Come Thursday, the Mariners and other teams will be able to expand their major league rosters beyond the usual 25 guys. But don’t expect the team to go crazy with the late-season additions this year.
Team officials have been meeting about who to bring up and are planning to be extra judicious about it this time around. In other words, think quality and not quantity.
Many of the guys who would normally be called up in September are already here. That would be the folks like Kyle Seager, Tom Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furbush, Casper Wells and Trayvon Robinson. Guys who would be expected to have a full-time shot at the big league team next spring and who needed a little indoctrination in 2011 first.
Well, they’ve been getting it for a while now.
So, who else is left?
Well, you have your injury rehabilitation types like Shawn Kelley. He’s still a big part of this bullpen — or will be in 2012 — and needs to start throwing in big league games again. Chris Gimenez should also be ready to return from a rehab assignment in September.
Then, you have the guys the team is trying to make a definitive call on.
Among those would be outfielder Greg Halman. Unlike other outfielders Michael Saunders and Carlos Peguero, Halman does not have minor league options left.
That means the team will have to decide whether to keep him with the big league squad out of spring training next year — if he’s still with the organization and not traded first — or else risk losing him on a waiver claim. Before it gets to that stage, you’ll want to have as much info on him as possible. That means looking at him a bit more in September.
With Saunders and Peguero, the need to look isn’t as pressing. Both have options left and could be sent to Class AAA once again next spring if they don’t come charging out of the gate in Arizona. Besides, the M’s have already had extended looks at both players. With Saunders, there have been mitigating circumstances behind his tough times with the M’s earlier this season — adjusting to a new approach at the plate and dealing with the long-term illness and eventual death of his mother. So, if he is called up in September, it will be because the M’s think he’s already made some adjustments and could show more.
Same with Peguero, who showed flashes during his earlier stint with the club but struggled for the most part. If the team saw some adjustments at AAA that might carry over, then he could be brought back up.
But there is no overriding need to have either guy here.
Matt Tuiasosopo? You’d think he’d have already been brought up to the majors at some point this season if he still factored in the team’s plans. Once Justin Smoak comes off the DL, there really won’t be any room to play another first baseman/DH like Tuiasosopo, so no, I don’t think he gets called up.
We can’t overlook the whole “reward” aspect to September callups, either.
It is baseball tradition to give the best AAA and sometimes AA players a shot at tasting the big leagues for the first time. A guy like James Paxton, who pitched so well in AA this year, would have been a perfect candidate to be called up this fall. But he’s already been shut down for the season, so that’s out.
The other candidate who pops to mind is Alex Liddi, the AAA third baseman who has continued to hit the ball well at every level.
Under normal circumstances, Liddi would be an automatic callup. But there has also been some debate about what to do with him. If Liddi does come up, he’s unlikely to take very much playing time at third away from Seager. Especially once Chone Figgins comes off his injury rehabilitation assignment and is ready to play in the majors again once the AAA season ends.
Figgins is owed $18 million the next two years and getting him some playing time is still more of a priority for the organization — which needs to try to salvage something from the situation — than finding a few at-bats for a guy like Liddi, who is unlikely to make the club next spring.
Still, there is a balance here.
The team doesn’t want to send the wrong message to minor leaguers about the rewards for good play. Liddi still has things to work on before he can take a shot at being a full-time, or even part-time major leaguer. But allowing him to become the first Italian-born major leaguer in a half-century — even if only for a few moments in September — would indeed be a tremendous reward for a season well done.
That’s why I suspect we’ll see Liddi called up, even though he doesn’t really fit the format of what the team needs or wants to do this September.
In other borderline cases, I suspect you’ll see the team err on the side of giving guys their extended playing time in winter ball, rather than the major league bench. The M’s just don’t want a bunch of guys sitting for 13 days out of every 14 in September and then striking out four times in their only game.
They don’t have the time for it this fall.
So, yeah, I do think you’ll see Kelley called up, as well as Gimenez and Liddi — the latter for the reward factor, even though he’s a borderline case — and maybe Halman because this could be his last kick at the can.
Anyone else? Maybe another arm just to get the team through September.
But with everyone else, even Saunders and Peguero, who have already been up here, I wouldn’t be shocked if the team just tells them to go play winter ball and worry about the majors next spring. There just isn’t enough room to get everyone playing time on an already-crowded auditions front and the M’s don’t have time to waste on empty gestures as the rebuilding plan prepares to head to Year No. 4.