Daily Jolt: Beware the Roster Crunch

The Daily Jolt is a dose of baseball reality every weekday morning.

The Nationals made it official Thursday, inking slugger Adam Dunn to a two-year, $20 million deal and introducing him in Washington. Dunn fills a glaring need for the Nats -- left-handed power -- but he also creates a roster crunch that general manager Jim Bowden will have to clear up before the team heads north for the start of the season.

Of course, Washington isn't the only club with a bit of a logjam heading into Spring Training. Here are a look at five rosters that will need to be un-cluttered in the coming six weeks, and how they might be.

Nationals Outfield/First Base:
It's unclear where Dunn will fit in exactly. He's played primarily outfield in the past, but the Nationals seem intent on playing him at first base. The outfield is already overstuffed, with Josh Willingham, Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge, Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena vying for playing time, and Dmitri Young the first base bat off of the bench.

That leaves Nick Johnson out in the cold. His skills are underappreciated --he gets on base and works pitchers -- but he is never healthy. That could make it difficult for the Nats to work out a trade, but one way or another, one of these guys is going to have to go.

Red Sox Rotation:John Smoltz will be a factor later in the year, but even before he gets to Boston, Sox brass will have some tough decisions to make. Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka will take the top three rotation spots, and veteran Tim Wakefield figures to get a spot as well. Winter signing Brad Penny would be the odds-on favorite for the final spot, leaving Clay Buchholz and top prospect Michael Bowden staring at a trip to Triple-A Pawtucket to start the year.

Boston will not need to make a trade, and injuries could uncomplicate the situation quickly, but as of right now the Red Sox have eight starting pitchers. That's serious depth.

Yankees Right Field: New York general manager Brian Cashman acquired Nick Swisher from the White Sox at the outset of the offseason, but the arrival of Mark Teixeira leaves Swisher, Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui and Xavier Nady vying for the left field, right field and designated hitter spots. Damon and Matsui are virtually untradeable at this point, and Damon, in particular, fills a key role as the team's leadoff hitter.

Nady and Swisher have been in trade rumors almost since the moment Teixeira signed. You can make a case for the Yankees holding onto both, just as the Red Sox did with center fielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Coco Crisp last year, but they could also deal one of them to bolster another part of their roster (bullpen). Nady is coming off a career year and performed well enough in New York, but Swisher is younger, a switch-hitter and has a higher ceiling.

Royals First Base/Designated Hitter: Go ahead and try to sort this one out. The Royals acquired Mike Jacobs at the very start of the winter. He has immense power, but no grasp of the strike zone. Billy Butler seems like the DH of the future, but hasn't excelled in the majors yet. Waiting in the wings are Ryan Shealy and Ross Gload, and just behind them is Kala Ka'aihue, who has a career .391 on-base percentage in the minor leagues. Shealy is superfluous and Gload seems like a bench guy, but if Jacobs or Butler slips up, Ka'aihue will be a phone call away at Triple-A.

Braves Rotation: Atlanta made three signings this winter to strengthen its starting pitching, adding innings-eaters Javier Vazquez and Derek Lowe and Japanese import Kenshin Kawakami. NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Jair Jurrjens remains, leaving one rotation spot up for grabs among Jorge Campillo and Jo-Jo Reyes. But keep in mind that Tom Glavine will probably re-sign with the Braves at some point, pushing Campillo and Reyes out of the rotation and further postponing the ascent of elite pitching prospect Tommy Hanson.

Daily Jolt: Beware the Roster Crunch originally appeared on MLB FanHouse on Fri, 13 Feb 2009 08:30:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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