Earlier this week I suggested that the Twins had elevated two players — Max Kepler and Kennys Vargas—to their 40-man roster prematurely. Neither player, I argued, was likely to be taken and retained by a rival organization via the Rule 5 draft.
So what? What are the consequences of protecting players who don't need to be protected?
The obvious immediate risk is that another player who lost out on a roster spot will be snagged by another team. I'm not particularly concerned about that possibility here.
The player (pitcher, actually) who is widely viewed as the first guy off the 40 is RHP A.J. Achter, a 25-year-old reliever who had a good 2013 split between Double A and Triple A despite a mediocre control record and then had a 5.25 ERA in 12 innings in the Arizona Fall League. If nobody grabbed Anthony Slama in all those years the Twins left him off the roster, there's not much risk that Achter's going.
The longer term problem is that the Twins have effectively burned their first options on Kepler and Vargas. They aren't making the major league roster this spring. So this tightens by a year the organization's flexibility with them.
Meanwhile, if — when — the Twins sign some free agents, they'll have to open spots on the 40. (They have one open spot now, and presumably they plan to make a pick in the Rule 5 draft; they almost always do.) They can't bounce the four newbies. So somebody else — somebody who, at least in theory, has a better chance of playing in the majors in 2014 — will get the gate.