How many players would you say are listed on the Royals’ 40-man roster right now? Obvious guess: 40. Maybe you suspect a trick question and think the answer is 39 or 41. Nope. Through the magic of roster rules, the Royals actually have 43 players on their 40-man roster. But changes are coming soon.
Players on the 60-day disabled list do not count against the 40-man limit. That means Tim Collins, Mike Minor, and Jason Vargas are on the roster, but not ON the roster. Also, Raul Mondesi is on the restricted list while he serves his 50-game suspension for taking a banned substance.
Now, Collins and Vargas are going to be on the DL for a long time. Collins is done for the year; Vargas might—might!—be back in September. But probably not.
Minor, on the other hand, is currently working on his rehab assignment in Triple-A Omaha. He began that assignment on May 10 with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Major league rules allow 30 days for a rehab assignment for pitchers (20 for position players). So the Royals are going to have some decisions to make in the next two weeks, if not sooner—Minor may be ready after another start or two, despite a rough outing on Wednesday.
Whenever he is activated, a 40-man roster spot will have to be cleared. That’s going to be tough. The players who are on the 40-man roster and not the 25-man roster are: Miguel Almonte, Jorge Bonifacio, Christian Colon, Tony Cruz, Brett Eibner, Reymond Fuentes, Terrance Gore, Alec Mills, Bubba Starling, Matt Strahm, Ramon Torres, and Kyle Zimmer, plus the three guys on the 15-day disabled list: Alex Gordon, Kris Medlen, and Chris Young.
The Royals seem to like the four minor-league pitchers in that list (Almonte, Mills, Strahm, and Zimmer). Cruz is the only catcher on there, so he’s safe. Colon is a safe bet to stay. We know the Royals would like to keep Gore around for more postseason/September use. The Royals aren’t going to give up on Starling yet. Gordon’s not going anywhere; Young and Medlen probably aren’t, either. That leaves Torres and the outfield logjam of Bonifacio/Eibner/Fuentes. Would the team that thought highly enough of Fuentes to put him on the Opening Day roster cut him two months later? I have my doubts. Bonifacio and Eibner both are having really nice seasons for Omaha and probably should get a look at the major-league level at some point this year. That leaves Torres. The Royals must have seen something that led them to add a 22-year-old middle infielder to the 40-man roster. But they may have to hope they can designate him for assignment, then keep him if he clears waivers.
Or they could lose someone from the active roster. Actually, there are a few candidates. First up, Brian Flynn. He’s a left-handed pitcher, which teams tend to value. He’s shown some ability at Class AAA, but hasn’t had much of a chance in the majors. It would be nice to keep him. Next, Chien-Ming Wang, who has pitched well this year. Losing Wang wouldn’t be a big loss—mostly he’s been in a mop-up role that could be filled by anyone—but I think it would be unfortunate.
And then, there’s Omar Infante. You may have suspected I was leading up to this. I’m sure Infante is a likable clubhouse guy and a leader and all that. But he simply can’t hit anymore. Yes, he’s hitting better than he did last year, an incredibly low bar that frankly I would expect the 2005 Royals to use. But his .248/.281/.336 line is probably as good as we can expect from him. And while his range might still be acceptable, his arm strength is clearly gone. At this point, I feel Colon or Whit Merrifield could play defense just as well, and outhit Infante. And moving the incumbent would also give them a chance to check out Mondesi at second later this season. It’s probable that the only thing keeping Infante on the roster is the fact that the Royals would have to eat the $5 million and change left on his contract this year. Oh, and the $10 million he’s owed next year. Oh, and presumably the $2 million buyout they would have to pay him for 2018 (rather than the $10 million he would have received if the Royals picked up their option on him). So yeah, saying goodbye to Infante is going to require a large check.
But it is time. Barring a trade that clears up a roster spot, there really doesn’t seem to be room to keep Infante. It’s unfortunate, but this is a business. And businesses sometimes have to understand (and suffer through) sunk costs. Infante’s contract might be the last bad move Dayton Moore has made. It might be painful, but he can at least partially fix it by moving on from Infante.
Editor’s Note: This article was written and published prior to learning the news about Mike Moustakas and his torn ACL putting him out for the season. Obviously, that’s a very easy move to free up roster space on the 40-man, but there are still many other questions coming beyond just that. -DL