With the Rule 5 draft (the one where certain players can be stolen from a team if you promise, swear, pinky swear to keep the player on your 25-man roster all season) coming, teams faced a deadline earlier today: players eligible for the draft (it's based on the number of years you've been in baseball, and the number differs depending on how old you were when you signed/were drafted) had to be added to the 40-man roster or risk being nabbed by a jealous crap team that could afford to punt the roster spot all year.
Now, the Rule 5 generates a lot more light than heat. The success stories are legendary: Josh Hamilton, Joakim Soria, Johan Santana. But most years go by without even a future contributor sticking with a new team via the Rule 5, much less a future star. Teams take shots on players and bring them to training camp just in case something weird happens -- they hit a spate of injuries or they catch lightning in a bottle or who even knows what else.
That said, you don't want to take unnecessary risks with players who might have the talent to succeed at the big-league level, so you're generally going to put players on the 40-man if they've got any sort of prospect status at all, or if they're close to the majors and thus might plausibly be a reserve player for a bad team right now. (There might also be value in having a player come to your training camp rather than risk having him spend the entire spring working with another team's coaches and training staff. If they give him back at the end of the spring, but you haven't had a chance to evaluate him up close, you might be at a small information disadvantage compared to where you would have been had you held on to that player in the first place. I'm making this up, but it seems plausible, right? It could be a consideration.)
So, the A's 40-man moves today:
Michael Ynoa, the former phenom signed to the biggest contract for a Dominican player ever who has spent the years struggling with injuries. He's thrown fewer than 40 American professional innings despite having finished his age-20 season, and he has no idea where the baseball is going when he throws it, but, like I said, he was once worth the largest Dominican free agent contract ever, so it's easy to imagine a team like Houston or Miami taking a shot at throwing him in the bullpen just on the off chance he can learn a little and maybe go to Double-A in 2014 and get back on the normal path. There's a good chance that Ynoa never makes it, but, given the cost of adding him to the 40-man (see below), the A's might as well.
Grant Green, the first-round pick and multiposition masher (I'm being generous -- we could also call him a guy without a home) who has a shot at actually making the A's next year and who would get snatched up like a honeycomb at a bear convention were he left unprotected.
Shane Peterson, the outfielder who came over in the Matt Holliday trade with St. Louis and who absolutely crushed Midland and Sacramento to the tune of .326/.460/.510 last year. He's only 25 and he's always posted solid averages and a nice walk rate. Tapping into his power in 2012 means that even if he hasn't been considered anything like a top prospect since 2009, he's a candidate for a reserve outfield spot. Or would be if he were on a team that didn't already have five starting-quality outfielders.
Arnold Leon, the Mexican relief pitcher who missed almost all of 2010 and '11 after Tommy John surgery but threw 66 2/3 frames in 2012 with boss-ass strikeout rates (10 K/9 across three levels). The A's, like any team, cycle through a ton of relievers in any given year (18 pitchers made at least one relief appearance for Oakland in 2012), so expect to see Leon in the bigs next year for at least a little while.
Andrew Carignan, the young reliever who had Tommy John surgery mid-year in 2012, was outrighted off the 40-man. As I understand it, a player with less than five years of service time and who has never before been outrighted can be unilaterally sent off the 40-man roster without exposing him to waivers. Now that it's been done, though, if Carignan is ever added back to a 40-man roster (in Oakland or anywhere else), he'll have to be designated for assignment to remove him just like anyone else would. Anyway, Carignan will recover from his surgery while staying in the A's organization but not taking up a roster spot.
Jim Miller, the journeyman reliever who actually pitched pretty well for the A's, was designated for assignment. I'm pretty surprised that Oakland whacked Miller instead of Jesse Chavez. Maybe, as Ken Arneson suggested on Twitter earlier, it's as simple as Chavez being theoretically a starter while Miller is purely a reliever.
Brandon Hicks, the infielder the A's acquired from Atlanta on waivers in March, was designated for assignment. The guy was a third-round pick once upon a time and has good size for an infielder, but he's got fewer than 100 plate appearances in the majors through his age-26 season. Hicks's minor-league problem at the plate, based simply on a quick look at the stats, is that he whiffs a lot. He'll take walks and has flashed pop a few times, but take a career .241 minor-league batting average and translate it to pitchers who can consistently execute a variety of pitches to precise locations and you've got a recipe for no kind of hitter at all. He's no loss.
Per Jason Martinez, then, the A's 40-man roster is full. We will not see them making Rule 5 selections, which is fine. I mean, Mike Neu is probably a great pitching coach for Cal, but he was not exactly an impact player for the 2003 A's, even if he did help net Mark Redman (REDMAN) for the 2004 team.