The 25th Man on a Major League roster is not meaningless, but rarely do we see the 25th man contribute significantly to the club. Â Usually, the countdown to the 25th man is the last vestige of the off-season; a fan’s last opportunity to question the wisdom of the decision makers before the team breaks camp and heads north for Opening Day.
We have a player in limbo, a player Â whose use is entirely dependent on the construction of the roster otherwise. Â If the team is expected to win, the 25th man may be a pinch-hitter extraordinaire or a known HAVOC! causer [base-stealer for the casual fan]. Â If the team prefers development, the 25th man may well be a career minor leaguer who has earned a chance to sit at the end of a major league bench and enjoy at least a $2500 per day gross salary. Â Or perhaps the 25th man is the wide-eyed rookie, whose only hope of success is to spend multiple weeks hardening his ass, his wits, and his mind by basking in the tobacco-stained glory of a major league bench and clubhouse.
Our 25th men often share traits, so we will list them below:
- The 25th Man can be optioned to the minors and is on the 40 man roster. Â The joy of making the show comes with the knowledge that your presence on the roster is specific to team need. Â Should the team need a pitcher following a 15-inning game, you will be sent once more to Omaha. Â Should the team need a starter for a double-header, the rule book covers that contingency and you will still be on the roster. Â You could hit 1.000/1.000/4.000 and be sent to back to the bus-league because the LOOGY cut his pitching hand on a soup can and will be out for 3 days.
- Option 1: The 25th Man fits a specific bench need:Â Our usual 25th man is either brought on to be a true pinch hitter rather than a long term defensive replacement, but team needs vary. Â Some teams have a back-up infielder who hasn’t been a good defender for the past 5 years, ignoring the year that they were functionally out of baseball. Â So the 25th man must be prepared to play both SS and 3B in the same game. Â Perhaps the starting 2B has poor range, and the 25th man will be asked to cover defensively.
- Option 2: The 25th Man is Half of a Platoon.Â The 25th man may well be a the other half of a smartly constructed platoon. Â Perhaps the team at hand prefers an older player who can hit right handed pitching, but would like a younger player who can defend and hit either pitcher at an equal but worse rate. Â Generally, the 25th man platoon is used by those who prefer roster optimization, already holding flexibility at most positions allowing for a strict platoon player on the bench. Â The Rays will likely utilize their 25th man in this fashion.
- Option 3: The 25th Man is the 3rd Catcher. Â It often helps to have a starting catcher who is of such quality that their bat translates at a corner position when this option is utilized. Â I have a high opinion of Sal Perez, but my cautious optimism has not made the need for a 3rd catcher apparent. Â On the other hand, Brett Hayes has a guaranteed contract.
- The 25th Man makes near the MLB minimum salary. Â As rosters expand, we may see the 25th man become slightly more expensive. Â Throughout the year, it is rare that a 25th man makes much more than the MLB minimum, in part because to retain the option of being sent to the minors it is unlikely the player has much service time. Â Little service time and modestly limited skills generally lead to a player making the minimum.
This exercise may not have served a point. Â It is a reminder that baseball is coming, as the fight about who will receive the last treasured roster spot will certainly consume the days ahead. Â Year in and year out, the fight about who is selected as the 25th man is likely the most they will be written about all year. Â A full-throated defense of Johnson over Smith in late March is all that we have left in the Hot Stove, the remaking of our team.
The candidates on the Royals are not hard to discern. Â The Battle Royale for the spot will commence between the following: Johnny Giavotella, Irving Falu, Brett Hayes, and Xavier Nady. Â Giavotella and Nady represent the platoon options for the club with Getz and Francoeur respectively. Â Nady is the far more intriguing candidate, as his selection would involve a strict platoon with Francoeur [and likely make Dyson the true 25th man]. Â Falu represents the true utility candidate. Â A player who can play infield, outfield, catch, and surely he can Mitch! if called upon from the mound. Â Hayes would be the elusive 3rd Catcher and show a remarkable amount of confidence in Miguel Tejada as the back-up infielder.
The season comes soon, the debate begins, and the 25th man will soon have his two days in the sun.