the 40-man roster, expanding and contracting

August 28, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Tony Cruz (48) singles against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the eighth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 9-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

as we creep up on september 1, the expansion of the 40-man roster looms. our resident baron gave a pretty good rundown of non-40-man-roster members who might join the roster, uber-prospects shelby miller and oscar taveras being at the top of a lot of people's lists.

that raises the question of how much space we have on our roster, both now and in the future.

well, the numerical answer is deceptively simple. in an amusing contradiction that douglas adams would approve, we have 42 men on our 40-man roster. chris carpenter and kyle mcclellan are on the 60-day DL, which means they don't count towards the 40-man total. second-LOOGy-for-a-week brian fuentes is on the restricted list.

so, the other numerical answer would be that we have 39 men on our 40-man roster, and room for one more.

the more interesting question to me is how much room we have for this december, and how much room do we need to make for prospects who will soon need protection. if we need a lot of room, we should be very cautious about adding players to the roster unnecessarily.

the general rule is that players who have been with the club for 4 years who were signed at age 19 or older are eligible, as well as players who have been with the club for 5 years who were signed at age 18 or younger.

that means, essentially, that high school draftees from 2008 and college draftees from 2009 are eligible.

the good news is that a lot of the rule 5 eligible folks are already on the 40-man: joe kelly, ryan jackson, matt carpenter, matt adams, trevor rosenthal (who i believe is rule 5 eligible, since his 19th birthday came a few days before the 2009 draft). notable draftees from 2009 like shelby miller and anthony garcia were young enough that they will not be rule 5 eligible until next year.

keith butler (2.89 ERA/3.62 FIP with 25 saves at springfield) is really the only newly-eligible prospect that i can see that a team might legitimately hide on their roster for a full season, and even he is a pretty marginal prospect. while some prospects from the 2008 and 2009 drafts might still be interesting (robert stock, say), no one is going to put those kinds of prospects on a major league team for a full season.

the other question is who is coming off the 40-man. kyle lohse and lance berkman look very likely to come off. brian fuentes seems very unlikely to be re-signed. i'm not clear on whether the club will release kyle mcclellan or non-tender him an arbitration offer and try to sign him to an incentive-laden deal. there really aren't any other players with expiring contracts or options no one will pick up.

of course, chris carpenter will need to have a real space on the 40-man by december, as will kyle mcclellan (if the club keeps him on). the 60-day DL does not stretch into the off-season. so, considering butler as a likely addition to the 40-man, those three will eat up all the space on the roster. assuming the club otherwise leaves the 40-man intact, there's very little room for expansion.

that's not to say that there's not room to cut some folks from the 40-man roster. john gaub is 27, on his 3rd club of the year, and pitching terribly for memphis. steven hill may get a september callup, but he could probably survive passing through waivers (he's made it through in the past). victor marte and barret browning may hold very little continuing interest to the cardinals. as a 2005 draftee, i believe bryan anderson is eligible to become a minor league free agent this off-season. pete kozma has not impressed much at memphis, with a .286 wOBA so far this season, although it may take another season for him to wear out his welcome entirely.

since there is very little pressure at the december deadline, it wouldn't be difficult to add one or two players to the 40-man. what we have to watch out for is the collison likely to come mid-season in 2013. adding more than a couple people to the farm mid-season could give us a roster crunch next year. it's pretty likely that whomever we call up in september would be a good bet to make the the team, or to be the first called up, next year. so, i don't see moves of one or two prospects onto the 40-man in the next few days as curtailed by roster space.

but it is worth noting that promoting shelby miller, oscar taveras, john gast, tyler lyons, greg garcia, kolten wong, etc. to the major league club in 2013 will probably require some tough decisions about long-term roles on the club.

eduardo sanchez and adam reifer beware.

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