PTBNL Hysteria

Ever since the Angels acquired Scott Kazmir from the Rays on Saturday for minor leaguers Alex Torres and Matt Sweeney, speculation has run rampant on the identity of the third player sent by the Angels to Tampa Bay.

In baseball parlance, such a player is known as the Player To Be Named Later (PTBNL).

The identity of the PTBNL has ranged from idle speculation to false claims from certain fan sites that they have “insider” information as to his true identity. The truth is that no one — including me — knows who is the PTBNL, other than the front offices of the teams involved.

We do have some clues.

Rays Manager Joe Maddon said at the time of the trade that the PTBNL is “a very interesting player that I’m very excited about.” The St. Petersburg Times suggested that the player “is considered closer to the majors” than Torres or Sweeney. In many PTBNL transactions, the two teams have agreed on a list of players from which the receiving team may select one, but Maddon’s statement suggests there’s no list. His identity is known.

• If the player were active now and not on the 40-man roster, he simply would have been included in the trade. Why wait? It risks the PTBNL being injured while playing for another organization. If not on “the 40,” the only reason he wouldn’t have been moved is because he’s on the disabled list. I believe a disabled player can grant his consent, although that’s fairly unusual. Jake Peavy’s trade to the White Sox is a recent example of a disabled player being traded.

• If the player is on the 40, there are two reasons why he wouldn’t have been traded at the time — he has to pass through waivers, or he’s disabled. If he didn’t pass through waivers, both teams would simply wait until after the season, at which time the waiver period ends. The disabled list also ends after the season.

• Here’s another obscure and frequently misquoted rule. The PTBNL cannot be in the same league for the balance of the season. In 1967, Hall of Fame baseball writer Leonard Koppett wrote an article noting a potential conflict of interest should a player learn he’s the PTBNL. Let’s say PTBNL will be traded from Team A to Team B after the season. Team B faces Team A in a series. Does PTBNL perform poorly for Team A, knowing he’s soon to be an employee of Team B? So the rule was amended to keep a player from performing in the same league; in the case of the Kazmir trade, the PTBNL cannot perform in the American League for the rest of the season. So that rules out anyone currently on the 25-man roster.

The Angels just promoted five players from Salt Lake as part of the September callups — pitchers Sean O’Sullivan and Rich Thompson, catcher Bobby Wilson, infielder Brandon Wood and outfielder Reggie Willits. Since they will violate the “same league” rule if they play, we can rule them out as PTBNL candidates.

Who’s left among the 40-man roster candidates?

Kelvim Escobar, Robert Mosebach, Dustin Moseley, Anthony Ortega, Scot Shields, Ryan Budde, Matt Brown, Sean Rodriguez, Freddy Sandoval, Mark Trumbo and Terry Evans.

We can throw out Escobar, as he’s a free agent at season’s end.

The other scenario is it’s someone not on the 40-man roster, i.e. everyone else in the minors. But as noted above, the PTBNL would have been included in the trade at the time unless he was disabled.

For clues, we can look at the Tempe Angels roster on FutureAngels.com. This shows us players assigned to Tempe on rehab. Who are they?

Leo Calderon, Mike Davitt, Tim Dorn, Robert Fish, Anthony Ortega, Matt Oye, Jose Perez, Tim Schoeninger, Mason Tobin, Jordan Walden, Brian Wilson, Luis Jimenez, Jean Segura, Rian Kiniry, Val Majewski, and Julio Perez.

The roster was last updated on August 24. Since then, Robert Fish has been activated and sent to Rancho Cucamonga. So it’s unlikely to be him, although his playing doesn’t violate the “same league” rule.

Given Maddon’s comment that the PTBNL is “a very interesting player that I’m very excited about,” no offense intended to some of the guys on those two lists, but I think that whittles it down considerably. The St. Petersburg Times speculated it was someone closer to the majors than Torres or Sweeney, although nothing stated specifically rules out someone already in the majors, e.g. a disabled player like Scot Shields, who had knee surgery earlier in the year and is out for the season.

So given all these clues, I’ll speculate that it’s Shields, Sean Rodriguez, Mark Trumbo, or Jordan Walden. If Rodriguez isn’t called up when the Bees’ season ends, he’s the leading PTBNL candidate.

But that’s my speculation. I won’t be so arrogant as to claim “insider” information as some fan sites simply pulling it out of a certain body orifice.

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