It might not have seemed like a big deal, the White Sox outrighting relief pitcher Juan Minaya on Friday.
Minaya had a 21.21 ERA in five spring appearances, and that earned him a reassignment to minor league camp and opened up a spot on the team's 40-man roster. While Minaya's regular-season numbers haven't been nearly as horrible as they were during Cactus League play this spring — as evidenced by a 3.28 ERA in 46.2 innings last season — there are a lot of younger relievers who might be key figures in the bullpen of the future. The White Sox opted to give those guys preference heading into another rebuilding season on the South Side.
But another round of spring cuts — Randall Delgado went to minor league camp Friday, too — gets us closer to the White Sox roster for Opening Day.
Minaya looked to be a prime contender for a spot in the bullpen, especially after finishing the season incredibly strong, with a 0.73 ERA in 12 appearances over the final month of the 2018 campaign. He was also out of options. But now that spot will go to someone else.
Who? Well, Alex Colome, Kelvin Herrera, Nate Jones and Jace Fry all figure to be locks for the bullpen. Youngsters Ian Hamilton and Caleb Frare could claim spots after getting their first tastes of the big leagues last season. Ryan Burr has been excellent this spring, the owner of a 1.35 ERA in five appearances. That could get him a spot. And then there's the need for a long man, a job that would likely go to Manny Banuelos or Dylan Covey. Banuelos, who the White Sox traded for this offseason, is out of options and despite a tough spring, it'd be weird for them to trade for a player and then risk losing him via waivers by knocking him off the 40-man roster. So maybe he's the final piece of the bullpen puzzle.
Minaya getting outrighted also opens up a spot on the 40-man roster, one that could logically go to Ervin Santana should the White Sox decide on him to be the fifth starter in the rotation alongside Opening Day locks Carlos Rodon, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Ivan Nova. General manager Rick Hahn said earlier this week that the team doesn't necessarily need a fifth starter for the first few weeks of the season because of the way the schedule is set up with numerous off days. If Santana, coming back from a finger injury that limited him to five starts last season with the Minnesota Twins, isn't quite ready for Opening Day, the White Sox could go with another bullpen arm and wait to add Santana to the active roster until he's needed. But the easier way to go might be to have him take Minaya's vacated spot on the 40-man.
So that's the pitching staff. Where are the White Sox with their complement of position players?
The catching tandem is obvious, Welington Castillo and James McCann, and the starting infield, plus a designated hitter, is pretty well set in Jose Abreu, Yolmer Sanchez, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Yonder Alonso. The Opening Day outfield is less of a certainty, but Daniel Palka, Adam Engel and Jon Jay would be a good bet. So that leaves two bench spots, which would figure to go to Leury Garcia and Jose Rondon. That is, of course, not good news for the recently concussed Nicky Delmonico, though it's possible he could edge out someone for a spot if he plays well in his nearing return to the Cactus League lineup.
What throws a wrench into this whole thing is the upcoming arrival of Eloy Jimenez, expected to happen at some point during the month of April. Basically, it means one of those outfield jobs is temporary. Which one? Good question. Jay doesn't figure to be going anywhere, and Jimenez will likely be an everyday player — perhaps the only such player in the White Sox outfield — once he arrives. That leaves two roster spots for the trio of Palka, Engel and Garcia, though Rondon could potentially be squeezed out with Garcia able to play the same infield positions Rondon can.
But that's a question the White Sox don't have to answer for another month or so. As for the Opening Day roster, those decisions will come quicker, but there's a tad more clarity after Friday's cuts.
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