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The coming Twins roster crunch

This Twins have a chance to sweep the Rays with a win today. Jesse glances beyond the game to a couple of roster choices Minnesota will need to make to see what changes may be forthcoming.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Twins have made a lot of roster moves already this season, but right now the Twins have five players on the disabled list at once. All five were on the opening day roster, so it would only be normal to assume that the club will work to find roster spots for them once they're healthy. Let's talk about whose days might be numbered in Minnesota.

Position players on the roster Pos Position players in the disabled list Pos
Chris Herrmann C/OF Oswaldo Arcia OF
Kurt Suzuki C Eduardo Nunez IF/OF
Doug Bernier IF Jordan Schafer OF
Brian Dozier 2B
Joe Mauer 1B
Trevor Plouffe 3B
Danny Santana SS
Eduardo Escobar IF/OF
Aaron Hicks CF
Torii Hunter RF
Shane Robinson OF
Eddie Rosario OF
Kennys Vargas DH/1B

That outfield situation is where this crunch really gets interesting. On this list there are eight players who - according to the Twins' official 40-man roster - are outfielders. Sure, Escobar and Nunez are traditionally infielders, but in an effort to have enough warm bodies to throw at the wall and to get Escobar playing time they've more or less been transitioned out of their original roles. For now.

The other six players fall into two other categories. Arcia, Hicks, Hunter, and Rosario need to play everyday. Schafer and Robinson are fourth outfielders whose future value to the organization is virtually zero.

So we come to our question: who do the Twins keep, and who - whether by option or DFA - do they not keep?

Arcia is eligible to come off the disabled list on Tuesday; Schafer the Tuesday following (May 26); Nunez's return is yet to be determined. In the end it seems inevitable that Rosario gets optioned to Triple-A and that one of Robinson or Schafer gets designated for assignment, with the survivor acting as the club's fourth outfielder for the time being. My guess is that the outfield shakes out something like this, providing our dates are correct and that no other injury issues arrise:

  1. Twins option Rosario to Triple-A when Arcia returns, going with an outfield of Arcia-Hicks-Hunter with Robinson in fourth position and Escobar available to fill in versus lefties.
  2. Twins use time between now and Schafer's return to evaluate Hicks; if Hicks is playing well they will designate Schafer or Robinson for assignment, and if Hicks is really struggling they could option him back to Triple-A and keep both Schafer and Robinson.

Doug Bernier's roster spot seems safe for the time being, but when Nunez gets back Bernier will need to be designated for assignment since he's out of options. He should pass through, although considering Ryan Wheeler's recent minor league deal with the Twins it looks like Minnesota may already be planning for life post-Bernier.

On the pitching side, here's how the bullpen currently operates.

Reliever on the roster Pos Reliever on the disabled list Pos
Blaine Boyer RHP Casey Fien RHP
Brian Duensing LHP Tim Stauffer RHP
J.R. Graham RHP
Glen Perkins LHP
Ryan Pressly RHP
Aaron Thompson LHP
Michael Tonkin RHP

Every time I look at that bullpen, A) I'm not sure how Blaine Boyer pitched himself into the set-up role and B) I'm not sure how the Twins can keep taking opportunities away from Michael Tonkin.

Figuring out how to find the right balance here is easier: designate Brian Duensing for assignment to make room for Fien and do the same for Tim Stauffer when he's ready to come off of the disabled list. Both players seemed superfluous coming into the season, and both have proven to be very ineffective to date. These moves would both clear the way for Fien's return while also clearing obstacles for relievers who will have earned a tryout with the big league club later this summer. Lester Oliveros, Caleb Thielbar, Zack Jones, potentially even Nick Burdi or Jake Reed; there are plenty of arms waiting in the wings. Veteran arms just keeping seats warms until the prospects arrive are only so valuable if they're ineffective.

Instead, the Twins are more likely to option Pressly and Tonkin back to Triple-A. Maybe they won't, but it's the easiest thing to do and it would be consistent with out the club operates.

Officially, neither Fien nor Staffer has an estimated return date. The team's injury report says they're both likely to return this month, so there's still plenty of time for another wrench or two to be thrown into the mix.

We'll see you back here in a couple of hours for the game thread - provided we don't get rained out.