Night Moves – How Rays’ Roster Shake-Up Affects Bulls
While you were sleeping, or celebrating or sulking after the UNC/Duke football game (depending on which end of Tobacco Road you claim), the Tampa Bay Rays set their 40-man roster for 2015. The deadline to do so was midnight on Thursday and the Rays used every second of the clock to make some moves that will have a definite impact on the Bulls going forward. So let’s break down a very busy, and late, night as it relates to the team we’ll see at the DBAP next spring.
First, some quick background on the deadline. The 40-man roster consists of all players signed to a Major League contract – the 25-man active roster (those currently in the Big Leagues) and the 15 others who reside in the Minors. Those guys in the Minors can be recalled to the Major League club at any point during the season and sent back just as easily. If a player is not on the 40-man roster, they still can get called-up, but it’s more rare and requires the parent club to “select” their contract and clear space on the existing expanded roster.
So why the deadline to set the 40-man roster? Partly because an even more confusing concept known as the Rule 5 Draft. As succinctly as possible: this draft takes place annually at the Winter Meetings and ensures that clubs aren’t holding on to prospects for too long without placing them on the Major League roster. Teams put Minor Leaguers on the 40-man at this time to “protect” them in the Rule 5, as any player not on a 40-man (meeting certain age requirements) can be drafted by another organization. There is strategy involved here because any player selected in the Rule 5 must be placed on a team’s active roster and remain in the Majors for the entire season. So, teams take calculated risks as to which of their prospects may be coveted by another club enough that they’d make space for them in the Bigs. Those deemed too likely to be taken are moved to the 40-man.
Got all that? Phew. Let’s talk about what happened late last night then.
The Rays entered Thursday with 38 players on the 40-man. In looking to protect several prospects, they had to clear some more room off the roster, which is what they were doing earlier in the week by trading Jeremy Hellickson (and Cesar Ramos before him). To clear more space on Thursday, Tampa designated C Jose Molina, RHP Michael Kohn and INF Cole Figueroa for assignment (more on being “DFA’d” below). They then worked a trade with the Dodgers and former GM Andrew Friedman, sending RHP Joel Peralta and LHP Adam Liberatore out west for RHP Jose Dominguez and Class-A righty Greg Harris. With those four subtractions off the Major League roster (Liberatore was on a Minor League contract), the 40-man stood at 34 players.
Now to the other side of the ledger: 35) Dominguez, who throws absolute gas and spent time in the Bigs with LA in 2014, was added to 40-man as part of trade. 36, 37, 38, 39 and 40) Bulls OF Mikie Mahtook and RHP Matt Andriese, as well as Double-A prospects C Justin O’Conner, INF Ryan Brett and LHP Grayson Garvin, were added to the 40-man roster and thus sheltered from selection in the Rule 5 Draft.
So how does this effect the guys you know?
Adam Liberatore is obviously gone. The big lefty spent the last two seasons in the Bull City and certainly made his mark. In 2013, he recorded the final out in the Governors’ Cup Championship, giving the Bulls their 4th International League title. A year later against the same Pawtucket Red Sox though, he gave up a game-tying hit to Rusney Castillo with the Bulls a strike away from back-to-back titles. He was a dominant 6-1 last year, with a ridiculous 1.66 ERA in 54 relief appearances. Good luck Lib.
Cole Figueroa was among three players designated for assignment, or “DFA’d” in insider-speak. In short, this means he was removed from the 40-man and now enters a baseball purgatory of sorts. We could very well see Figgy back at the DBAP in 2015. We would very much like that, as he’s one of our favorite Bulls in recent memory. Great guy, big time contributor and owner of Bark in the Park Mayor, Cutter. In order to be “outrighted” back to the Minors though, Cole will have to clear waivers. We should find out his fate within the next week or so. (UPDATE, 11/24) Per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Figueroa was placed on “release waivers” as opposed to “outright waivers” as we originally believed. This means he will become a free agent should no team claim him on waivers. Unfortunately, this probably means we’ve seen the last of Figgy in a Bulls uniform and that’s a bummer.
It’s no surprise that Mikie Mahtook got the Rays’ attention in 2014. In his first Triple-A season, the LSU product was the Bulls’ MVP and a midseason All-Star. While we’d guess he’ll return to Durham in 2015, he’ll be a phone call away from his Major League debut. Since he’s on the 40-man now, he’ll go to Major League camp in Spring Training.
An anchor in the Bulls rotation last year, Matt Andriese went 11-8 with a 3.77 ERA in 25 starts. He’ll join Mahtook in Big League camp in February and compete for the fifth spot in the Rays’ rotation. If he doesn’t get the nod, we’ll see him back at the DBAP. Score for us.
There it is. Lots doin’ and we haven’t even gotten to the Winter Meetings yet.