In Limbo: What Can The Rangers Get From The DFA Bin?

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Friday marked the deadline day when Major League clubs needed to make a decision on which players, that were not already on their 40-man roster, would be added to the 40-man to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. While the rules surrounding the Rule 5 draft will be explained a little later in the winter, roster moves happened on Friday, and unless a team’s roster was relatively depleted, decisions had to be made on certain players.

Players can be Designated for Assignment in the Winter for any number of reasons – teams found a better replacement for the player, the player has been injured too often for them to be worth a roster spot, the player under-performed during the season, the contract is too expensive, etc. When a player is DFA’d, they are removed from the 40-man roster and the organization has ten calendar days from the date of designation to either:

  • Put them back on the 40-man roster
  • Put them on waivers within seven days (exposing them to a claim from any team)
  • Trade them
  • Release them (making them a free agent), or
  • Assign them to the Minor Leagues if they make it through waivers without being claimed.

As the saying goes, one team’s trash is another team’s treasure, and the Rangers have an opportunity to pick up a player on the cheap IF the fit is right. After Friday’s roster moves, the Texas Rangers’ 40-man roster sits at 38 players. With a player to be named later coming from Seattle at some point (part of the Tom Wilhelmsen/James Jones deal) and the Rule-5 draft coming up, it may not seem like Jon Daniels might make a move. Today, however, there’s a few more chips on the table, and some options for depth and versatility could come, not in the form of a big free agent signing or a blockbuster trade, but from a discarded players’ bin known as DFA Limbo.

From the list of players that were designated for assignment on Friday, the Rangers have a few options to look at to address some areas of need. These options aren’t the prettiest on paper – if they were, these players wouldn’t be in the predicament of unemployment. Of the players DFA’d, it’s likely that only two or three end up with Major League jobs right off the bat. Is it possible for a change of scenery to bring out some hidden gems? Sure. Can a different coaching staff turn things around for a pitcher? Definitely. What can the Rangers play with?

Wilin Rosario – C/1B – Designated from Colorado Rockies

The “Baby Bull” has fallen on some rough times in the last two years. After posting two outstanding seasons from 2012 (when he finished 4th in Rookie of the Year voting) to 2013, Rosario took a step backwards offensively in 2014 and saw his playing time restricted to under 90 games in 2015. He also saw his position change from primarily catcher to being a first baseman, mostly because Rosario is not one of the highest-rated defensive catchers. He ranks on the low end of all defensive catching metrics (caught stealing, pitch framing, pitch blocking), so it was his bat that was keeping him in the lineup. When that went south, so, too, did Rosario’s playing time.

With all of that in mind, Rangers fans saw that health was not a given with their catchers, especially with primary backstop Robinson Chirinos 2015 injury history. Chirinos was out for most of the second half of the season with inflammation and biceps tendon issues in his left shoulder and arm. Chris Gimenez looks to return as the backup catcher, but after that, the Rangers don’t have much in terms of catching depth. Jon Daniels has had interest in Rosario in the past (with current and former Rockies’ beat writers acknowledging that Colorado was asking for too much back then), and despite a couple of down offensive years, the Baby Bull has more pop and promise at the plate than Bobby Wilson, is younger than both Chirinos and Gimenez, and could benefit from some of the better catching coaches in the Rangers’ system. Assuming that one of the rebuilding teams, such as the Phillies, Reds or Braves doesn’t try to add him on a Major League deal, Rosario would fit in nicely as a third-catcher and right-handed first base option (at a cheaper clip than Mike Napoli).

Allen Webster – RHP – Designated from Arizona Diamondbacks

Webster definitely did not pan out the way the Diamondbacks envisioned when they traded Wade Miley to the Red Sox for him and Rubby de la Rosa. Primarily a starter, the 25-year old made some appearances out of the bullpen for Arizona this past year, but only logged 31 innings in 9 games and gave up ten homers in those 9 games. Control and velocity were also an issue for Webster, who was likely traded for after a promising, potential-filled, 11-start 2014 with Boston. If nobody claims him between now and Friday, Arizona can keep him in the minors without keeping him on the 40-man roster, but given the track record, the D-Backs may be okay with just letting a team take him away.

Everyone knows that Jon Daniels likes a good long-term project, and while it might take another couple of years of coaching for Webster to crack his way onto a Major League roster again, Texas certainly has the pitching mentors for the righty to right his game. Webster’s ceiling might not be more than a 4- or 5-hole starter with swing-man potential. For the Rangers, that’s exactly the kind of pitcher they could bring in to Spring Training to see if he can contribute as a starting pitching depth piece.

 

A.J. Griffin – RHP – Designated from Oakland Athletics

After an incredibly promising 2012-2013, in which he posted a 21-11 record in 282.1 innings over 47 starts, Athletics starter A.J. Griffin succumbed, as so many pitchers did in that off-season, to Tommy John surgery. After suffering a recovery setback during the 2015 season, Griffin finally took the mound again in August and made six starts between A-ball and Triple-A. The decision to designate Griffin might be seen as surprising, as Oakland probably won’t return to contention just yet in 2016 and Griffin could have used that time to rebuild his arm strength and value, but now, it looks like the A’s will hope that nobody claims him between now and Friday to try and get him back to the minors.

Griffin is that kind of pitcher that could provide competition among the back-end starters in the Rangers system, vying for a rotation spot. As is often the case, competition brings out the best in people, and regardless of whether you think Griffin will actually stand a chance of opening the 2016 season on the 25-man roster, if the likes of Nick Martinez, Nick Tepesch, Chi-Chi Gonzalez and others think he does, that should push them to be better. If Oakland’s game is to just keep him off the 40-man roster for 2016, they may rescind the claim or try to acquire some pieces from the Rangers for Griffin’s services. If that’s the case, no dice, JD probably doesn’t try to get him. If the club truly is done with the 27-year old, then there’s no harm in assuming a right-handed starting pitcher under control for three more seasons.

Between now and the Winter Meetings in December, several other roster moves could be made, either as international players get signed or some DFA’d or released players get picked up. Keep in mind that some significant players weren’t always acquired via a big trade or via free agency. This is the time when General Managers really earn their mental money, by looking at the smaller guys and finding the hidden diamonds in the rough. Would you want to pick up any of the above three? Is there anyone else that was designated on Friday that interests you? Who on the Rangers’ current 40-man roster would you be okay with potentially parting ways if it meant opening up a roster spot for perhaps a bigger, better move?

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Matt Fisher
Matt Fisher is an Editor/Staff Writer for ShutdownInning. He is a baseball lifer, preferring to use the eye test and rely on the knowledge and analysis of baseball minds greater than his, while using relevant stats to encourage situational discussions. He is also co-host of The Most Valuable Podcast on the NextWave Radio Network, talking sports, entertainment, and sports entertainment.

While Matt's favorite team will always be his hometown Texas Rangers, he knows the ongoing story lines of every team in Major League Baseball. If you sit next to him at a game, be prepared to hear him try and do play-by-play. If you're famous and reading this, just know that he's not afraid to drop names.

Matt Fisher. ShutdownInning Editor/Staff Writer

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