The simplest way to do this is to list the currently optioned players (if everyone were healthy) and then the desirable additions. We then have to trim the total number on both lists to 14 or even 13* by either getting rid of people, or by giving them MLB jobs next year.
* Because Matsuzaka will be going on the 60-day DL, and so might Hill -- so 26 or 27 spots will be taken by MLB players. Hill can probably be passed through waivers because a claiming team will only get two years of control before he can become a FA, and he'll miss most or all of one of those. But there's always a chance that someone puts in a claim and we have to pull him back.
Tommy Hottovy or Alfredo Aceves (when Morales come off the DL)
Michael Bowden (when Jenks comes off the DL)
Junichi Tazawa (will be coming off the 60-day DL, with Hill going on)
Drew Sutton (when McDonald comes off the DL)
And the 8 guys we would want to add if we had to decide now:
Andrew Miller [already added]
That's 15 + 8 = 23, 9 (or 10) guys too many.
Two easy cuts are Bowden and McKenry [which happened on 6/13]. Bowden will be out of options and, as we're about to see, has 15 guys ahead of him. McKenry looks like an OK MLB backup, but will be redundant with Fed-X moving up from AA.
Navarro and Reddick or Kalish are easy promotions. Navarro can fill either the backup SS or the RH hitting backup OF slot (while doubling as the other, of course), or be a key part in a big trade. One of Reddick or Kalish will likely succeed Drew or be traded for his successor (Choo?), and if they sign Beltran to play RF they can use Reddick or Kalish as a 4th OFer, or trade one. There's no way both will be going back to Pawtucket.
Among the pitchers, Atchison, Doubront, and Miller will be out of options, and Hottovy / Aceves and Weiland are good enough to pitch in the majors. So that's 5 more promotions, giving us 7 total, and with the two cuts, there's your 9.
The problem is this, though: we've just added 5 guys to the pitching staff, but it already had 10 guys: Beckett, Buchholz, Lackey, Lester, Wakefield, Bard, Jenks, Albers, Aceves / Hottovy, and Morales. So we're actually 3 over. And if they want to re-sign Papelbon, or take a flyer on an upside guy (as they have for four straight year with Aardsma, Littleton, Bonser, and Albers), they're 4 over.
Atchison, as useful as he is, is clearly 15th on this list and can be dealt, so now you're 2 over.
(The staff, BTW, has Miller or Doubront as 5th starter, with the other in the pen along with Hottovy or Morales from the left side. Bard remains the relief ace and Jenks becomes the closer, while Weiland takes the 7th inning. Aceves is optioned but gets the call whenever anyone is hurt. Alternatively, Weiland is the guy waiting in AAA.)
So how might further spots be freed up?
1) Morales is iffy and may not make it to the end of the year anyway. (And if he does, you arguably have a surplus of LHR, so you can deal him -- or Hottovy or Doubront).
2) Deal Exposito to a team that can give him the AAA playing time he needs. He no longer seems to have a future in this organization, but should be able to fetch some other team's #25-30 non-eligible prospect.
3) Make a big 2 or 3 for 1 trade either at the deadline or over the winter. They will certainly be interested in Beltran at the deadline, if not sooner.
4a) Promote Sutton to the MLB MI position, rather than obtaining a goof-field no-hit SS type who can also pinch-run and steal.
4b) Alternatively, deal Sutton. If he falls short of what you want in an MLB backup MI, he still seems like a really useful guy to have on options, But he is still a backup infielder with no upside, and you can hope to find someone nearly as good.
5) Deal Dice-K for nothing so that he doesn't hog a spot.
These strike me as much less likely:
6) Give Lin the 4th OF spot that's currently McDonald's.
7) Give up on Tejeda, who's having a rough year.
8) Leave Lin unprotected, gambling that no one wants an OFer who can't slug .400 in AAA.
9) Put Tazawa on waivers and gamble that no one claims him (P 91's idea; I don't think it works)
10) Trade the loser of the RF job rather than sending him down to Pawtucket (with Lin, Linares, Chiang, and Hassan, still plenty of OF depth there).
11) If Wakefield retires unexpectedly, Aceves takes his MLB spot, freeing up an option slot.
12) Sign Varitek and Wakefield to minor league deals instead of MLB ones, meaning you don't have to leave two roster spots free for them. Also P 91's idea and I think people would complain.
They will have to do two of these things, and they may want to do three.
And here is a way too thorough list of guys* you wouldn't protect right now, but are theoretically worth watching and could conceivably make things even tougher:
*Everyone who's ever made a BA prospect depth chart, in fact. Some are extremely unlikely. OTOH, Rice and Fox have shots to land an MLB deal and would ordinarily be guys you'd think of protecting.
The Watch List 1: Pitchers
Listed in order of the improvement they currently need, without regard to the likelihood of making that improvement, or any factors other than their pitching line for this year.
Ex-prospects in blue (italics = out of options), non-prospects in red.
Jason Rice (FA)
Blake Maxwell (FA)
Brandon Duckworth (FA)
Tommy Hottovy (FA)
Justin Erasmus (SSS)
Clevelan Santeliz (FA)
Tony Pena (FA)
[Randy Williams (FA)]
Matt Fox (FA)
The Watch List 2: Position Players
I may or may not put these in better order later.
Nate Spears (FA)
Edited by Eric Van, 29 July 2011 - 07:21 PM.