As teams look to gear up for the offseason, you'll see a flurry of additions to 40-man rosters, releases, and DFAs. The Braves are no different.
Today, they added right-handed reliever Wirfin Obispo and left-handed reliever Ryan Buchter to the 40-man roster, which officially gives the Braves 40 players on the 40-man roster. It won't stay that way for long as Luis Ayala, Scott Downs, Freddy Garcia, Tim Hudson, Kameron Loe, Paul Maholm, Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters, Brian McCann, and Reed Johnson are basically guaranteed free-agents at this point - all of whom "could" come back, but it remains to be seen which and how many.
Why add them now? Simple. Both could become minor-league free agents in a few days, and by putting them on the 40-man, both Obispo and Buchter are now tied to the Braves. They, of course, get a pay raise and three option years in return. But waiting would have allowed them to be signed by other teams, and the Braves felt they did not want to lose them and could afford the roster spots, which they can.
Wirfin Obispo has at least a 70-grade name and fastball. His delivery might get a 70 as well for quirkiness, but it works - 3.53 ERA, 26% K rate, 13% BB rate. I'm not sure he'll be on the Opening Day roster, but it's hard to let guys who throw in the upper-90s just leave your system. He'll be 29 all next season, but age doesn't matter as much with relievers.
Ryan Buchter is a bit younger - 27 next season - and, most importantly, left-handed. With Downs, Venters, and O'Flaherty either gone or suspect for next season, Luis Avilan is the only lefty in the 'pen. That leaves a potential spot for Buchter. Buchter, however, will need to improve that 19% BB rate, but that 38% K rate is outstanding. Neither of these guys are "exciting," but they're both potentially useful pieces who could round out the bullpen. Buchter is the more likely to stick on Opening Day, but I kind of doubt it.
These won't be the last additions of minor-leaguers to the 40-man this offseason, but the rest will be to prevent them from reaching the Rule 5 draft. As a quick and dirty course on the two, you get six years of minor-league service time before you become a minor-league free agent. To be eligible for the Rule 5 draft, high school-drafted - or younger in the case of Latin American players - players are eligible if this is the 5th Rule 5 draft since they've become a professional, and for everyone else, they are eligible if this is the 4th since they were drafted or signed. Putting players on the 40-man roster prevents them from being eligible for either free agency or the Rule 5 draft.