The Twins currently have 43 players on their 40-man roster — made possible because players on the 60-Day Disabled List don’t count against the roster limits, and the Twins have three pitchers (Boof Bonser, Pat Neshek, and Kevin Slowey) on the 60-Day DL. Teams cannot carry players on the Disabled List over the winter, so those three pitchers will have to be activated soon, and they will then once again take a place on the 40-man. With five players about to become free agents, that will leave the Twins with 38 players on the roster (assuming they don’t re-sign any of the free agents — which might not be a safe assumption).
The Twins will almost certainly want to make more room on the roster, however — both because they may want to sign a free agent or two (or re-sign one of their pending free agents) AND because there are a number of players who the team will want to protect from this December’s Rule 5 draft. With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the 40-man roster with some thoughts on what might happen to it in the next few weeks:
Pitchers: Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Boof Bonser (60DL), Jesse Crain, Brian Duensing, Armando Gabino, Matt Guerrier, Bobby Keppel, Francisco Liriano, Ron Mahay (FA), Jeff Manship, Jose Mijares, Joe Nathan, Pat Neshek (60DL), Carl Pavano (FA), Glen Perkins, Jon Rauch, Kevin Slowey (60DL), Anthony Swarzak
There is likely to see quite a bit of stability in this group over the winter. Mahay and Pavano are both free agents, and one or both COULD come back, but its just as likely that both leave. There are three other players who the Twins may face a decision on, however.
First up is Armando Gabino, who had an excellent season (primarily as a reliever) in Rochester but was totally overmatched in two appearances with the Twins. Gabino has two option years left after this season, making it less likely that he’ll be cut — but he’s the least established of the cut options on the pitching staff.
The Twins could also decide to part ways with Bobby Keppel, whose 4.83 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, and .297 BAA were hardly the stuff of which legends are made. It would make sense to part with Keppel if the Twins are confident that they can find a replacement on the market — and this is an obvious place where they could spend wisely to improve the bullpen.
Finally, in a bit of a curveball, I’m going to include Glen Perkins on this list. Perkins has plenty of potential, but the relationship between him and the Twins has been poisoned by his accusations that the Twins are trying to unfairly deny him service time and the Twins inability to trust Perkins on health matters. I would assume the Twins are more likely to try to trade Perkins than to just designate him for assignment and lose such a promising young pitcher — but the relationship seems so dysfunctional at this point that I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if was just unceremoniously released.
Catchers: Drew Butera, Joe Mauer, Jose Morales, Wilson Ramos, Mike Redmond (FA)
I’ve already said that I think Redmond won’t be back. The Twins are unlikely to do anything with any of the four remaining catchers on the roster. Mauer obviously isn’t going anywhere. Morales seems to be the obvious candidate to be the backup catcher next year. Butera should step up as the new 3rd string/emergency catcher (probably not on the big league roster — just the guy who would get called up in the event of an injury). Wilson Ramos, meanwhile, remains the team’s top catching prospect. There’s no reason to remove him from the protection of the 40-man roster.
Infielders: Brian Buscher, Orlando Cabrera (FA), Alexi Casilla, Joe Crede (FA), Brendan Harris, Justin Huber, Luke Hughes, Justin Morneau, Trevor Plouffe, Nick Punto, Deibinson Romero, Matt Tolbert, Steven Tolleson
Cabrera and Crede will both be coming off of the list, although only Cabrera has a real chance of coming back (or so I hope). Elsewhere, there are a number of places for the Twins to make some room on the roster. First, Justin Huber seems an obvious choice to come off the roster. Huber had a nice enough season for Rochester, hitting .273/838 and earning himself a September callup. However, he’s out of options and has no obvious place on the 2010 Twins team. He should be removed from the roster.
Perhaps more controversially, the Twins should also consider removing Luke Hughes from the roster. Hughes regressed significantly after his strong 2008 season. It now seems unlikely that he would have a role with the team in the foreseeable future, and the Twins probably wouldn’t need to worry about him being claimed off waivers or in the Rule 5 draft. He’s likely to be eligible to become a minor league free agent after 2010, but that’s a problem to deal with next year if there’s a reason to be concerned about it. The Twins should strongly consider removing Hughes from the roster.
The Twins are also likely to at least consider removing Deibinson Romero, Trevor Plouffe, and/or Steven Tolleson from the roster. Of the three, Romero (who had a rough season in Ft. Myers and doesn’t seem anywhere close to being Major League ready) is the most likely to be taken off the roster. The Twins could potentially lose him to a waiver claim if he were Designated for Assignment — but it seems highly unlikely that he would be claimed in the Rule 5 draft, and he won’t be eligible for minor league free agency for a number of years. Plouffe and Tolleson — both of whom are closer to the big leagues — are likely to be kept up.
The Twins should also seriously consider cutting ties with Alexi Casilla. Obviously, he’s out of favor. If the Twins decide to make a play for a shortstop (whether it’s Orlando Cabrera or someone else), then the obvious candidate for second base is Nick Punto. Casilla, who is now out of options, would therefore be surplus to requirements. His performance wasn’t good enough to justify keeping him around, either. The Twins will probably choose to keep him around through Spring Training to see if he can earn a spot on the roster — but I would probably cut my losses now.
Finally, while some fans probably want it to happen, I’d be fairly surprised if the Twins were to cut Brian Buscher. Of course, he was used “sparingly,” to say the least, down the stretch. Perhaps that’s a signal that the Twins don’t really have a place for Buscher. With Matt Tolbert and Brendan Harris ahead of him in the team’s infield depth chart, he could (and maybe even should) be released — but while that is certainly a possibility, I don’t see it as among the more likely options. We’ll see.
Outfielders: Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Gomez, Jason Kubel, Jason Pridie, Denard Span, Delmon Young
There is no shortage of opinions on what the Twins should do with the outfield next season, from keeping the current 4-man rotation in place to sending Gomez to the minors or trading Delmon. This post isn’t about that kind of speculation, however. Barring a trade, nobody on this list is going anywhere — except, quite possibly, for Jason Pridie. Pridie hit .265 with 25 SB’s this season for Rochester, and with another option year available in 2010 I would normally have expected him to remain on the 40-man roster. However, the handwriting appears to be on the wall, with the Twins not having called Pridie up in September. Usually, you would expect a speedy guy like Pridie to be called up to provide some extra baserunning help, so it seems suspicious that Pridie wasn’t. Perhaps he was hurting (I never heard that, but you never know). Nonetheless, it makes me seriously wonder if Pridie isn’t on his way out.
The Twins will probably remove at least 3 and as many as 6 players from the 40-man roster in the next few weeks. To me, the only player who seems obviously to be gone is Justin Huber — but circumstances also make Jason Pridie and Deibinson Romero more likely casualties. In the next level of cuts, I’d put Bobby Keppel, Luke Hughes and Armando Gabino — I think the Twins could make a better case for cutting them than for keeping them, but I wouldn’t be totally surprised if any of them was kept around. Finally, cutting Glen Perkins, Brian Buscher or Alexi Casilla would make would be more surprising (especially Perkins). We’ll know for sure in a couple of weeks.