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Marlins roster squeeze: Path to 40

With prospects to protect and free agents to replace, Miami will continue to shuffle their 40-man roster during the coming weeks.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

All major league teams have to set their 40-man rosters by November 18 in order to protect the top eligible minor league players from the 2019 Rule 5 Draft. In recent years, the Rule 5 Draft has not been too much of an issue for the Marlins as their farm system has been bereft of talented prospects. Now, in the middle of a full-scale rebuild, multiple top prospects are at risk, and the organization may encounter a few headaches in sorting out the puzzle of how they can hold onto them.

The following is a short guide for how the Marlins can easily trim their roster down to the magic 40. This is not to say that Miami’s roster would be completely set after these moves—changes are expected after a 57-105 season and there may be plenty of new faces on the team next season, particularly in the bullpen.

This article is just about getting to 40 prior to the Winter Meetings. Expect plenty of additional activity as we get closer to Spring Training.

Reinstate Injured Players

After outfielder César Puello elected free agency earlier this week, Miami’s current 40-man roster stands at 35. However, that does not included several key players. Brian Anderson, Drew Steckenrider, and Chad Wallach all need to be reinstated following their battles with injuries which led to them finishing 2019 on the 60-day IL. Anderson and Steckenrider project to have significant roles on the team moving forward, and the Marlins need a backup to Jorge Alfaro behind the plate. Whether that is Wallach or not—the front office may explore other options—we have to assume that spot as taken.

JT Riddle is another player on the 60-day IL, but the Marlins should consider keeping the career .229 hitter off the roster given the emergence of super utility man Jon Berti this season.

Players on 40-man: 38

Protect Top Prospects

Six of the Top 30 Marlins prospects are eligible to be selected in the Rule 5 Draft. Their combination of upside and experience will generate interest in numerous teams. In most of those cases, the Marlins would rather promote them to the 40-man roster rather than lose them for minimal compensation. Sixto Sánchez, Jazz Chisholm, Edward Cabrera, Nick Neidert, and Lewin Díaz are sure bets to be protected.

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

The sixth, pitcher Will Stewart, may be left out. The left-hander did have two legitimate no-hit bids over the course of the season, but otherwise inconsistent play at High-A resulted in a 6-12 record with a 5.43 ERA over 129 13 innings. Unlike the other five prospects, Stewart does not currently project as a solid future contributor for the Marlins. We will assume here that Miami will not add Stewart to the 40-man, rolling the dice that other teams pass on him, allowing him to remain in their organization.

Other Rule 5 eligible players worth mentioning are right-handers Humberto Mejía, Cody Poteet and Kolton Mahoney and left-handers Daniel Castano and McKenzie Mills.

Players on 40-man: 43

Remove an Outfielder

There are currently eight outfielders on the 40-man roster, not including the versatile Brian Anderson. Garrett Cooper looks better suited for a permanent spot at first base, but that arguably still leaves one outfielder too many on the roster. Curtis Granderson is probably departing, but the front office may want to replace him with a high-impact bat through free agency. Considering Magneuris Sierra's ability to impact games with his blazing speed, that leaves Lewis Brinson and Austin Dean as the odd-men out.

Two minor league stars who have struggled to translate that success to the majors, Dean has been the much better player for Miami—his career average is 40 points higher over his major league career. Still, the team believes in Brinson's raw talent and looks set to give the South Florida product one last chance in 2020. At least we will always have the beer can pyramid to remember Dean by.

Players on 40-man: 42

Reshuffle the Infield

It is very likely that the Marlins will buy out Starlin Castro’s $16 million 2020 salary for $1 million now that former top prospect Isan Díaz has taken over at second base. Martin Prado’s emotional departure on Closing Day will probably be his final moment with the Fish, too. Miami will want to add another veteran infield bat to the mix, but one may be enough given that they are adding two other infielders in Chisholm and Lewin Díaz to the roster. At this time, there seems to be mutual interest in a Neil Walker return next season as well.

Players on 40-man: 41

Release Chen (and Conley, too)

The case was made for releasing Wei-Yin Chen last week, but Adam Conley did not fare much better this past season. With a 6.53 ERA (5.19 FIP) over 60 23 innings, the lefty looked completely lost and it appears to be time for the team to move in a different direction. Conley is arbitration eligible, and the Marlins may not even offer him a contract. Releasing him will grant the team the freedom to be active in the Rule 5 Draft and select an intriguing prospect who was not protected elsewhere.

Players on 40-man: 39