The Atlanta Braves have started the process of opening up some spaces on their 40-man roster and protecting additional players from the Rule 5 draft. Four players were taken off the 40-man roster and outrighted to triple-A Gwinnett: catcher J.C. Boscan, pitcher Stephen Marek, and outfielders Wilkin Ramirez and Antoan Richardson.
No surprises here, Ramirez and Richardson likely do not figure into the Braves 2012 outfield plans at this point. Stephen Marek is still a good prospect, he ranks 10th on Talking Chop's top-10 Braves relief prospects for 2012, but he is recovering from Tommy John surgery and likely won't be ready until mid-year.
The Braves also added starting pitcher Todd Redmond to the team's 40-man roster. This marks the second time he has been added to the 40-man, as he was previously removed during the 2011 season. He would have become a minor league free agent had the team not added him to the 40-man, but he represents a decent piece of starting pitching depth in the system, so it makes sense for the Braves to keep him.
After these moves the Braves 40-man roster stands at 37, with three open spots. The Braves will open up more spots on the roster as players elect free agency. That process should clear Scott Linebrink, George Sherrill, Alex Gonzalez, and Jack Wilson, leaving the Braves with seven open spots.
The team will fill these spots with players they need to protect from the Rule 5 draft. Currently that's very few additional players (by my calculations). I can only think of two, pitchers J.J. Hoover and Jaye Chapman. That tells you how young the Braves organization is right now, and why they have room to add Redmond back to the roster.
This roster flexibility should allow them to add a few of those waiver claims they have been very adept at the past few years. Guys like Eric O'Flaherty, Anthony Varvaro, and Cristhian Martinez were all claimed off waivers from other teams.