Most teams around major league baseball have their 40-man rosters pretty much set. This is likely a critical factor that led to Chia-Jen Lo being sent through waivers and being outrighted to AAA Oklahoma City. Perhaps him clearing waivers is a little surprising given his track record, but the move raises many speculations about filling the open 40th position.
One question that everyone is asking is: when will George Springer arrive? There is a controversy clouding his service clock and his eventual major league call-up. There’s controversy about his rumored contract extension then being sent back to AAA the next day. Unless Springer forces the Astros hand early in the season, I would rather wait until June for the promotion. Super-Two or not, the arbitration panel will ultimately decide Springer’s salary. One would assume that the panel will side with George in the long run.
Could the move hint that a PTBNL from a previous trade is going to be added to the 40-man roster? Is it the young outfielder, Michael Taylor, from the Athletics organization that everyone seems to like? Or could it be the final piece of the Fowler, Barnes, and Lyles trade? I doubt that a PTBNL is going to be added to the 40-man roster. In what I have observed thus far, a PTBNL is a low-to-mid level prospect who has raw tools and a high risk.
Currently there are 23 pitchers on the Astros 40-man. Ideally the organization will fill the open spot with another pitcher. Jason Stoffel had a solid 2013 campaign with Oklahoma City with a 3.47 ERA, so he looks to be in line for a promotion soon. Or could the Astros be adding Jonas Dufek? With impressive outings in the Arizona Fall League combined with a strong finish to his 2013 season, could he be purchased from the AA Corpus Christi club? Perhaps Dufek would be a little premature. He has three years under his belt in the minors. Teams would be able to select him in the Rule 5 draft this November but that is a very long time away to be seriously considering that in his equations.
Inaction is the best action
My favorite option is to delay a corresponding move. Yes, clearing Lo frees a roster spot. But is it going to do any immediate good to fill the void now? The Astros have a ton of depth in the minor leagues and the Rule 5 draft is far from needing to be taken into consideration. The promotion of Springer remains a hot topic. I’m one of the few that still believes he has something to prove in Oklahoma City. I think there are a lot of players who will benefit from more seasoning in the minors.
So, even though there’s an open spot, I would hope the Astros wait. Hold off on filling that spot until someone forces his way onto the roster — a player who exceeds expectations and graduates from being a top prospect to a young talent. With so many players capable of bridging the gap, the organization should hold off from that business decision until the time is right.