Most of the White Sox’ 40-man decisions were already made

A few fringe players remain on the bubble, but the real roster agony might wait until arbitration

The next deadline for Major League Baseball’s offseason arrives Tuesday, when teams must decide which players to add to the 40-man roster, and which players they can afford to expose to the Rule 5 draft.

The White Sox shouldn’t have much of a problem navigating this particular hurdle. The calls were much tougher last year, when the Sox felt compelled to reach into A-ball to protect guys like Micker Adolfo and Luis Basabe. The Sox may find themselves racing the lock in two years when the options run out, but at least both players improved their stock over the course of their first option year.

This time around, the White Sox’ 40-man roster is at 35, because they did most of the heavy lifting in August and September. Looking back at the shape of the 40-man bubble in mid-August, the majority of the cases are settled. They added Michael Kopech, Caleb Frare, Ryan Burr and Jose Ruiz to the roster, which takes care of most of it. From there:

*Seby Zavala can come up to take the third catcher spot formerly occupied by Kevan Smith to make 36.

*Dylan Cease is the other no-brainer for 37.

*Kodi Medeiros probably climbs aboard for 38 as the key return from the White Sox’ in-season dealings.

After that, the White Sox could face a musical chairs situation with two spots left for three players — Jordan Stephens, Spencer Adams and Danny Mendick, and I’d prioritize them in that order. All three are nice to have in the high minors, but none seem especially poised to usurp any of the guys ahead of them for consideration. Stephens is the one who gives me pause, since we haven’t seen the Sox explore his relief ceiling, and he has arm strength Adams lacks. When assessing them only as starting pitchers, well, Manny Banuelos jumped that line.

The fact that the Sox could max out their roster ties into the Sox’ reported shopping of Avisail Garcia before the non-tender deadline. It’s not like the White Sox would cut Garcia specifically to make room for the Mendicks of the organization, because guys like Ian Clarkin and Charlie Tilson are there to absorb those blows. However, the Sox would probably like a 40-man spot to play with while protecting everybody of note and getting somebody mildly intriguing in return.

That’s probably a pipe dream, and not just because of Garcia’s flaws. A lot of teams could find themselves in a similar position.

And when you look at MLB Trade Rumors’ list of non-tender candidates, he’ll have a lot of company in the you-could-do-worse department. Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, Jonathan Schoop and Devon Travis are up there, and Joe Panik and Kevin Pillar aren’t safe, either.

Another thing complicating Garcia’s case is that he and the White Sox went to arbitration last year — with Garcia winning — and Ken Rosenthal says more hearings could be on the way:

In 2014, only seven teams were known to employ the “file-and-trial” approach to salary arbitration, in which clubs treat the figure exchange date as a hard deadline, going straight to a hearing if no deal is reached.

The number of teams employing the strategy has steadily increased in the years since, and sources say the union anticipates that all 30 clubs will use it this offseason, potentially leading to an increased number of hearings.

The clubs believe the “file-and-trial” system encourages settlements, often at more favorable terms than they might have negotiated otherwise. But 22 cases went to hearings last year, the most in at least 25 years, a source said.

The White Sox are among the teams previously reported as file-and-trial early adopters, and the agents for Garcia and Yolmer Sanchez seemed to fight fire with fire last year, at least the way Rick Hahn told it. Hahn says the agents negotiated before their deadline with a number the Sox balked at, then apparently came in at a lower number for the hearing. Both players came out on top, although maybe after a bit of emotional bruising.

At any rate, as the 40-man deadline comes and goes, it shouldn’t result in that great of agony. The more personal personnel decisions will come at the end of the month at the contract tendering deadline, and if these antagonistic reads of Rosenthal and Passan are correct, I imagine those won’t be fully resolved until February.

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

Articles: 3916
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

There is a lot of excess on the 40-man, if improvements are signed it’s pretty easy to see who gets jettisoned on the position player side.  The pitching side is a lot more muddy, a lot of bullpen arms that need more innings.  Other than Clarkin, I don’t see an easy DFA that might not get claimed. 

lil jimmy

Rule 5, time to rob the Padres system. Sorry San Diego, hording is not allowed.
Edward Olivares
Wiry and athletic, Olivares stands out as much for his remaining physical projection as he does for his present athleticism and tools. He combines bat speed with a short right-handed swing to produce lots of hard contact.
Can play all three outfield positions. turns 23 in March.


Are the Padres reported to be shopping any prospects? Teams with an abundance of prospects will sometimes deal before the draft.

Yolmer's gatorade

Kevin Pillar is an interesting name to fill in as an actual major league centerfielder. Both if they strike big on a couple big name free agents or fill out the 2019 roster with one year guys. Pillar doesn’t get on base as much as one would like, but he can obviously be an every day centerfielder on a contending team. His little bit of pop and defense seem to make up for not walking as much as one would like.

Josh Nelson

I think the White Sox should let Jordan Stephens, Spencer Adams, and Danny Mendick be exposed to Rule 5 draft. I’d be surprised if any team picked them.

Eagle Bones

Why not just add them now and DFA them if/when they need the space? Or is it considered easier to try to sneak them through now?

Josh Nelson

As Jim mentioned in the post above, I think having a couple of spots open to add more intriguing players would be a good direction.

Also, I don’t think Jordan Stephens and Spencer Adams are good. If a team selects them in the Rule 5 Draft, oh well. I don’t think that will happen.


To me hands down Tilson and Delmonico can go before I would expose them. The sox prioritized 4Aish type arms last deadline and kind of put themselves in this spot. Navigating it will be important, they arent nearly far enough along in the rebuild to watch talent walk out the door. Now maybe all these guys end up sucking but…. it would be nice to not take any chances.


I would add I would let adams go before stephens. Stephens could gain a few ticks on the fb if he moved to the pen and the curveball already plays

Josh Nelson

A couple of things…

1) I’m not advocating for them to be DFA’d. Just not adding them to the 40-man roster because I don’t think another team will pick them.

2) If Stephens curveball already plays, we would have seen him in September.


point 1 gotcha, point 2… why cause they called up Kopach when he was ready, or jiminez when he was ready???? They may actually think it does play and didnt want to give other teams a showcase knowing they would be in this roster crunch for the 40 man

Josh Nelson

Based on the other bizarre 40-man decisions Rick Hahn made in 2018, I doubt that was a concern.

I would give you an innings limit because Stephens was approaching 150.

Trooper Galactus

Maybe if Eloy had a curveball that played we’d have seen him in September.

Eagle Bones

Maybe I misread what he was saying, but can’t you just DFA someone you’ve already moved onto the roster if/when you have a need to? I don’t see the logic in leaving someone exposed when you don’t yet have a need for that 40 man spot.

Eagle Bones

Ok, this is what I was getting at with my initial question. Thanks for clarifying Jim!


I dont like that idea. They have plenty of useless position players I would much rather watch go before exposing stephens and adams.

karkovice squad

From today’s FanGraphs chat.

ChiSox2020: If White Sox don’t get Machado or Harper, should they pursue Grandal? How much should the loss of a 2nd round pick factor into any FA signings?
Dan Szymborski: Honestly, I think the White Sox should be in a go big or go home mindset. Unless they get players who are build-arounds that will be around for the rest of the rebuilding process, I think they should mostly chase deals. Those mid-market FAs are better fits for the actually competitive teams.


Completely agree with this. I was surprised at the decent amount of offseason plans that consisted of signing middling, aging free agents for 2-3 years. If that’s the plan, save the money. They should be signing at least 2 top tier free agents (or 2 trades) over the next 2-3 years. It’s difficult to see how the rebuild succeeds without it. 

Of course, it doesn’t necessitate signing Machado or Harper. But the Andrew McCuthens of the world won’t get it done.