It's been said before that desperation is sometimes as powerful an inspirer as genius. Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto can relate to the notion. On Monday, Dipoto added a majors-leading 37th player to his roster, purchasing reliever Jairo Diaz's contract from the minors. The body count will increase by one in the coming days, when left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher returns from the disabled list. Even the two Angels players on the 40-man roster who aren't with the big-league club—pitchers Jose Alvarez and Drew Rucinski—have experienced life in The Show this season. As such, it's fair to conclude that Dipoto has utilized his 40-man roster to an extent and effect that differs from any other GM.

The truth is Dipoto's unusual roster-building approach was borne of unenviable circumstances. Most teams choose against fattening their roster to this degree for understandable reasons. The Rays and Diamondbacks, tied for the smallest roster in the game with 29 players apiece, carry light loads due to inverse playoff aspirations at the major-league and Triple-A levels. Other teams choose against bloating their bench and bullpen because the players would serve no purpose other than ballast—at least if the team is adhering to the spirit of the game by putting its best foot forward. (Mets manager Terry Collins' response when he was asked about experimenting with one of his September call-ups was telling: "I'm not here to run a tryout camp. I'm here to win some games.")

Then there's the other, more frequent explanation: Some players housed on the 40-man roster aren't big-league ready. These players, almost always prospects, are harbored for their future value—often at the cost of players with greater present value. Dipoto faces no such dilemma. His farm system is barren, and his 40-man roster includes only two players who opened the season ranked among the organization's top 10 prospects. Rather than dwell on his empty talent pantry, Dipoto stocked his roster with flawed players who could provide value if placed into the right situations. Consider the eight bench players Dipoto added following roster expansion, along with what they do well, how they've been used, and how they were acquired.

  • Outfielder Brennan Boesch. Three starts since his recall, all against right-handed pitching. Subs out when a left-hander makes it to the mound. Signed as a minor-league free-agent during the offseason.
  • Catcher John Buck. Typical third catcher. Has appeared in one game, the final stages of a blowout, but hasn't started or played since. Signed to a minor-league deal after being released by the Mariners in July.
  • Outfielder Tony Campana. Nice set of wheels acquired in the Thatcher trade. Has more runs scored than at-bats because he's entered as a pinch-runner in four of his five appearances. Born for the role.
  • First baseman C.J. Cron. Has seen time at first base an DH. No platoon split thus far in his professional career, which has steered Mike Scioscia to use him against lefties and righties alike. Former first-round draft pick of the Angels.
  • Super-utility man Grant Green. Has appeared in three games, including a start. Plays all over by necessity. Acquired in the Alberto Callaspo trade last season.
  • Third baseman Luis Jimenez. Has appeared in two games, each a boat race. Only obvious skill is hitting Triple-A pitching, so he should come in handy against the Rangers and Astros. Product of the Angels' international efforts.
  • Infielder Shawn O'Malley. Infield version of Campana. Appeared in the same non-competitive game as Buck. Signed as a minor-league free-agent during the offseason.
  • First baseman slash outfielder Efren Navarro. Has played some first base and left field. Gets hidden against left-handed pitching. Former 50th round draft pick of the Angels.

In summation: Third catcher, spare infielder, super-sub, two fast runners (one infielder, one outfielder), two left-handed hitters with limited defensive abilities who need right-handed socks, and a right-handed hitter with limited defensive abilities who goes without socks.

Altogether, not too different from what any other team brings up in September. Even the minimalist Rays have recalled two relievers, a third backstop, and an outfielder they platoon with. The difference is Dipoto has taken those archetypes to an excessive level, where Scioscia will never be outmanaged due to inflexibility or a lack of options. If an opposing manager has double-barreled action going in the bullpen, Scioscia can use a hitter as bait to ensure he has the platoon advantage; or if he wants to pinch-run in the seventh inning, he doesn't have to worry that he might want a mulligan an inning or two later; and so on.

The effect of this flexibility is hard to pin down, as is the case whenever situational value is the main draw. It's important not to overstate the quality of these players—in particular the pinch-runners, who can only do their thing once another player reaches base under certain circumstances—or of the composition. If Dipoto had his druthers, his 40-man roster would be replete with promising prospects rather than the baseball equivalent of penny stocks. Since he doesn't, he's turned his dried grapes into raisins.

Praising GMs for making the most of their situations is common practice—see Billy Beane and Andrew Friedman. Dipoto, partially through his own doing, doesn't have a quality farm system to deploy. Yet his maneuvering has gifted Scioscia a versatile roster that could eke out a run here or there that the Angels would have otherwise gone without. Dipoto's concoction isn't ideal, or conventional—and frankly, it'll probably be dismantled once the season ends—but it could prove effective over the coming weeks. If so, give him credit for originality and execution, no matter the inspiration.

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"Only obvious skill is hitting Triple-A pitching, so he should come in handy against the Rangers and Astros." - LOL
Here's a question: How well-suited is the average clubhouse to rosters this large? I know, for instance, that the Cubs couldn't cram 37 players into their home clubhouse if they wanted to. I know teams have coaches retreating into shared office spaces and players splitting lockers this time of year. Is the sheer logistical nightmare of carrying so many guys a reason we rarely see anyone load up like this, too?
I've never heard the phrase "boat race" before.
It's kind of old-timey and not used very often.