Dodgers facing tough decisions for 40-man roster spots

Alex Verdugo (Photo: Stacie Wheeler)

We’re still three weeks away from active rosters expanding from 25 players to 40 players, but the Dodgers will be facing a bit of a crunch in the days leading up and the days after Sept. 1.

The Dodgers’ 40-man roster sits at 39 players after Luke Farrell was claimed on waivers on Wednesday by the Reds (and old friend Scott Van Slyke was designated for assignment). But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Players on the 60-day disabled list are not technically on the 40-man roster. Some of them probably won’t return to the active roster this season (Franklin Gutierrez, Adam Liberatore) and some definitely won’t return (Yimi Garcia, Andrew Toles). That leaves Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez, Scott KazmirRob Segedin — all of whom have done some form of rehab or will go on a rehab assignment shortly.

Gonzalez is coming back for sure at some point. He’s with Oklahoma City right now, but isn’t eligible to come back for two more days. Ethier should be back sometime in September, while I’m not sure about Kazmir. It literally could go either way. Segedin is also rehabbing with OKC and will be back at some point.

So, that’s four players added to the 39 to make 43 players on the 40-man (I’m betting on Kazmir making it back). Then comes the players in Triple-A who, like Ethier, should see some time in the majors this season: Walker Buehler, Wilmer Font and Alex Verdugo.

I’ve stated on Twitter I’m not a fan of Buehler coming up (but haven’t written an article, and might not at this rate) because he’s in his first full season after Tommy John surgery, the bullpen is solid and I don’t see the need to put unnecessary stress on his surgically repaired elbow. But, it’s going to happen as his last two appearances have come out of the bullpen. Font is the Pacific Coast League leader in strikeouts and his stuff would, in theory, play up out of the bullpen. He also has better present command/control than Buehler and is a better bet to be more of an impact pitcher down the stretch than the guy with 83 2/3 career innings. Verdugo is hitting quite well with OKC — .314/.385/.433, 1.05 BB/K — and he’s doing so as a 21-year-old, but he has slumped a bit of late. He’s hitting just .190/.271/.310 in the last month-plus of action (22 games). With the Dodgers getting incredible contributions from Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger, there might not be room for Verdugo on the roster in September.

If Gonzalez weren’t coming back, I’d be more inclined to find a spot for Verdugo on the roster. He still might get there, but he’s not going to displace a guy like Joc Pederson, Logan Forsythe or Gonzalez. When Gonzalez does comes back, he should play 2-3 times a week and only against right-handed pitchers. That would shift Bellinger to left field and Taylor to second base against righties because Forsythe has struggled against them this season. If Pederson is still struggling, either Bellinger or Taylor could see time in center field (with the other playing left) and have Gonzalez at first base. As things stand right now, Verdugo isn’t forcing his way into that rotation. He’d have to be hitting like he was a month ago for there to be serious consideration for a rookie to supplant a veteran player.

The Dodgers front office and developmental staff obviously likes Verdugo and he’ll probably get a cup of coffee, so let’s include him as a September call-up anyway.

So with that, we’re up to 46 players. That means the Dodgers would need to clear at least six spots to make this all happen. Let’s look at some options.

Injuries

Brett Eibner, who was trying to incorporate pitching into his overall game, ended up needing Tommy John surgery. He’s out of the season and probably won’t see the mound next season, either. If he comes back as strictly an outfielder, he could be back at some point in 2018. But he’s not yet on the 60-day DL, so the Dodgers could recall him and immediately place him on the DL to open a 40-man spot.

Julio Urias is also out for the season and the Dodgers could do the same thing with him, but a Twitter follower mentioned this:

I’m not exactly sure what this means. Urias is almost certainly going to be placed on the 60-day DL prior to next season, as he had surgery in June and the recovery time is slated to be 12-14 months. So, I’m doing the same thing with Urias that I’m doing with Eibner.

Update 1: The Urias conundrum has been explained to me.

Since Urias is on the minor-league DL, he isn’t accumulating service time. If he is added to the active roster and then transferred to the 60-day DL, he’d accumulate service time. Same might hold true for Eibner, but I’m not sure the front office cares about losing a year of service time on him. So, putting Urias on the 60-day and losing a year of service time just to open up a 40-man spot wouldn’t be a wise thing to do. We need to find an additional opening.

Minor Leaguers

Here are some minor-leaguers who are on the 40-man roster who could be on the chopping block.

Castillo was added to keep him from going overseas, fFloro was just picked after the trade deadline, Paredes came up for a brief stint, Ravin seems to be liked by the front office, Rhame hasn’t sniffed the majors, and Ysla was claimed on waivers just a couple days before the non-waiver trade deadline.

The easy cuts here are Floro and Ysla, so now we need two more. I’m assuming Castillo could also be gone, which would leave one of three among Paredes, Ravin and Rhame to go. I’m thinking Paredes would be the first to go, despite having made his MLB debut earlier this season. Rhame, despite being developed in-house, has never really been considered for an active roster spot, so maybe it’d be him. Not sure what the point of keeping a guy like that over someone like Buehler or Font, both of whom might be able to help the 2017 Dodgers, but I’m going to go with Paredes on the off chance he clears waivers, because Ravin and Rhame wouldn’t.

Update 2: I’d risk losing Rhame before Ravin if the Dodgers needed one more 40-man roster spot.

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The roster crunch is getting real. This doesn’t even include any potential waiver trade deadline pickups, either. It’ll be interesting to see what the brass does, but it’s great to have to many options and scenarios.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He does contracts and depth charts for FanGraphs and is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a one-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, California, and has yet to be shot.