With the 40-man roster is all but locked-in until the Spring cull, we can take a closer look without fear of free agent interlopers or stowaways seeking shelter from the Rule 5 Draft. Baseball's expanded roster is like your extended family: it includes the player equivalents of estranged great uncles, second cousins and guys who married into the family for a year and then divorced your aunt, taking some of the family fortune with him (you know who I'm taking about). The 25-man active roster is more like the part of your family you see on a semi-regular basis. You at least know what they do for a living, where they live and you get birthday checks from some of them.
Within the active roster, there's also a nuclear family - often referred to as the team's "core." This is often focused around a "young core" of players with bright futures who are years away from free agency or otherwise locked in to long-term contracts. But immediate family of a team is not limited to the under-30 set and can include team elders and veteran leaders who are around for longer than a one-year stop-off.
Stretching the family metaphor, I put the 40-man roster in segments, organized according to job security and the current perceived importance to the team:
The Nuclear Family
These players form the core of the current Reds roster. They are regulars, recognizable by fans and feature prominently in the team's marketing efforts and desire to stay competitive. Most of them figure to be around at least few more seasons. If any of them are disowned, it could throw the family into crisis.
The Extended Family
These players are all important contributors to the team - some of them beloved - and have relative job security for 2011, but do not yet (nor possibly will they ever) have the same profile as the nuclears. Some of them are newer arrivals to the family with bright, but uncertain futures.
The In-Laws & Ex-pats:
Some of them aren't blood relatives - and some of them have been in the Peace Corps for what seems like decades - but they're still part of the family and should be treated as such. We know they may not stick around; they have other families and friends whose names we don't bother keeping straight. Still, some of them can still become favorite uncles who let us smoke out back.
The Distant Relatives
It's nice to see 'em, but they're a little eccentric. Even if we always say "family first," the harsh reality is they're probably the first off the roster. It's a family business, but with an emphasis on the b-word.
The Fringe Members
These guys aren't even technically members of the family yet, but could be soon. It's not bad idea to at least send them a Christmas card. Maybe they'll get a windfall mineral claim and you'll end up in the will. Some of them may even be going pretty hot and heavy with your sister.
Did I miss anyone?
Another way I considered slicing it up was into four-piece bands. Who are the Beatles, who are the Stones and who's Toad the Wet Sprocket? And what would a power trio of Bronson, Mike Leake and Johnny Gomes be called? I think the genre would be acoustic-tinged prog-surfer-metal and they would be called "The Experiment Theory." Or possibly "Unleavened Dead."