Reporter/mensch Dan Hayes broke the tiny rumor this weekend that the Sox are shopping Eric Surkamp as a means to clear space on the 40-man roster. The Sox originally acquired Surkamp off waivers, then lowered his stock--not that they should have done anything else--by using him as a LOOGY rather than a spot starter, and even in that role he was cannon fodder for four-fifths of the season. He probably is going to have to wind up leaving the way he came.
But that was just Hayes' intro to a larger issue. The Sox have what he views as a sure two needed additions to the 40-man, but only one slot opening up when Nate Jones moves to the 60-day disabled list. Geovany Soto winning the backup catcher job and being added is somewhat inevitable barring injury, and despite my grumpiness, Micah Johnson's ascent is being discussed in the same tones. Fair enough on that, I guess.
Hayes posits that Matt Albers' impressive Spring could earn him a spot in the bullpen, and that Brad Penny could be a fit for a spare start if Chris Sale's injury lingers. Now we have more reason to not want that to happen; pretty amazing that's possible. An easy way to avoid the Albers drama is to simply not take him north and stick with Maikel Cleto and Javy Guerra, but we watched those two last year and the scenario where they're not heaping glory upon themselves is not...inconceivable. Cleto's stuff remains electric but erratic, Guerra continues to retain a solid ERA while doing nothing particularly well.
For the sake of exercise, let's say the Sox do need to clear three more spots. Who can be kicked off the 40-man for space?
Well, for one, Surkamp is a good suggestion. He doesn't have a high ceiling as a reliever with his stuff. Even if he's better than his 2014, he's blocked by Zach Duke and Dan Jennings, and is probably less interesting than Onelki Garcia. There's also that Carlos Rodon person.
Andy Wilkins - Speaking of blocked and not very good; Wilkins couldn't do anything at all during his callup last year and is now 26 years-old. Conor Gillaspie probably slots ahead of Wilkins at this point, and I'm not just saying that because it's Gillaspie. Pretty sure you can pull the trigger here and feel fine. The minor league deal for raw power corner infielder Neftali Soto (who has an eerily similar MLB line to Wilkins) is also probably a death knell.
Leury Garcia - The glut of middle infield prospects is not as impressive as it used to be, but Leury finding himself possibly as low as fifth in line for any second base time. Perhaps he's higher in the rankings at short, but Alexei Ramirez is unbreakable. It's been awhile since someone made a decision about Leury that was actually in his best long-term interest and not just an attempt to squeeze utility value from him, but he's made a really good case in his small opportunity that his bat is so bad it can't be saved. I'd rather DFA the older, plodding Quad-A masher than the athletic guy who can field multiple positions who has been swinging over his head for years, but neither one is likely to provide value elsewhere.
Kevan Smith - I never want to undervalue catcher depth, and his numbers are great, but Smith is turning 27 at the end of June and has made all his hay crushing younger competition. He's earned a crack at Triple-A, but will be dealing with Rob Brantly, Adrian Nieto and maybe George Kottaras too. This is mostly Kevan slander on my part, and there's no chance the Sox will do this.
Raul Fernandez - A fairly anonymous 24-year-old right-hander who can throw mid-90's but otherwise hasn't distinguished himself in his relatively short time in the organization since coming over from the Rockies last year. There's raw potential here, but he'll turn 25 in June, hasn't touched Double-A yet, has no control yet and isn't even in the stratosphere of any real MLB bullpen discussion. I'm sure they have their reasons for being interested in him but this is the type of player who loses his grip on a spot once its challenged.
Surkamp, Wilkins and Fernandez. That provides enough room to make all the unnecessary additions to the 40-man the Sox could desire, even if they shouldn't. Oh, and they totally can't get anything for these guys in a trade.
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