#1 – If the Braves want a third catcher for September, the DFA of Stewart is interesting. While third catchers who are Quad-A quality are a dime a dozen, keeping someone who has caught many of the Braves pitchers seems reasonable. There’s a little more here as well. Under normal circumstances, even if Stewart does pass through waivers and accepts his outright to Gwinnett (all likely), he would have to go down to the minors for ten days. But there is kind of an exception and we saw it in 2013. That season, Evan Gattis was demoted to Gwinnett on August 31. He was brought back September 3rd. Why? Because the Gwinnett season had ended on September 2. This season, it ends on September 3.
You might say “he’s just a third catcher and he won’t even be on the postseason roster!” And that’s fair to a point. The Braves are not likely to keep a third catcher on a playoff roster, but if the Braves suffer an injury to either Kurt Suzuki or Tyler Flowers that would take them out for a playoff series, they’d want a replacement. Stewart, because he’s in the Braves’ organization on August 31, could be added to the roster.
#2 – If Stewart is brought back on September 4 at the latest, that takes up one of the now two open spots on the 40-man roster. Brandon McCarthy, who is looking to return to the Braves next month as a reliever, threw a scoreless inning of relief last night. McCarthy, who is currently on the 60-day DL, would need to be re-added to the 40-man to rejoin the Braves. That would give us 40 players.
But there’s more. We not only saw McCarthy throw out of the bullpen last night with Gwinnett, but another starter made his first appearance in the pen this season: Kyle Wright. He tossed a one-hit frame with a strikeout six days after throwing seven innings in a start against Buffalo. The Braves could be limiting Wright’s innings – he’s up to 136 on the year – or they could be prepping him for a move to the bullpen in September. While last night was Wright’s first official relief appearance, he notably came out of the pen in the 8th inning of this year’s Futures Game. With a three-run lead and runners on the corners, Wright got a shallow flyout and a double play to skate through the damage. Could the Braves unleash Wright in September in a similar role?
To do so would require a subsequent transaction if Stewart and McCarthy are both added to the major league roster. There’s another name we should mention – Ryan Flaherty. He passed through waivers and was sent to Gwinnett this week, but seems like a shoe-in to be brought back up in September.
There are three major league veterans who seem likely to be brought back at some point after the calendar switches to September. And here’s where we start to get a little complicated because, for the first time in years, the 40-man roster is looking more and more stocked with high-end talent. Even guys like Luke Jackson (3.48 FIP, 11.8 K/9) are staking their claim to a spot. And while many Braves fans would simply point to Sam Freeman and Peter Moylan as obvious pitchers to send packing, the Braves had many opportunities to remove them from the equation and have refused. Would they do it now?
Barring a trade before the waiver-deal deadline on Friday, the Braves are going to have to find some room on the 40-man for at least the veterans guys and potentially Wright, Corbin Clouse, and Austin Riley. And if not Freeman or Moylan, who gets kicked to the curb?
Probably Wes Parsons and Adam McCreery. Parsons has been up three times this season, though he only worked one ugly game of relief. Parsons has been pretty good at the minor league level, though. That’s nothing new as Parsons has an ERA around 3.00 in over 200 innings the last two years. Is Parsons a big arm? Hardly, but rarely has he not been productive. It would be of little shock to see a team claim Parsons.
Same applies for McCreery, though he’s more of a project. He was somewhat surprisingly added to the 40-man roster last winter for Rule 5 purposes. He, too, has pitched just a game in the majors, giving up two runs and striking out a pair in an inning of work. Acquired from the Angels back in 2016, no one doubts that McCreery has the stuff – he has 90 minor league strikeouts this season in 62.1 ING. The bigger question is where he’ll be able to control it well enough to be effective. At Age-25, the leash isn’t quite as long as it once was.
There’s another potential problem here. Should the Braves add Wright or Riley, they would be making the same decision they made with Bryse Wilson. That is: adding a player to the 40-man roster before needing to in order to protect them from the Rule 5. That certainly shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but it will make the Braves have to make additional decisions with their roster that could force them to lose some good depth options.
Consider that the Braves only have seven unrestricted free agents after the 2018 season comes to a close. Not counting McCarthy, they have five players on the 60-day DL they would need to add back to the 40-man roster. Of those five, at least three seem like slam-dunk options (Jacob Lindgren, Darren O’Day, Mike Soroka). Grant Dayton is more of a bubble guy while Jose Ramirez would likely be cast away. In addition to these guys, there’s a crop of players who will be eligible for the Rule 5 without being added to the 40-man. Two names on that list stick out – Alex Jackson and Patrick Weigel. And with a lot of potential payroll space, the Braves will want to add to the roster as well.
Last February, we talked about the 40-man roster crunch. It’s coming. Still want to be a major league general manager? Like I said, concerns after the season shouldn’t be a deal breaker if the Braves believe Wright or Riley can help the team now. But certainly, those issues need to be given at least an ounce of consideration.
The Braves farm system has been envied throughout baseball the last couple of seasons. It’s about to create some really difficult decisions for Alex Anthopoulos, but decisions he would rather make than bringing up the likes of Ryan Weber to fill in.