players on the 40-man.

Starting Pitchers (11)
Chris Archer
Matt Andriese
Blake Snell
Jacob Faria
Nathan Eovaldi
Austin Pruitt
Jose De Leon
Brent Honeywell
Ryan Yarbrough
Genesis Cabrera*
Travis Ott

Relief Pitchers (11)
Alex Colome
Dan Jennings/Xavier Cedeno
Chase Whitley
Chaz Roe
Jose Alvarado
Ryne Stanek
Chih-Wei Hu
Jaime Schultz
Diego Castillo
Andrew Kittredge
Hunter Wood

Position Players (14)
Wilson Ramos
Jesus Sucre
Nick Ciuffo
Evan Longoria
Adeiny Hechavarria
Matt Duffy
Daniel Robertson
Kevin Kiermaier
Corey Dickerson
Steven Souza Jr.
Mallex Smith
Willy Adames
Jake Bauers
Justin Williams

The projected salary of this 40-man roster is $70.55MM with every 25-man roster slot having at least a league minimum salary accounted for.

Assuming the position player prospects without service time don’t start the year on the Opening Day roster, the Rays will need to acquire — either by trade or free agency — two more players in order to have 12 position players on the roster. There are openings for 1B and either LF/DH.

The Rays aren’t likely to go into the season with such an inexperienced bullpen. They will probably sign at least one veteran to a MLB deal, and bring in a couple relievers on MiLB deals who could win a job out of spring training like Tommy Hunter did last winter.

That brings us to 39-40 spots depending on how the bullpen is constructed. Via trades, the Rays can bring in players that will fill major league spots either in the bullpen or on the position side that need to be on the 40-man roster.

There are a couple fungible spots on the pitcher side (Wood and Kittredge being the first in line). The bar should be high for any acquisitions that aren’t going to be on the opening day roster if they need a 40-man roster spot this winter.

Trading some Rule 5 prospects is always possible. In 2015 the Rays traded German Marquez along with Jake McGee in order to bring in Corey Dickerson and minor leaguer Kevin Padlo. Marquez was added to the 40-man roster that winter and was behind Snell, Guerrieri, and Faria as starting pitching prospects that were taking up space.

The Rays could go many different directions with their roster, meaning some of these predictions will be wrong. The predictions are meant to show how much space the Rays really have on the roster when acquiring players this offseason. Some roster space is available to add talent not currently in the organization, but they need to be able to genuinely impact the 2018 Rays in order to be considered.