Charlie Tilson outrighted as White Sox begin to reshape 40-man roster


The baseball minutiae that is the 40-man roster might not be of the gravest importance to every fan. But it's going to have a decently sized impact on the White Sox this winter.

In order to protect players from the Rule 5 draft — in which organizations can snap up unprotected players off other teams' rosters — those eligible need to hold a spot on the 40-man roster. And a bunch of notable White Sox prospects will be eligible for selection in the Rule 5 draft this December, meaning the team will have to clear enough room on the 40-man to protect them or risk losing them to other teams.

Those notable prospects? Dane Dunning, Blake Rutherford, Jimmy Lambert, Bernardo Flores, Zack Burdi and suddenly much-discussed catcher Yermin Mercedes. That's as many as six spots the White Sox will need to free up to protect those guys. Also of note, players currently on the 60-day injured list (cough, cough, Michael Kopech, cough, cough — not to mention Ryan Burr and Carlos Rodon, also recovering from Tommy John surgery) have to be activated and take up a spot on the 40-man during the offseason.

Got all that?

In other words, expect a lot more moves like the one that happened Thursday, when the White Sox outrighted outfielder Charlie Tilson, who can either stay in the White Sox minor league system or become a free agent. That brought the 40-man roster to 39, but there's a long way to go before the White Sox can cram everyone they need to cram onto the thing.

Unfortunately for Tilson, his most noteworthy moment of the 2019 season came when Eloy Jimenez crashed into him in the outfield in Kansas City, sending the key piece of the White Sox long-term future to the injured list with an ulnar nerve contusion. That wasn't Tilson's fault, of course, but he was sent to Triple-A after that game and did not return to the majors, not even as a September call up.

Tilson, a Wilmette native, slashed .229/.293/.285 in 54 games, part of the White Sox roulette of outfielders who tried and failed to produce in 2019. Jimenez and Leury Garcia were mainstays, but Tilson, Adam Engel, Jon Jay, Daniel Palka and Ryan Cordell couldn't do much offensively with the opportunities they were given, the big reason finding a right fielder is on Rick Hahn's offseason to-do list.

As for what all this has to do with the the Rule 5 draft, it's the first of an expected series of moves to free up enough spots on the 40-man roster to protect all those prospects newly eligible. Regular offseason departures will likely free up many more. Ivan Nova, Jon Jay, Hector Santiago and Ross Detwiler are heading to regularly scheduled free agency, it would be quite surprising if the White Sox picked up Welington Castillo's 2020 option, and Ryan Goins and Yolmer Sanchez are non-tender candidates, even if their fates haven't been decided just yet.

But there are many more decisions to be made with players the White Sox still have under team control, guys whose promise might have dimmed in 2019 but who still could reach high ceilings, guys who could provide much-needed depth on a potentially contending roster in 2020. The White Sox made their decision with Tilson this week. Expect some more to follow.

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