According to Matt Weinstein of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Bobby Keppel is headed for the Twins, which means someone will have to go. There are three questions that I think this move raises:
1. Why Bobby Keppel? Why not Rob Delaney or some other hotshot?
The answer to this one is pretty simple. Bobby Keppel was signed last winter as a minor league free agent, after he was released from the Albequerque Isotopes. As such, his contract includes an opt-out clause similar to the one Mike Gosling exercised a few weeks ago. Keppel has been very good this season, posting a 2.43 ERA in 55.2 innings, 21 as a starter. Interestingly, Keppel was slated to start tonight in Rochester, so when he was called up after yesterday night’s Red Wings game, it left Rochester in a bit of a bind. The fact of the matter is that if Keppel didn’t get called up soon, he likely would have exercised his opt-out and went to a team that has immediate need at the major-league level (God knows there’s a bunch of them). It is a bit surprising, since he is not on the 40-man roster. I imagine giving Keppel his shot at the bigs will keep him with the club for the time being, and if, in a month or less, he has not produced, it won’t hurt too badly to release him. Delaney or Armando Gabino (as suggested by LEN3)were less likely because they don’t have the contractual options that Keppel does.
2. Do we lose a reliever or a position player?
Right now the Twins have six arms in the bullpen: Joe Nathan, Sean Henn, Luis Ayala, R.A. Dickey, Jose Mijares, and Matt Guerrier. Since we are in the middle of interleague, I am not surprised to see a smaller bullpen in order to have the depth on the bench for double switches and the like. By the numbers, it wouldn’t be a bad guess that we might see a position player headed for Rochester. Brian Buscher or Matt Tolbert come to mind. Both have options left, and neither has been effective at the major-league level this season (although Buscher did have one of the two hits the other night). However, two members of the bullpen have been really, really bad. Both Sean Henn and Luis Ayala have definitely shown that they don’t deserve their spot in the ‘Pen. However, neither has options, as Ayala was a major league free agent and Henn was a minor-league free agent, so either would have to be dfa’d (although I’m not sure on this point, maybe Henn just has to be offered to all other clubs on irrevocable offers, and then can be reassigned to Rochester, hopefully someone out there can tell me). Both Henn and Ayala have shown flashes of brilliance, but neither of them have shown enough to be considered worthy to stay over the added flexibility of the extra bench player for this interleague road trip.
3. Who goes, since we’ve established that it will likely be a bullpen guy?
Keppel is not currently on the 40-man roster, which is currently full, so someone will have to be removed to make space for him. So, the qualifications for the character that will be dfa’d are likely the following: Bullpen guy, ineffective, no options. That description fits both Henn and Ayala. However, Ayala signed a $1.25 mil deal in the off-season, which gives him the cost advantage (although he has performance-based enhancements that will kick in soon). Henn, on the other hand, is cheap, making a prorated share of $.5 million for his time in the majors. For that reason, I expect Henn to go; the Twins have shown a great deal of reluctance to let go of players they owe coin to.
So, in the end, I see a 65% chance of Henn going away, a 20% chance of Ayala going, a 10% chance of Buscher, Tolbert, or (doubtfully) Pridie being demoted, and a 5% chance of being totally surprised.
(EDIT: Forget that last paragraph, as I forgot that Neshek was on the 60-day DL, freeing up a spot on the 40-man roster. It’s a crapshoot as to what happens next, though I still see the most likely thing as Henn going buh-bye)
UPDATE: AYALA was indeed dfa’d. We’ll see if he accepts his assignment, but I am extremely skeptical that he will.