Last season when MLB changed the length of the disabled list from 15 days to 10 days, the Dodgers were one of the teams that took advantage of it most by manipulating the short stints on the disabled list. As a result of their manipulation of the disabled list, there were points in the season where the Dodgers had essentially created a seven-man rotation. Alex Anthopoulos was part of that front office and has brought some of those roster management tactics with him to Atlanta.
When the Braves started Jose Bautista at third base on May 4th, he became the 39th different player to appear for the Braves this season through their first 31 games. The Braves lead the league in total players used and Mike Soroka’s debut earlier in that same week pushed the Braves into the league lead with 22 pitchers used.
How have they gotten to that number?
The Braves haven’t done it so much through DL manipulation as they have by cycling through fringe roster players. That doesn’t mean they haven’t gone without a little bit of DL manipulation, though. Josh Ravin, an out of options pitcher, went to the disabled list with a viral infection so the Braves could avoid sending him through waivers after the third game of the season. Jose Ramirez also went to the DL with shoulder soreness after a pair of games in which he walked five, and hit another, of the 15 men he faced. Though he did mention the shoulder soreness before the team put him on the DL, so that could very much have been a legit injury.
Where the Braves have been most active in their roster turnover has been trying to find some guys to fill out the last spots in the bullpen. For those spots, they have tried to use Rex Brothers, Miguel Socolovich, Josh Ravin, Luke Jackson, Lucas Sims, Jesse Biddle, Ravin (again), Socolovich (again), Max Fried, Chase Whitley, Lucas Sims (again), and Luke Jackson (again). In the first month of the season, Josh Ravin was placed on the DL with a mystery illness and designated for assignment and Miguel Socolovich was designated for assignment twice. Rex Brothers was also outrighted off the 40-man roster and assigned to Gwinnett.
The Braves position player turnover has been more controlled, but it hasn’t gone without action. Tyler Flowers and Kurt Suzuki getting hurt in the first two games of the season created a bit of roster navigation out of necessity. They had kept Chris Stewart as a third catcher out of spring training, but with both primary catchers going down in such quick succession, they needed to go out and acquire Carlos Perez from the Angels. Other position player moves include getting Johan Camargo back from the disabled list and the call-up of Ronald Acuña Jr., in which the Braves designated Lane Adams and Peter Bourjos for assignment to create roster spots. Dansby Swanson was placed on the disabled list to make room for Bautista.
In total, the Braves have removed nine men from their 40-man roster this season and have lost just three of them—Akeel Morris (traded to Angels), Lane Adams (elected free agency) and Carlos Perez (claimed by Rangers).
I feel like the bulk of the position player movement is likely finished as most of the position player movement was done in response to injury—either reacting to injuries that happened during the first week of the season or getting guys back from injuries they suffered during Spring Training. What I don’t expect to stop any time soon is the roster movement for these bullpen pieces. I think the Braves have identified some players that they know they’ll be able to pass through waivers without fear of losing and with Gwinnett in such close proximity, I think they see it as a way to lengthen their bullpen to ten men. In the same tune, I think these players have accepted that they may see more days in the major leagues, and in turn receive a major league salary, in this yo-yo type role with the Braves than they would if they were to try to land in another spot. I expect the Braves will again turn to Ravin and Socolovich to fill a bullpen spot when the team needs a fresh arm and you’ll likely see them designated again shortly after they return at least once more this season. The Braves made it clear when Ravin was designated for assignment that it was more due to circumstance than performance and Socolovich has done nothing to prove that he isn’t capable of holding down the last spot in the bullpen when the team needs a fresh arm.
What we haven’t seen much of yet, but I think we will soon, is the DL manipulation involving starting pitching. It was in May last year when the Dodgers started to really use this to their advantage. During May, the Dodgers placed Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood on the DL. Ryu and McCarthy were activated exactly 10 days later to make starts, missing just one trip through the rotation while on the DL. Maeda and Wood were activated 15 days later, missing two trips through the rotation. Between May 10 and May 16, the Dodgers used 7 different pitchers to start 7 different games. Kenta Maeda, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Wood, Julio Urias, Brandon McCarthy, and Rich Hill were the recipients. They went through another cycle of this in August when Yu Darvish and Wood hit the disabled list again for the 10-day minimum. With the Braves expected to get Anibal Sanchez back from the DL any day now, I wouldn’t be surprised if that started a cycle of Braves pitchers going to and from the DL for 10-15 day stints in order to start giving them some rest.
In total, the Braves have made 17 roster moves that have changed their 25-man roster. They are as follows:
- March 30, 2018 – Placed C Tyler Flowers on the 10-day DL. Selected the contract of RHP Miguel Socolovich from Gwinnett.
- April 1, 2018 – Optioned LHP Rex Brothers to Gwinnett. Selected the contract of RHP Josh Ravin from Gwinnett.
- April 2, 2018 – Selected the contract of RHP Anibal Sanchez from Gwinnett. Designated RHP Miguel Socolovich for assignment.
- April 2, 2018 – Activated C Carlos Perez (acquired March 31). Placed RHP Josh Ravin on the 10-day DL.
- April 4, 2018 – Designated C Chris Stewart for assignment. Selected the contract of RHP Luke Jackson.
- April 16, 2018 – Designated RHP Luke Jackson for assignment. Recalled RHP Lucas Sims from Gwinnett.
- April 19, 2018 – Designated LF Lane Adams for assignment. Recalled RHP Matt Wisler from Gwinnett.
- April 21, 2018 – Optioned RHP Lucas Sims to Gwinnett. Reinstated RHP Josh Ravin from the 10-day DL.
- April 22, 2018 – Designated RHP Josh Ravin for assignment. Selected the contract of RHP Miguel Socolovich from Gwinnett.
- April 24, 2018 -Designated RHP Miguel Socolovich for assignment. Recalled LHP Max Fried from Gwinnett.
- April 25, 2018 – Selected the contract of OF Ronald Acuña Jr. from Gwinnett. Designated OF Peter Bourjos for assignment.
- April 28, 2018 – Activated C Tyler Flowers from the 10-day DL. Designated C Carlos Perez for assignment.
- April 28, 2018 – Recalled RHP Chase Whitley from Gwinnett. Optioned RHP Matt Wisler to Gwinnett.
- May 1, 2018 – Optioned RHP Chase Whitley to Gwinnett. Selected the contract of RHP Mike Soroka from Gwinnett.
- May 4, 2018 – Selected the contract of 3B Jose Bautista from Gwinnett. Placed SS Dansby Swanson on the 10-day DL.
- May 5, 2018 – Optioned LHP Max Fried to Gwinnett. Recalled RHP Lucas Sims from Gwinnett.
- May 6, 2018 – Optioned RHP Lucas Sims to Gwinnett. Recalled RHP Luke Jackson from Gwinnett.
As I said once before on Twitter, the key to creating a 32-man roster is to have a group of players that you feel can be useful to your club that you know aren’t good enough that another team will want to use a roster spot on them. The Braves have identified that group with Brothers, Jackson, Ravin, and Socolovich. In addition to those players, they have already shown a willingness to use Fried, Sims, Wisler, and Whitley as players to fill spots in the bullpen or make a spot start when needed. That is a group of eight players that Braves have pinpointed as players that can come and go in order to supplement the current 25-man roster, essentially creating a 32-man roster.