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Central Processing: 40-Man Rosters and How They Were Acquired

Never in my life have I paid attention to the 40-man roster of any team like I have this year.  Writing on a daily basis about a MLB team will do that to you I guess.  Ever vigilant in my quest to put the Royals in perspective relative to their AL Central rivals, I have made it a point to become as familiar with the 40-man rosters of the White Sox, Indians, Tigers, and Twins as my wife and kids would allow.  What follows is one of the results of my efforts.

This topic truly deserves more discussion than I have provided here, but things are in quite a bit of flux considering where we are in the offseason timeline.  I might revisit this as the teams head off to Florida and Arizona in a few months, or perhaps right before the 2010 regular season kicks off.  For now, however, enjoy 1,800+ words born out of my love of the game and hours of research.

I broke player acquisitions into 8 categories.  Trade, Draft, Waivers, and Rule 5 are all self explanatory.  Minor FAs represent free agents who were signed to minor league contracts.  International FAs represent free agents who joined a ML organization, for the 1st time, from a foreign country.  Free Agents represent just what the term suggestions with the notable exception that the minor league and international players were broken out into their own categories.  The 8th category is Non-Drafted Free Agents, but as you will see, it appears under only one team.

Chicago White Sox (39):
Trade:  15 (38.5%)
Draft:  8 (20.5%)
Minor FA:  5 (12.8%)
Free Agents:  4 (10.2%)
International FA:  3 (7.7%)
Waivers:  3 (7.7%)
Rule 5:  1 (2.6%)

The White Sox and GM Ken Williams rely on adding talent outside of the draft and trades more than any AL Central organization.  Only 59% of their current 40-man roster comes from those 2 sources.  The Royals are the next closest team at 62.5%, but their percentage is that low for very different reasons.  Unlike the Royals, Williams and the White Sox have had a good deal of success doing things their way.  Being able to claim players like Alex Rios off of waivers and pulling the trigger for a player like Jake Peavy will go a long way toward potential 2010 success, but this team is far more than that.  They use all the acquisition tools at their disposal, and they use them well.  They picked up Jenks off the scrap heap via waivers when no one wanted to touch him.  They acquired players who blossomed under their watch via trade like; Konerko, Quentin, Danks, Thornton, and Floyd.  They have been willing to spend money on Cuban free agents, Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo.  They have had success in the draft from Buehrle back in 1998 to Gordon Beckham in 2008.  GM Ken Williams, like his manager Ozzie Guillen, tends to be a polarizing figure.  People either think he’s great or they think he sucks.  He may not always make the smartest or most popular moves, but he’s willing to take on a great deal of risk in the pursuit of great rewards.  If nothing else, you have to admire his approach and ownership’s willingness to let him do things his way.

Cleveland Indians (40):
Trade:  20 (50.0%)
Draft:  12 (30.0%)
International FA:  7 (17.5%)
Free Agents:  1 (2.5%)
Minor FA:  0
Waiver:  0
Rule 5:  0

It should come as no surprise that the team with the highest percentage of players acquired via trade is the Cleveland Indians.  In the last 2 years alone, the Tribe have added 11 players to their 40-man via trade.  They have coupled their trade acquisitions with their drafts and international free agency.  Only 1 player, Kerry Wood, on the roster is a ML free agent signing.  The surprising aspect of the Indians is that no one on their 40-man roster was a minor league free agent, waiver claim, rule 5 pick, or a non-drafted free agent.  In terms of talent acquisition, they rely on, or have had success with, fewer methods than the rest of the AL Central teams.  As it stands now, the Indians are in trouble.  They have moved the 2007 and 2008 AL Cy Young Award Winners the last 2 seasons and right now it doesn’t look like they got a lot of high level talent in return.  In fact their best trade return might end up being Jess Todd and Chris Perez who they acquired in return for the perpetually overvalued Mark DeRosa.    The trades of Sabathia and Lee offer a very strong counterpoint when people start throwing out that a team should trade away player X (Soria) or player Y (Greinke) because they could get a bunch players in return.  Again the Indians added 11 players by trading off pieces, and of that group only C-Carlos Santana strikes me as having the potential to be truly special or elite.  Matt LaPorta and some of the pitchers will contribute out of the bullpen down the road, but none of them will be on par with the talent level of Sabathia and Lee.  A small market team needs to have better success utilizing all of the talent acquisition tools at their disposal.  Based on the state of their 40-man roster and likely 2010 doormat status, adding a player via next month’s Rule 5 draft makes a lot of sense.  Thanks to the Indians, I am fairly confident that the Royals will not finish in the 2010 AL Central cellar, but one should never underestimate Trey Hillman or Dayton’s Process.

Detroit Tigers (40):
Draft:  22 (55.0%)
Trade:  9 (22.5%)
International FA:  4 (10.0%)
Free Agents:  3 (7.5%)
Minor FA:  2 (5.0%)
Waivers:  0
Rule 5:  0

The Tigers proved to be the most surprising team as I was putting this article together.  If you asked me which team had the highest percentage of players on their 40-man roster as a result of the draft, I would have picked Detroit ahead of only the Royals.  In reality, Detroit leads the division with a whopping 55% of their 40-man coming from the draft.  Equally surprising, the team only has 3 ML free agents on the current roster.  Considering the Tigers are AL Central’s top payroll team by almost $20 million, my assumption was that a lot of that money was going to ML free agents, but that turned out to not be the case.  Magglio Ordonez is making a ton of money, but the other two (Seay and Santiago) are not.  The Tigers’ payroll is in large part a byproduct of their drafting.  For years they have been one of the teams willing to snap up players who have slipped in the draft because of signability issues and bonus demands.  It has paid dividends in terms of results at the ML level.  It also certainly doesn’t hurt that the team hit on it’s pick at the top of the draft when they took Justin Verlander 2nd overall in the 2004 draft.

Kansas City Royals (40):
Draft:  13 (32.5%)
Trade:  12 (30.0%)
Free Agents:  7 (17.5%)
Minor FA:  3 (7.5%)
International FA:  2 (5.0%)
Waivers:  2 (5.0%)
Rule 5:  1 (2.5%)

Want proof of how far down the organization was when Dayton Moore took over?  Consider that the Royals, despite their small market status, have 7 free agent signings on their 40-man roster.  What our current GM took over was so decimated in terms of talent, that he has been forced to commit 17.5% of the teams roster to ML free agents.  Outside of Gil Meche, these 7 have collectively failed.  Despite inheriting a weak farm system this team probably would have been about as competitive the last several years whether or not they spent any money in ML free agency (on players not named Gil Meche).  7 ML free agents, 3 minor league free agents, 2 waiver claims, and 1 rule 5 pick illustrate the fact that Dayton has had to cobble together 32.5% of this team on the fly.  We can all debate whether or not he is the right guy to lead the team out of the darkness, but he has been trying to climb a terrible steep hill.  If you read my work on a regular basis, you already know that I’m not a GMDM fan, but he really does deserve more time.  If the above breakdown and related percentages don’t significantly shift away from ML free agents in the coming years, then ownership will be forced to find a replacement for Moore.  To end on a somewhat positive note, only two Rule 5 players are on 40-man rosters; the Royals Joakim Soria and the White Sox reliever Santo Luis.

Minnesota Twins (40):
Draft:  20 (50.0%)
Trade:  12 (30.0%)
International FA:  4 (10.0%)
Non-Drafted FA:  2 (5.0%)
Minor FA:  1 (2.5%)
Waivers:  1 (2.5%)
Rule 5:  0
Free Agents:  0

The Twins, like the Indians, have filled out 80% of their roster through a combination of the draft and trades.  Unlike Cleveland however the last 20% of the roster has been filled out via 4 other avenues instead of just 2.  Minnesota is notable for the fact that they currently do not have a player on their 40-man that was your basic run of the mill ML free agent signing.  That will surely change by the time pitchers and catchers report to Fort Myers, but for now they are the only team that can make this claim.  The 4 international FA signings on the 40-man provide an example of just how active the Twins are in trying to identify and sign players from non-traditional sources.  Luke Hughes is the only Aussie on the 40-man, but he is just one of many promising players that have been signed from Australia.  Loek Van Mil, who was signed out of the Netherlands, is another example of their diligence.  The other two 40-man international FAs, Wilson Ramos and Jose Mijares, were signed out of Venezuela.  2009 saw the Twins add two huge international prospects.  Miguel Sano was signed from the traditional hotbed of the Dominican Republic.  The 2nd huge prospect, Max Kepler-Rozycki was signed out Germany which is about as far from a traditional talent source as you can get.  The Twins truly look for talent everywhere, including Russia, and have had a good deal of success by doing so.  Further evidence in their scouting and player development acumen rests in the fact that they are the only team to have a non-drafted free agent on their 40-man.  They have not just one, but two of those guys and one of them, Rob Delaney has a good chance of reaching the majors in the very near future.  Everyone takes flyers on guys that pass through the entirety of the June draft, but only the Twins identified and signed two players with enough talent and ability to be added to the 40-man roster.

The Minnesota Twins are the model franchise that the Royals should be modeling themselves after.  Unfortunately for us, Dayton’s “process” seems to be filled more with the Braves way than the Twins way.  The draft and trades are the two main staples, but the percentage gaps between teams in all of the categories show just how varied and challenging building a ML team can be.  There are many paths to building a successful franchise.  Despite the existence of multiple paths, the Royals have failed to find a genuine measure of success in the last 15 years, 2003 not withstanding.  Here’s hoping that one day we can look back and identify the moment where the team finally settled on a specific plan, stayed the course, and finally emerged from the ashes to find playoff success once again.

(Wally Fish is Kings of Kauffman’s lead blogger.  Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)

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