Major League Baseball rosters expand tomorrow, with teams able to call up anyone on the 40-man roster, giving them the possibility for an active roster that can hold up to 40 players. Not all of the guys on the 40-man roster will be called up, but you can expect the Pirates to make several moves.
“We’re going to be very cognizant of the numbers that we add to this club,” Pittsburgh Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington said. “We’ve got some guys that are obvious additions, like [Gerrit] Cole and [Jeff] Locke, and [Gregory] Polanco is coming back, and we get Stolmy Pimentel off the disabled list. So you’re already at 29 before you start to talk about guys that have spent the majority or their recent time at Triple A.”
Cole, Locke, and Polanco were optioned in the last week, allowing the Pirates to add additional bench players before rosters expanded. All of them will be eligible for the post-season roster this year, despite being in the minors on August 31st, due to a rule change that made everyone on the 40-man roster eligible for the post-season. Previously the rule was that you had to be on the 25-man roster on August 31st to be eligible.
In Polanco’s case, he was sent down to get some regular work in Triple-A, while Travis Snider got starts in right field. Snider went down with an injury a few days later, but Andrew Lambo took over as the starter recently. Huntington said that he feels Polanco has been doing well in his time in Indianapolis.
“We think so,” Huntington said, when asked if the time for Polanco has been beneficial. “Just to get the at bats, just to get out and hit again. After the four-day layoff where Travis [Snider] was swinging the bat so well and deserved to continue to play, Gregory looked a little rough. So that was where we took the opportunity to give him a reach for at bats in Triple A.”
You can expect Polanco, Cole, Locke, and Pimentel to be added. But who else will join the team? I posted my predictions earlier this week, noting that a lot of bullpen arms could come up, along with several bench players. Huntington didn’t want to comment on the moves before they happened. He did discuss what went into the decision to call a specific player up.
“Our first three, four, and five years here, September call ups have been about opportunity and rewards and guys who were getting a chance to see if they belong on next years club,” Huntington said. “This year’s September call ups, and last year’s September call ups are about giving a player’s skill set that Clint can use to win a game. So there may be some guys that you all look at and say ‘I wonder why he didn’t he get call up and why did he get called up.’ Again, the recognition is these are guys that help Clint manage to win a game in some way, shape, or form.”
One area where the Pirates obviously have a need has been the bullpen. They’ve been looking for bullpen help over the last month, and it can only be expected that they’ll add players from the minors tomorrow. Casey Sadler will probably be one of those guys. You could also assume that Ernesto Frieri will come up, since the Pirates are paying him the remainder of his $3.8 M salary. John Holdzkom is a sleeper who was added by the Pirates as a minor league free agent this year, and who has been throwing in the upper 90s with Indianapolis. But I don’t think anyone would be a guarantee, based on Huntington’s comments.
“There will be some surprises that will make some people scratch their head,” Huntington said.
There’s no one who would be a total shock to be left in the minors, and that includes Frieri, who has continued his struggles with Indianapolis, and who would require a 40-man roster spot. There are a few guys who could be called up for specific skills, despite not having the best numbers. Chase d’Arnaud is an example here. He only has a .662 OPS, but he has a lot of speed, is an excellent base stealer, can play a lot of different positions, and has done well against lefties in his career. I’ve heard some talk that d’Arnaud is in the discussions to come up, although I don’t know if that would qualify as a surprise. It will be interesting to see these surprises when rosters expand tomorrow.