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Brewers Opening Day roster coming into sharper focus

With the acquisition of Neal Cotts, the departure of Elian Herrera, and the health of Tyler Thornburg it was time to update the roster and payroll projection.

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

There hasn't been a ton of changes since our last update to the roster and payroll projections. Neal Cotts was added to the bullpen and Elian Herrera was removed from the 40-man roster. That's the only transaction. However there was some good news that came out of the Brewers Fan Fest last weekend.

Namely that Tyler Thornburg is healthy and expected to be ready for Spring Training. The Brewers are saying, barring any setbacks, he will be ready for Opening Day. That's enough for me to return him to consideration for roster projections. He still makes the league minimum so that doesn't change the payroll projection at all.

SP-Matt Garza: $12.5M RP-Jonathan Broxton: $9M C-Jonathan Lucroy: $3.4M BN-Martin Maldonado: $0.85M
SP- Kyle Lohse: $11M RP-Will Smith: $0.5M 1B-Adam Lind: $7.5 BN-Gerardo Parra: $6.2375M
SP-Wily Peralta: $0.5M RP-Jeremy Jeffress: $0.5M 2B-Scooter Gennett: $0.5M BN-Shane Peterson: $0.5M
SP-Mike Fiers: $0.5M RP-Brandon Kintzler: $1.075M 3B-Aramis Ramiez: $14M BN-Hector Gomez: $0.5M
SP-Jimmy Nelson: $0.5M RP-Corey Knebel: $0.5M SS-Jean Segura: $0.5M BN-Luis Jimenez: $0.5M
RP-Neal Cotts: $3M LF-Khris Davis: $0.5M
RP-Tyler Thornburg: $0.5M CF-Carlos Gomez: $8M
Non-Roster- $4M RF-Ryan Braun: $13M
Rotation Total: $25M Bullpen Total: $15.1M Lineup Total: $47.4M
Bench Total: $8.5875M
Team Total: $100,160,000

(Note: Players listed as making $0.5 million are making league minimum. League minimum in 2015 is actually $507,500. I left it as $0.5 M in the table to keep it more easily readable. But the real figure is represented in the "Team Total" payroll. Also, Brandon Kintzler can make and addition $25,000 via incentives. Matt Garza has $2 million deferred, but he can also make another $1 million via incentives)

With this update I replaced Michael Blazek with Tyler Thornburg. Rob Wooten gets removed in favor of Neal Cotts. Both Blazek and Wooten still have minor league options so unless one is DFA'd at a future date they will remain with the club.

The only other change I made was to replace Luis Sardinas with Hector Gomez. I bounce back and forth between which I think will make the club. They both play the same positions. They both are solid defenders. Sardinas might be better there. They both have questionable bats. Gomez might be better there.

There are two reasons I went with Gomez. First and foremost, he's out of minor league options. If the Brewers don't put him on the active roster they'll have to expose him to waivers and risk him electing free agency. With Jean Segura, Luis Jimenez, and Yadiel Rivera on the 40-man roster they might decide that's an acceptable risk. But it's always good to keep talent if you can and at the very least keeping Gomez on the active roster gives them one more player on the middle infield depth chart.

If the Brewers do go with Gomez, it might have less to do with him than it does with Luis Sardinas. Sardinas does have minor league options remaining and he might benefit from some more seasoning in the minors. He only has 60 games at AAA under his belt and his hitting tool has yet to come around. By keeping Sardinas in AAA they give him more time to develop. They also give him a lot more playing time than he would get if he was primarily a bench player at the major league level.

There are two more things I want to mention and they both have to do with the bullpen. When the news of Tyler Thornburg broke, there was also news regarding Jim Henderson. Unlike Tyler Thornburg who is already throwing bullpen sessions, Henderson only started to throw his first bullpen sessions this very week.

If he was just a normal pitcher gearing up for Spring Training this wouldn't be important. However coming off shoulder surgery it's important to see how his body responds to engaging in baseball activities. It's also important to know if his velocity returns to pre-injury levels. Until we hear more, hopefully good, news I'm not prepared to include Jim Henderson in consideration for the Opening Day roster.

Lastly, there has been plenty of recent discussion regarding the Brewers' pursuit of Francisco Rodriguez and Jonathan Papelbon. The Neal Cotts signing does not preclude the Brewers acquiring one of those pitchers. And even if it isn't either of those pitchers I do still expect the Brewers to add another reliever. That would push out one of the players I have listed in this roster projection. Assuming Thornburg is indeed healthy, I think the most likely candidate is Corey Knebel.

The young reliever acquired in the Yovani Gallardo deal might very well be the most talented reliever in the entire Brewers organization. However he is very young and very inexperienced. He was only drafted in 2013! He also had an injury scare at the end of last year. It appears to no longer be a concern, but the Brewers might want to ease him into this year. That seems like a perfectly acceptable thing to do.

Contract details courtesy of Cot's Contracts