We've seen a bevy of players designated for assignment and/or released in the past few days as teams were finalizing their Opening Day rosters. The deadline for clubs to submit their 25-man roster is 2pm CT today, and perhaps no one has more decisions to make than the Pirates, as Karen Price of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review explains.
At the moment, Pittsburgh's 40-man roster is full, but they have to find room for relievers Jack Taschner and D.J. Carrasco, who've made the team. One spot can be freed up by placing reliever Jose Ascanio on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Price mentions that the other 40-man spot is likely to come at the cost of Hayden Penn, Ramon Vazquez, John Raynor, or Steve Pearce.
The Pirates claimed Penn off waivers just last week, but that doesn't mean they aren't willing to designate him for assignment today. He's out of options, so he'd have to clear waivers to be sent to the minors anyway. As a Rule 5 Draft selection, the Pirates have to keep Raynor on their 25-man roster all season or offer him back to the Marlins. Pearce has a leg up on the other guys because he has a minor league option remaining.
Vazquez will earn $2MM this season, but was told that he wasn't on the team a few weeks ago, making him a candidate to be either traded or released. Cutting him loose and eating his salary isn't the most desirable move, but it's probably best for the team. After a breakout season with the Rangers in 2008, Vazquez hit just .230/.335/.279 in 239 plate appearances last year, but at least he's capable of playing all over the infield. With Bobby Crosby and Ronny Cedeno on board, that last point may be moot.
Joel Hanrahan is likely to start the year on the 15-day DL because of an elbow issue, so the team could carry Penn to start the season. Optioning Pearce and releasing Vazquez would give the team the 25-man and 40-man roster spots for Taschner/Carrasco, then they'd just have to figure out what to do with Raynor, who's in a unique spot. We'll find out their decision by this afternoon, one way or the other.