The 40-man roster decisions due Friday, Matt Klentak had said for months, were good ones to face. They signaled a new wave of young talent edging closer to the majors. That there were so many names to consider, the Phillies general manager said, reflected measurable improvement in the minor-league system.
But when the Phillies added a whopping 11 prospects to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, it represented more than a series of perfunctory transactions. The sheer math explains it: The Phillies, at least in April, may have to form a 25-man roster from 29 other players.
They are committed to roster spots for young players. And the prospects, when ready, will be needed in 2017.
"With adding this many young players and with the average age of the roster being as young as it is," Klentak said, "I think there's a reasonable expectation that many of these young players are going to spend time in the big leagues this year."
The Phillies on Friday applied a dramatic overhaul to their roster by adding 11 players and cutting three more. They have jettisoned 17 players from the 40-man roster since the season ended. And, even after the additions, they stand to lose one or two minor-leaguers in next month's Rule 5 draft.
The added players included top prospects, young pitching depth, and under-the-radar arms. Nick Williams, Dylan Cozens, Andrew Knapp and Jesmuel Valentin were the position players added. The promoted pitchers were Ben Lively, Nick Pivetta, Mark Appel, Elniery Garcia, Ricardo Pinto, Alberto Tirado and Drew Anderson. (Click here for scouting reports.)
To clear space, the Phillies designated for assignment righthanders David Buchanan and Jimmy Cordero. Elvis Araujo, a lefthanded reliever, was claimed off waivers by Miami. The 40-man roster is now full.
That could limit the Phillies later this winter. Valentin and Knapp, because of the roster crunch, could be major-league bench players in April. The 40-man roster has 14 starting pitchers, and Klentak admitted it could be a challenge to find rotation spots for all of them. Some could become relievers in spring training.
"We still have the ability and go out and make acquisitions to improve our 2017 club," Klentak said. "Obviously the complication now is with our roster at 40, each addition is going to require a corresponding reduction on the roster. It makes some of the future moves a little trickier."
The challenge, as Klentak met with his deputies and scouts over the previous two months, was to protect the right players. Pure talent is not always the arbiter; a team that selects a player in the Rule 5 draft must keep that player on their 25-man roster for the entire 2017 season.
The most notable players who were left unprotected: Andrew Pullin, a hot bat without a true position in the field; Carlos Tocci, a rail-thin defensive maven in the outfield; Seranthony Dominguez, a promising righthander with such little pro experience; Malquin Canelo, a glove-first shortstop; Miguel Nunez, a hard-throwing reliever with a high walk rate; and Hoby Milner, a lefthanded reliever who thrived with a new side-armed delivery.
Klentak said he expects to lose at least one player in the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 8.
Players become eligible for the Rule 5 draft based on years spent in the minors and age. This year, in most cases, eligible players include high school picks and international free agents signed in 2012 and college picks signed in 2013.