Heading into the off-season, Boston's 40-man roster is already looking a little packed. Between players coming off of the 60-day disabled list, the multiple minor-league players who are eligible to be added, and the roster already in place, there just isn't a ton of room up front to work with as the team plans to bring in new players. There are plenty of ways to clear room, but finding out just who is expendable -- and who is not -- is part of the early off-season's plan.
Scott Podsednik, David Ortiz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, James Loney, Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla, and Cody Ross are all free agents on the 40-man roster. It's likely (or at least possible) that both Ortiz and Ross will be retained, giving the Sox five open spots. The thing is, even after that, there are already 39 players on the 40-man. All of those players don't have to be retained, though: just five players -- John Lackey, Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Jose Iglesias -- are under contract.
That means the other 32 have the option of being non-tendered, or removed from the 40, to be put out there in the hopes they clear waivers. Not everyone is a likely candidate for this, but some are (or, could be traded).
- Alfredo Aceves appears to be something of a clubhouse issue, one Terry Francona kept under wraps, but could not be contained by Bobby Valentine. After logging 25 saves, and in the second year of arbitration, he might be due a raise. Aceves could be traded if someone is willing to take that on, but he could also be non-tendered, should the Sox find his value to be lower than they hope.
- Mike Aviles is fighting with Jose Iglesias to be the team's shortstop. While at the start of 2012, losing the shortstop gig would have meant being the team's utility player, the Sox now have someone else they can use in that role in Ivan De Jesus. De Jesus will be cheaper, is younger, and Aviles -- as a shortstop -- could be dealt elsewhere. For what, exactly, is up in the air, but Aviles is likely to be moved rather than non-tendered.
- Ryan Sweeney is in the last year of arbitration, should he be tendered a contract. He played just 63 games, dealt with multiple injuries (again), and failed to muster much in the way of offense. He's a non-tender candidate, or someone who could be packaged in another trade as an inexpensive bench outfielder to a team in need of one. With both Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava around, Sweeney is less of a priority than last year.
Those are the obvious ones, the players who will make over a million dollars. There are far less expensive players who are superfluous on the roster, though:
- Pedro Ciriaco hit .293/.315/.390 for the year, buoyed to a degree by a strong first week in the majors in which he posted an OPS over 1000. Despite a .324 batting average on balls in play, Ciriaco put together just a .273/.294/.368 line after that initial outburst. Defensively, he's strong, but he's not alone in that. Ivan De Jesus is out of options, and has a stronger background in the minors than Ciriaco, who will be 27, and is a very known quantity at this point. Ciriaco might not even be claimed by another team, but if so, Boston has the pieces to replace him.
- Mauro Gomez hit .275/.324/.422 after winning the International League MVP thanks to his performance at Pawtucket. There are those who think he can hit, but there have been an awful lot of players like Gomez who destroy Triple-A and then don't hit very much in the majors. He's not a necessary component, even if he's nice to have around, especially with Jerry Sands around to backup first if need be. (Unless Sands is the new first baseman.)
- Danny Valencia is on the 40-man roster, and didn't hit in the majors once again. He also didn't hit much in the minors -- he's good to have around if you have the room for him, but should the Red Sox be in need of another 40-man spot, then he's expendable.
- Pedro Beato was acquired for Kelly Shoppach, and could be a useful relief piece. Like Valencia, though, if it comes down to him or a better player, he might be someone who gets non-tendered in order to move him off of the 40. He might be less likely than most, given Boston knew he would need to be on the 40 when they acquired him, but it's possible.
That's seven players, more than enough to shift around in order to make room for those who need to be added, or will come in through free agency. As for the former, the players we know about, a few dozen Sox players are Rule 5 eligible if not added to the 40-man by November 20. Only a few will need to be -- most of the players eligible for the Rule 5 are never taken in it.
- Dan Butler is the next-in-line catcher in the Sox organization, unless they sign depth elsewhere. He projects to be a backup, but with Ryan Lavarnway slated for the majors, a backup who can call a game and catch-and-throw without problems isn't the worst use of a 40-man spot. Then again, Butler might not be plucked from the system, so there's no rush to place him there.
- Josh Fields was acquired in the Erik Bedard trade from 2011, and looks now like he might have been the better piece of the two. The former first-round pick finally cut into his walk rates, and pitched very effectively for both the Sea Dogs and PawSox. He could be a part of the 2013 Red Sox bullpen by year's end, if not sooner, but that won't happen if he's not placed on the 40. Someone like Fields would absolutely be stashed in a bullpen through the Rule 5.
- Jeremy Hazelbaker wouldn't have intrigued other clubs months ago, but a power outburst that moved him from Double-A to Triple-A might have piqued someone else's interest. The Sox can likely get away with leaving him off of the 40-man, because even if they lose him to the draft, he would need to be kept on the big-league roster all year to remain with the new club. That's harder to do with position players than, say, a reliever.
- Michael Olmsted was eligible for the Rule 5 last year, and is a minor-league free agent. Should he be added to the 40, he won't be eligible for the Rule 5, but if he's simply re-signed, then he's a possibility to be picked. His numbers as a reliever in the minors -- and his big-time velocity -- are basically the definition of a quality Rule 5 pick.
- Christian Vazquez just now made Double-A, and while he performed very well for two months at High-A, he's not a big-time prospect. There are those who like him plenty, though -- Baseball America rated him as one of the Carolina League's top prospects -- so Boston might need to put him on the 40, in case a team wants to stash Vazquez as a third catcher for much of the year. Like with Hazelbaker, though, stashing a position player who isn't close to the majors is tougher than a pitcher.
- Allen Webster is one of Boston's best prospects, their top pitching prospect after Matt Barnes, and will be added to the 40-man.
- Alex Wilson moved to relief at the beginning of 2012, and of all the relief options sitting in the minors, is the one most likely to be added to the 40-man roster. He was invited to spring training before this year, and will likely be there again in this upcoming season, possibly with an Opening Day gig awaiting him should he pitch well.
That's two definites to be added, with maybe another one or two. That means not everyone suggested needs to be released or dealt, but there are plenty of options should the need arise.