Mike Zunino and the 40 Man Roster

Dave · June 11, 2013 at 10:47 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

In the wake of Mike Zunino‘s promotion today, there was rationalization. You can always count on some kind of spin from certain corners, and this time, one of the primary talking points is that this was a short term move, and if Zunino’s only here for a few weeks, what’s the problem? Even a couple of dozen challenging big league games won’t hurt him, and if he’s truly not ready, he’ll just be sent back to Tacoma. No harm, no foul.

That explanation might seem to pass muster on the surface, but if we accept it as the truth, then the organization has an entirely different problem: an incorrect valuation of 40 man roster spots.

To get Zunino to the Majors, the Mariners had to purchase his contract, which is the official language teams use to add a player to the 40 man roster. His spot on both the 25 man and 40 man rosters was cleared by designating Brandon Bantz for assignment. Bantz is a non-prospect who won’t get claimed on waivers and will accept his assignment back to the minor leagues, so there’s no cost associated with DFA’ing Bantz. He’ll be back in Tacoma in no time.

There is, however, a cost for prematurely putting Zunino on the 40 man; The Mariners just haven’t paid it yet, but that time is coming soon. If the plan really is to put Jesus Sucre back on the roster when he gets healthy and option Zunino back to Tacoma, the Mariners will then be using a 40-man roster spot on a player not on the active roster. You can’t take Zunino back off the 40 man roster without putting him through waivers, which isn’t happening of course. So, he’s on for good.

Bantz would not have been on for good. When Sucre returned, Bantz could have been DFA’d just as he was today, and the team would have had a 40 man roster spot for one of the three players they currently have on the 60 day disabled list. One of those players, Josh Kinney, is already in Tacoma on a rehab assignment, so the M’s only have a little more than two weeks before they have to either find room for Kinney in Seattle or DFA him as well. The only way to get Kinney back on the active roster will be to reinstate him from the 60 day DL, at which point he’ll require a spot on the 40 man roster. A spot that Bantz could have given him, but that is now occupied by Zunino. So, instead, the Mariners will have to look elsewhere for a 40 man roster spot.

The Mariners have already lost both Francisco Martinez and Vinnie Catricala to other organizations due to this very issue, as Martinez was DFA’d so that the Mariners could call up Nick Franklin and Catricala was DFA’d so that the Mariners could add Jeremy Bonderman. Both players were acquired by other teams who were willing to give up enough cash to get them through trade rather than hope they were able to claim them on waivers, so while neither looks like any real prospect of note, other teams saw some value in both players. The Mariners dumped them both for essentially nothing.

Next on the chopping block is probably Eric Thames, at least if I’m guessing. Thames is 26-years-old and not that good, and the organization hasn’t promoted him at any other time they’ve needed an outfielder this year, strongly suggesting that he has no real future here. Like Catricala and Martinez, Thames doesn’t look like any kind of impact player, but baseball’s weird, and you never know when a guy might have a light turn on.

So, instead of Bantz getting the cut when Kinney comes back, now it’s maybe Thames. But, each time you cut someone, your list of expendables gets smaller and smaller. With Thames already gone, what does the team do when Stephen Pryor returns from the DL? Or Franklin Gutierrez, if that ever happens? Or if they decide they want to promote Brad Miller, who has continued to hit extremely well since being promoted to Tacoma. Who’s next after Thames? Lucas Luetge, maybe? Jeremy Bonderman could go when they decide to promote Erasmo Ramirez, so there’s one spot that could open up eventually should the team actually decide to correct the mistake that occurred in putting Bonderman on the 40 man in the first place. Then who? Bobby LaFromboise? Chance Ruffin?

None of these guys are individually all that likely to turn into a valuable piece, but the reality is that if you toss a half dozen fringe prospects overboard, you’re going to end up regretting it. The Mariners should have learned this lesson in the spring, when they ended up crowding Shawn Kelley and Mike Carp off the 40 man in order to accomodate the useless Veteran Leadership Brigade.

If the Mariners really are willing to just toss a 40-man player out of the organization so that Mike Zunino can get a week or two of experience in the big leagues, then they have an organizational weakness in understanding how valuable a 40-man spot can actually be. And that’s harmful. If the plan really is for this to be a short term cup of coffee while Jesus Sucre gets healthy, then the Mariners are punting organizational depth for no real gain.

This is one of the reasons why I don’t believe that is actually the plan. The organization might try to feed that line to reporters in order to turn the tide of negativity against a move — just like they reassured everyone that Raul Ibanez wasn’t actually being brought in to play much, just be a good guy on the end of the bench — but the facts don’t add up. Or, if they do add up, it says that the people in charge are willing to just waste roster spots for no reason.

The 40 man roster is a real constraint. You don’t just put a prospect on the 40 man just for the fun of it, because, hey, it can’t hurt, right? It can hurt. It causes problems. That’s why teams don’t do it. Other teams value their 40 man roster spots, and they use their open spots to take fliers on young players who other teams are discarding, looking to land the next Ben Zobrist or Nelson Cruz or Josh Donaldson.

If the whole plan is for Zunino to be in Seattle for a week or two, then the Mariners are putting themselves in the position of being a talent discarder for an outcome that offers no upside. They could have just grabbed Chris Snyder for nothing, as he was DFA’d last Tuesday and had the right to refuse the assignment and sign with any other team as a free agent, which he would have done if there was a Major League job for him.

Or, they could have grabbed John Baker from the Padres for nothing, after they DFA’d him yesterday. Part-time veteran catchers are not hard to find, and any of them could have held down a job share for a few weeks until Sucre was ready to be activated. At which time, you DFA the random replacement level catcher and give the 40 man spot to Josh Kinney. Or Franklin Gutierrez. Or Brad Miller. Or whoever.

That’s what big league organizations do when they need a short term stopgap and they don’t have a 40-man guy in-house who can fill the spot. They don’t call up their top prospects and add him to the 40 mant just so he can see what life in the big leagues is like and then head back to the minors a few weeks later. It’s just not a good way to manage your resources.

Punting the 40 man spot makes a lot more sense if they’re not planning on sending Zunino back. And not sending Zunino back makes a lot more sense if they’re hoping that the 2013 season can be salvaged and their jobs can be saved. That’s not the kind of thing you tell the media, though.


96 Responses to “Mike Zunino and the 40 Man Roster”

  1. sawsatch on June 12th, 2013 11:32 am

    I see the 5 DHs (including Montero) as a way to generate some offense so that fans might want to come out to see a game. Season Ticket sales were not spectacular. Being weak up the middle, and with the younger players not living up to expectations didn’t help the situation.
    There’s a fork in the road; the problem is neither of the paths are good.

  2. scraps on June 12th, 2013 11:43 am

    He knows our system. He knows our coaches. They know him.

    He does? Then god, get someone else.

  3. Athanasius on June 12th, 2013 11:45 am

    This is much more of a reasoned and thought out post than what was written yesterday.

    That said, I still believe there are rational and legitimate reasons for not jumping off a ledge and instead having a measured and level headed reaction. It was strongly proposed on this blog that the promotion of Pineda out of spring training two years ago would be a major problem due to lacking a changeup. It wasn’t a problem and Pineda had success of varying degrees in his entire first year in MLB.

    That in and of itself in no way legitimizes this move, but it does illustrate the limited information we have access to that informs the opinion of whether or not this promotion is called for or not.

    As far as the continual accusations that this front office is stupid, in past years they have demonstrated to me that they do recognize the value of aquiring under valued assets. While recent moves in regards to the 40 man roster are confusing, these moves in and of themselves do not completely cancel out the historical perspetive of the front office.

    Perhaps I’m wrong and the FO has turned on a dime and changed their philosophy in building a winner. I’m not going to view the more recent moves in isolation (I recall Dave mentioning the propensity to over react to recent history) and draw the conclusion that as a result of recent moves that they are all idiots.

  4. scraps on June 12th, 2013 12:04 pm

    No, just Wedge.

    Seriously, when Dave writes that Z is maybe coming to decisions when his job is at the front of his mind, it does not help that some people say “so, are you saying they’re idiots?” No one, but no one, is saying that Z is anything but sharp.

  5. currcoug on June 12th, 2013 12:15 pm

    If Thames is DFA’d, there is little doubt Zduriencik made another bad trade. Toronto received a MLB player…Delabar is having another fine season (4-1, 1.91 ERA)..against LHB and RHB.

    We received Thames, who apparently can’t crack the M’s lineup. Thames is putting up solid numbers at AAA, and one would think Zduriencik would be able to trade him for some value. Hopefully, that is what occurs.

  6. Athanasius on June 12th, 2013 12:56 pm

    No one is saying Z is anything other than sharp? Perhaps using the word “idiot” was overstating it, but you obviously haven’t read this blog since the end of the 2012 season. Look through some old posts. Or look through some recent posts for that matter.

  7. msfanmike on June 12th, 2013 1:22 pm

    Maybe Z doesn’t want to can Wedge until after he can say, “well, I gave him the best talent we have and he couldn’t win.”

    And Zunino is more talented than Bantz.

    Never mind the fact that Z put this horse-bleep roster together in the first place with what appears to be a big Wedge thumb print in the middle of it.

    Maybe Z just wants to have a clearer conscience before he fires the guy he never should have hired in the first place … and shortly before the axe starts heading in his direciton.

  8. murf on June 12th, 2013 1:38 pm

    Hey- How come Geoff Baker’s blog does not have a link here- right next to Larry Stone for the Seattle Times. Explains a lot about the opinions and assertions between this blog and Baker’s.

  9. G-Man on June 12th, 2013 1:48 pm

    A couple trades for promising minor leaguers not yet on a 40-man would be nice, but it’s only mid-June. The guy I would hate to lose but see as likely to go sometime would be Chavez. I can’t see them DFA-ing him the way he’s been performing, but maybe a contender would trade some sort of prospect for him.

  10. Will Lofton on June 12th, 2013 2:15 pm

    People keep saying that the catching situation happened unluckily, and it’s not Z’s fault that Montero sucks and Sucre is injured. That calling up Zunino was the only option this organization had.

    Well, the M’s wouldn’t have been in this situation if they hadn’t traded John Jaso (2+ win player with three years of control left) for Michael Morse (rental and constantly injured).

    This front office also decided to stack the roster with 1B/DH types, leaving just one legitimate catching option on the roster in Shoppach. Montero is not an acceptable catcher, I’ve been saying that on this blog for the past year but Dave and the rest of you guys were concerned that he wouldn’t be as valuable as a 1B/DH.

    What frustarates me the most about this team is they tried to sell the fans as a winning ballclub because of acquisitions like Michael Morse and Raul Ibañez. The front office is manipulating the knowledge of the fanbase by acquiring players like this. The common fan, like most of my family members and friends, thinks these were good acquisitions for the Mariners because they’re good bats, where in reality they’re not really good at all.

    Zduriencik and Wedge have an idea of how this team is going to perform when they put together a team each year. The fact that this team has made no progress is a tremendous dissapointment, and they don’t deserve to keep their jobs.

    I really hope Zunino proves us all wrong and becomes the next Buster Posey, but as a realist, unless this happens to be a short term callup, he’s going to end up just like Ackley, Montero and Smoak.

  11. ndevale on June 12th, 2013 2:33 pm

    has to do with an un-funny ad-hominem attack baker made on DMZ some time back…

  12. sawsatch on June 12th, 2013 2:37 pm

    J. Jaso is a great addition to an already good team. I’m happy for him to be in a place where he can be best used.

  13. zak24 on June 12th, 2013 2:38 pm

    All you vampires and zombies are one year early to be drawing these conclusions. It’s as simple as that. I just don’t get how we can all compliment Jack’s drafting savvy and collectively agree that he’s a sharp guy, then flip our shit after 5 years with a bunch of exciting players so close to the show! It’s always darkest before the dawn; those of you calling for Jack’s head too soon I say we’ve come this far and paid our ten bucks so why not let this thing play out fully instead of walking out of the cinema prematurely right before the big finale. I wouldn’t defend this roster in year 7, but the financial flexibility (only 1 long term contract commitment) with the TV deal on the horizon, and the dope filthy farm system at this moment in time are positive things attributable to Jack and his staff.

    Dave has national news outlets tracking his posts and hiring him to write articles, linking to him on twitter, he has to produce these cutting articles because they fuel Jon Heyman and Dave Schoenfield’s pieces about “Jack Z on the hot seat” and “The M’s wasting Felix.” But when they write about the cubs and Theo Epstein it’s all about the 7-10 year rebuilding plan. Ask other GMs what they think of Zduriencik and I bet they tell you he scares them.

  14. scraps on June 12th, 2013 2:45 pm

    Athanasius: I’ve read this blog steadily for nearly ten years, and four years especially since my stroke — jeez, google search ussmariner.com under “scraps” — and everybody agrees that Jack is sharp through that time; a sharp guy who made increasingly bad decisions, but show me the commenter who says “idiot” or a word resembling it to describe Jack, and I’ll show you a commenter who got laughed at. I’d invite you to look up some old posts and show me.

  15. ivan on June 12th, 2013 2:55 pm

    “If Thames is DFA’d, there is little doubt Zduriencik made another bad trade. Toronto received a MLB player…Delabar is having another fine season (4-1, 1.91 ERA)..against LHB and RHB.”

    Oh, stop it. Please. This organization has relief pitchers coming out of its ears. Delabar and Kelley were good pitchers, but excess baggage. The difference between them being here, and Farquhar and Medina being here, is negligible.

  16. diderot on June 12th, 2013 3:00 pm

    Here’s how the process works:
    1) Observe the moves of the GM
    2) Realize the GM is not making the moves you would make if you were GM
    3) Invent motives
    4) Ignite the hot seat
    5) Strongly imply that in a reasonable and fair world, YOU would be the GM–and a damn good one, at that
    6) Congratulations, you now ARE Geoff Baker.


  17. Athanasius on June 12th, 2013 3:24 pm

    Scraps, I have no doubt that you are a regular here. I mentioned that I probably shouldn’t have used the word “idiot” as I haven’t seen that specific word used here.

    What I have seen is a repeated questioning of Z’s recent moves with emotive and reactionary language. It’s all over the place in the last few weeks and months.

  18. Will Lofton on June 12th, 2013 3:25 pm

    With the way Jack Z constructed the roster, I don’t think he deserves any more time. He’s shown us that he’s not fit to be a GM.

    One commenter suggested that we get David Forst. I love that idea.

  19. Athanasius on June 12th, 2013 3:50 pm

    It is interesting to me how supported Z was with his plan here on the blog: the Figgins signing, the Guti trade, advocating for promoting Ackley weeks before he was actually promoted (to the point of stating that in 2011, while in AAA, Ackley was the second best hitter in the organization — oops) and the acquisition of Smoak. When those moves initially weren’t looking good, the retort was, “how could Z have known? They were moves anyone would have made at the time.”

    Now that we have some distance from said moves (and their failure), a FO “change in philosophy” argument has conveniently been concocted that absolves Dave from continued support of a FO that had his full support for several years.

    I do agree that the “change in philosophy” argument does have some reasoning behind it. For his mistakes, Z might (probably?) pay with his job. For others who don’t have their jobs at stake, arguments can be constructed that speculate on motives and intentions without nearly as dire of consequences.

    As long as we are free to speculate about motives, these weakly supported speculations and arguments re: FO philosophy also provide a conventient loophole from further support of a plan that in retrospect has not worked, regardless of whether this FO has changed philosophy or not.

  20. sawsatch on June 12th, 2013 4:22 pm

    But…. the power bats were brought in to attract paying customers. That was not part of the original philosophy.

  21. Athanasius on June 12th, 2013 4:34 pm

    That’s part of the point. The power bats aren’t the biggest problem, as it is being made out to be. The main problem is that the original philosphy didn’t work out as was originally hoped or predicted.

  22. sawsatch on June 12th, 2013 4:39 pm

    Exactly… and the power bats were to be the band-aid to hide the wound.

  23. zak24 on June 12th, 2013 4:39 pm

    Well said Athanasius.

    Dave has publicly stated the hope that he’ll be wrong when predicting failure for the Mariners.. but c’mon, does the military industrial complex profit during peacetime? He’s capitalizing on their failure with every deprecating radio interview and article.

    Better times are ahead for the M’s; much closer than the DJ’s, the bloggers, and the defeatist who-can-blame-them fans would have you believe.

  24. scraps on June 12th, 2013 4:40 pm

    Athanasius: Okay. I hear you. You are now saying “What I have seen is a repeated questioning of Z’s recent moves with emotive and reactionary language,” which is a description I mostly agree with (or at any rate, I wouldn’t disagree so much that I would post about it). I will say people can disagree, strongly even, without saying Jack is an idiot (or anything like). And that’s what I’ve been seeing here. Maybe emotive and reactionary language, but still (frustrated) respect. Toward Jack, I mean; toward Wedge, no. (Leaving me open to outrage from Wedge-defenders. It’s true, I have little respect for Wedge as a manager and a baseball-thinker.)

  25. Athanasius on June 12th, 2013 4:42 pm

    Assuming there even was an “original vs. new philosophy,” which we have no way of knowing.

    Scraps — I hear you and agree.

  26. mca on June 12th, 2013 4:44 pm

    The discussion since the Zunino promotion is the most contentious I’ve seen in USSM comments. I’ve only read, though, for 7 years, so perhaps the Bavasi debacle may have been worse.
    While I think those critical of Dave here have some legitimate claims, I will be cheering for Zunino to do well, and Dave’s rebukes of those who comment can sometimes be harsh, I really do not think it is fair to say that either of Dave’s last two articles have invented motives. It seems perfectly reasonable to say something that amounts to: the moves Z has made this year reek of incompetence or desperation. If one professionally analyzes baseball, it seems even more reasonable. If the posts seem to imply the latter, it seems reasonable given that Z had several years that seemed to suggest competence, making this year’s moves difficult to rationalize without at least the possibility of desperation.
    I think it’s fair to say that we need to look closely at the plan that Dave, and many others of us, thought was a good plan and evaluate whether the outcomes do or do not invalidate the philosophy behind it. However, for one to argue that this year’s transactions have not seemed to demonstrate a marked philosophical shift from moves earlier in Z’s tenure, it would require much explanation of how all of these moves fit.

  27. scraps on June 12th, 2013 4:45 pm

    zak24, your two posts recently about Dave and what motivates him are laughable. That’s all; they don’t deserve more.

  28. scraps on June 12th, 2013 4:47 pm

    And what mca said, if you’re looking for a respectful response.

  29. mca on June 12th, 2013 4:49 pm

    A quick look at the archive of the first several years of Z’s regime debunks the allegation that USSM just exists to capitalize, through relentless criticism, off of the Mariners’ failures.

  30. zak24 on June 12th, 2013 4:51 pm

    Oh please. Let’s do this scraps. You think Wedge is the problem? That guy is wearing it for this whole franchise right now. And his players respect him, to me the most important quality in a manager of any sports team. So maybe I’m throwing shit at the wall in regards to dave but i’m sick of his know it all articles last time he called for heads to roll they went on a hot streak and roared back to .500 it can happen again and then you’ll be reading about why baseball is ultimately unpredictable at the end of the day.

  31. sawsatch on June 12th, 2013 4:58 pm

    Wedge would love to put Trout and Posey in the line-up; but they’re not on his team.

  32. mca on June 12th, 2013 4:59 pm

    zak24, Dave does have a know-it-all vibe sometimes, but the fact that he knows far more than me about an analytic approach to evaluating baseball moves is why I read USSM. With the huge range of choices of what you can read, I’m curious why you choose to read.

  33. zak24 on June 12th, 2013 5:17 pm

    mca: same reason, i respect his sabermetric perspective, but i disagree with him about things that are harder to measure like chemistry and veteran leadership.. the human element behind baseball. i don’t think that they are the be all end all but i do think a sparkplug like brad miller with his goofy batting stance and high socks can come up and energize the whole franchise, the same way ackley’s lack of confidence and montero’s prancing can detract from the mentality of the guys around them. that stuff doesn’t support the kingdom of numbers which dave has created at fangraphs but i don’t think he needs to write them off completely the way he does as this game isn’t played on paper

  34. scraps on June 12th, 2013 5:21 pm

    The discussion since the Zunino promotion is the most contentious I’ve seen in USSM comments.

    It’s funny; it’s contentious, but to me it’s not that contentious. Except the one thread that had a bunch of Baker-Minions.

    Let’s see, more contentious discussions. Maybe trading Adam Jones? trading Michael Pineda? Brandon Morrow as reliever? Dingers vs Everything Else?

  35. zak24 on June 12th, 2013 5:23 pm

    whatever scraps you’re like ian kennedy you throw fastballs at peoples head then walk off the field and let your teammates fight your battles

  36. mca on June 12th, 2013 5:26 pm

    scraps-I wasn’t here for the Adam Jones discussion (does that mean my mention of 7 years is off. I read for the following season). I thought that there was definitely disagreement, but it seemed less hostile. Perhaps its just the open antipathy towards Dave that feels different.

  37. scraps on June 12th, 2013 5:28 pm

    zak24, that (and this) is all I’ve got for you. You’re not up to snuff. Practice on the Mariners board. I left you at “let’s do this scraps.”

  38. mca on June 12th, 2013 5:35 pm

    USSM is a website based on numbers-based analysis. While I agree that there is probably more human element to the game than can necessarily be quantified (although I despise Eric Wedge’s condescending attitudes about toughness), I think expecting Dave or others here to listen to any of our claims about veteran grit or leadership is a bit like someone asking a doctor of evolutionary biology to stop his lecture and let the person insert his ideas about creationism. There is a separate forum for that, and one should not be forced to cede time to it in his/her own forum. This may sound like group-think or a hive mind, but I see it more as respecting the discourse community you’ve entered.

  39. zak24 on June 12th, 2013 5:36 pm

    well maybe that’s your problem, a couple half baked points and you write off a person completely? i’m a little rough around the edges i admit that but if you had the balls to go toe to toe with me on a topic you might learn something

  40. scraps on June 12th, 2013 5:39 pm

    mca, most of the open antipathy toward Dave is from the Baker’s Minions. You can tell by the new userIDs.

  41. zak24 on June 12th, 2013 5:43 pm

    i can respect that mca, at least you don’t sound disrespectful. i am well aware of the numbers-based nature of USSM and i am not posting here hoping for god himself, dave cameron, to descend upon the board and respond to my post, i just like to engage people i disagree with. you want to talk about numbers? Try 1. That is how many players we have under contract long term. Try 5 or 6, that is how many years it should take before we start to see what jack means when he says “building through the draft”. Smoak, Montero, Ackley may have been misfires up to this point but there is a bubbling of talent beneath the surface that is being underrated and you have no idea what moves jack is working on behind the scenes .

  42. zak24 on June 12th, 2013 5:57 pm

    and scraps i’d rather be a prick than a swallower.

  43. Woodcutta on June 12th, 2013 6:59 pm

    If you are defending Wedge you obviously haven’t watched a single M’s game. To me, the most important quality in a manager is competence.

  44. Athanasius on June 12th, 2013 8:48 pm

    My observation is that Dave often strongly argues for a particular position and when doing so, becomes less and less nuanced in his writing in his attempts to get his point across. Example: Dave states what Z’s motive is in the Zunino call up unequivocally. He has no business making that judgement — “Well, here’s act one of the “I Don’t Want To Get Fired” playbook.”

    To me, that is making up a motive, not saying that there is evidence that points to a possible motive. Big difference.

    Contrast that with Jeff’s recent writing, which acknowledges the limited information he has to work with when making decisions, “The Utility of Shrugging.” Because of that limited knowledge, he (in an attempt to paraphrase) finds it irresponsible to come to hard and fast conclusions, but feels more comfortable making observations in an attempt to get as close as possible to a likely solution/conclusion.

    I happen to respect that brand of analysis a lot more. It’s more responsible, honest and nuanced.

    In my experience, if you go around telling other people what they are thinking and why they do what they do, you don’t get very far and you lose your own credibility very quickly.

  45. scraps on June 12th, 2013 9:12 pm

    Dave aside, that last sentence is wise, and should be put up over the desk of every commenter (internet and otherwise).

  46. diderot on June 12th, 2013 11:03 pm

    I don’t even think we have to put in the ‘Dave aside’–he has hurt his own credibility (well earned over the years) by ignoring this statement.

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