MLB spring training is winding down and soon teams will set their rosters in advance of Opening Day. Opening Day rosters do not have to be officially filed with MLB until a few hours before first pitch on Thursday, though many teams will announce them a day or two beforehand, or at least leave enough clues that we can piece them together.
With that in mind, here are some recent notable transactions with Opening Day roster implications.
Mets designate Ruf for assignment
At the deadline last year the Mets traded four players -- four! -- to get Darin Ruf from the Giants with the expectation he would punish left-handed pitching as a platoon DH. Instead, Ruf went 10 for 66 (.152) with no home runs after the trade and lost playing time down the stretch. He followed that up by going 5 for 30 (.167) with a home run this spring.
On Monday, the Mets designated Ruf for assignment, indicating speedster Tim Locastro has won the last bench spot. The Mets are on the hook for Ruf's $3 million salary in 2023, plus the $500,000 buyout of his 2024 club option.
RHP Tommy Hunter has been selected to the major league roster. INF Darin Ruf has been designated for assignment.— New York Mets (@Mets) March 27, 2023
With Ruf gone, fourth outfielder Tommy Pham figures to handle platoon duty against lefties, at least until the Mets deem prospects Francisco Álvarez and/or Mark Vientos ready. Álvarez, the No. 3 prospect in the game, was sent to Triple-A last week to continue working on his defense behind the plate. His bat will force a call up sooner rather than later.
Ruf's 40-man roster spot went to righty Tommy Hunter, who make the Opening Day roster following injuries to Edwin Díaz, Sam Coonrod, and Bryce Montes de Oca. The Mets still must clear a 40-man roster spot for Locastro, though Díaz will miss the season with a knee injury and is a 60-day injured list candidate. Players on the 60-day injured list do not count against the 40-man roster.
Brewers keep Voit, designate Hiura
Keston Hiura, the No. 9 pick in the 2017 draft, has run out of chances with the Brewers. Milwaukee designated Hiura for assignment on Monday and added Luke Voit to the roster in his place, reports MLB.com. Voit gets a one-year contract with a club option for 2022. The Brewers now have seven days to trade, waive, or release Hiura.
Still only 26, Hiura slashed .303/.368/.579 with 19 home runs in 84 games as a rookie in 2019, though he's hit just .205/.293/.394 the last three seasons while also spending time in Triple-A. He has been done in by extreme contact issues and also poor defense. Hiura is essentially a right-handed DH who hasn't done the H part the last three years.
I don't whether or not Hiura will return for another season in Milwaukee, but I do know his game makes for a jarring heat map: pic.twitter.com/CY0Ouxpbwh— R.J. Anderson (@r_j_anderson) November 8, 2022
The Brewers and Hiura avoided arbitration with a one-year, $2.2 million deal in January. Arbitration contracts are fully guaranteed under the new collective bargaining agreement as long as the two sides did not go to a hearing, so Hiura's 2023 salary is locked in.
Another team could certainly roll the dice on Hiura given his age and pedigree, though the $2.2 million price tag suggests he could clear waivers and go to Triple-A. Hiura does not have enough service time to decline an Triple-A assignment, elect free agency, and keep his contract. He has to go to Triple-A to keep the $2.2 million, which he will do if he's not traded or claimed on waivers.
As for Voit, he will serve as a right-handed complement to Rowdy Tellez at first base and Jesse Winker at DH. Voit had an opt out in his contract this past weekend and there had been speculation (including around these parts) that he could land with the Phillies as a replacement for the injured Rhys Hoskins. That did not happen. Voit will remain with the Brew Crew.
Rodriguez will not make Orioles rotation
Right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, the top pitching prospect in baseball, will not make the Orioles' Opening Day rotation, reports the Baltimore Banner. Tyler Wells is the leading candidate to claim the No. 5 spot behind Kyle Bradish, Dean Kremer, Kyle Gibson, and Cole Irvin. Rodriguez will return to Triple-A, where he had a 2.20 ERA in 14 starts around a lat injuries in 2022.
The 23-year-old Rodriguez had a difficult spring, surrendering 15 runs in 15 1/3 innings. Big innings have done him in the last few times out as he's been unable to stop things from snowballing. It's worth nothing Rodriguez only needs to spend 15 days in the minors this year to push his free agency back from the 2028-29 offseason to the 2029-30 offseason. The Orioles have shown themselves to be serial service-time manipulators and it can not be ruled out they are doing the same with Rodriguez.
Dalbec and Kingery sent to Triple-A
Red Sox infielder Bobby Dalbec and Phillies utility man Scott Kingery were among the players reassigned to Triple-A on Monday. Neither player will make the Opening Day roster. Dalbec saw time at shortstop this spring but went only 12 for 52 (.235) with 21 strikeouts at the plate. He has serious pop and some defensive versatility, and could use a fresh start with a new team. The Red Sox went with World Baseball Classic hero Yu Chang as their final bench player.
Kingery, meanwhile, had a fine spring, going 16 for 47 (.340) while playing second base, third base, shortstop, left field, and center field. The Phillies opted to go with Daulton Guthrie as their last bench player. Kingery is entering the final guaranteed season of the six-year, $24 million contract he signed in March 2018, before he even made his MLB debut. He will earn $8 million this year plus a $1 million buyout of a $13 million club option for 2024.