Well, the season for baseball is almost over. Rosters will eventually reset to just the main 40, with the people on the 60-day disabled list being erased and roster decisions have to be made. The other problem that eventually will come up is the 40-man roster for the Yankees is clogged and we need room for Rule V protection. The Yankees already started the job of protecting some of the Rule V eligible players, such as Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin and Ben Heller. However, players such as Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar, who are far from the majors still, have to be added to the roster anyway for protection.
The clogged roster has some room for cleaning, and the Yankees got a head start on it, outrighting pitcher J.R. Graham off the roster yesterday. The Yankees have a lot more work to do among the 46 players on the 40-man roster (39 on the roster, seven on the 60-day disabled list.) There are easy moves, but a lot of tough decisions have to be made. Let’s review what will happen and probably should happen.
- Free Agency: There’s not a long list here whatsoever. The only player on the entire 40-man roster eligible for true free agency thanks to the moves made at the trade deadline by Brian Cashman: Mark Teixeira (#25). While Teixeira is retiring at the end of the weekend, he will technically be a free agent and without a 40-man roster spot on the team. Billy Butler (#36) was signed as late depth, and will be signed technically through the end of the season. He is free to sign somewhere else at the end of the season.
- The Obvious Veteran DFAs: The Yankees roster is loaded in players who will be designated for assignment because they do not have a place in the future of the team and were brought more for the sake of one-year roles or for emergency depth. That was a reason why they acquired J.R. Graham and promoted Anthony Swarzak to the majors. That said, there is only a few obvious DFA candidates among the veterans of the team: Kirby Yates (#50), Anthony Swarzak (#41), Blake Parker (#47), Eric Young, Jr (#48) and Donovan Solano (#57). Yates, Swarzak and to some degree Parker have worn out their welcome here, while Eric Young was brought in for the purposes of being a pinch runner in vital situations (which has not happened much). Solano was in the minors all year and promoted because Starlin Castro was injured. Of the entire list, Solano is going to be the tough call. I would still expect him to be designated for assignment quick, but definitely the last of the group.
- Non-Tender Time: This one is also a long group of people to make tough decisions on. This is where it gets to be a pain for the front office because you have to make tough decisions on who are not going to be tendered a contract for next season. The Yankees have some obvious decisions on the list, most notably Dustin Ackley (#29), who has been out most of the season with shoulder surgery after tearing his labrum on the base paths. Ackley was brought in to be a defensive backup and can be replaced. The next one will be a disappointment, but there’s no reason to tender a contract to Nathan Eovaldi (#30). Eovaldi had not one, but two injuries repaired during his Tommy John surgery and he is basically out for the entirety of the 2017 season. Depending how well rehab goes, he could be out through parts of 2018 as well. There’s no reason to tender him a contract, let him rest and rehab as a free agent and hopefully he pops up somewhere else healthy.
- “The Kids” Part I: The 40-man roster and 60-day disabled list are loaded in Yankee relievers who were fringe prospects who earned their way onto the roster in 2015 and 2016, reaching the majors. That said, it will need to be cleaned out. Relievers are a dime a dozen and we are going to have to make some tough decisions. Starting on the 60-day disabled list, the Yankees have Conor Mullee, Branden Pinder and Nick Rumbelow out for the season. Pinder and Rumbelow are both out with Tommy John surgery. Conor Mullee, a story of perseverance himself, needed a fourth elbow surgery. Pinder and Mullee are obvious DFA candidates, and if they pass through waivers (pretty likely), it would be nice to have them for depth when they return (Mullee is closer than Pinder). The Yankees deserve a chance to figure it out with Rumbelow by putting him back on the 60-day disabled list later, but for right now eat a 40-man spot.
- “The Kids” Part II: The 40-man roster as it currently stands have a couple non-tender or DFA candidates that tough decisions will have to be made once again. This groups includes Nick Goody (#64), James Pazos (#67), Richard Bleier (#54), Johnny Barbato (#26), Jacob Lindgren and Chasen Shreve (#45). There are some tough decisions and some easy ones in this list. Goody, Pazos, Bleier and Barbato are mostly all “we dominated AAA and/or Spring Training” relievers and mostly been ineffective in the majors. Again, relievers are easy to replace, and the fact that Barbato did not receive a call-up after the end of the Scranton championship season should tell you what the Yankees think of his performance.
- “The Kids” Part III: The same cannot be said for the cases of Shreve and Lindgren. The Yankees acquired Chasen Shreve in 2015 along with David Carpenter for Manny Banuelos, and while Shreve was great the first four months of the 2015 season, Shreve is a flex lefty with ineffective results. He has been on the shuttle to Scranton all year, and there is some question if he has a future on the team. Jacob Lindgren is another story. The first-rounder made his MLB debut in 2015 and was ineffective. After ending his season with a bone spur, Lindgren was gone for the season. After a bad spring training, he was sent to High-A Tampa and got injured, falling off the face of Earth. The Yankees announced in August he would have Tommy John surgery and be out most of 2017. The tough decision to be made here, because are the Yankees ready to give up on Lindgren? They never put him on the 60-day disabled list, and he is still on the 40-man roster. There is no sense around the league that the Yankees are ready to give up on the first-rounder, even though he is basically out until 2018. Lindgren can just go on the 60DL anyway if need be.
- The Trade Candidates: Finally, there are the trade candidates on the roster, also a short list, but there are some options. The two most notable ones, especially after trading Ben Gamel to the Mariners, are Rob Refsnyder (#38) and Austin Romine (#27). Refsnyder finally got his chance to be an everyday player in the majors, and failed to come through with the bat. His defense is great, his OBP is excellent, but man, his hitting has stunk. While the prospect of hope is not completely drained, there is not the same hope. Maybe a National League team could take a flyer for a fringe prospect. As for Romine, the Yankees have the option of trading him to the Pirates, because they seem to be very good at that. The Yankees have Kyle Higashioka as a Rule V draft eligible player and he seems on the verge of being able to grab an MLB spot, especially if Brian McCann (#34) is traded. Romine and his 2016 revival can fetch another fringe prospect or reliever.
After all that, let us look at the 40-man roster as it remains:
Relief Pitchers (10): Dellin Betances (#68), Tommy Layne (#39), Luis Severino (#40), Tyler Clippard (#29), Ben Heller (#61), Jonathan Holder (#65), Nick Rumbelow (#50), Adam Warren (#43), Jacob Lindgren and Chasen Shreve (#45)
Catchers (2): Brian McCann (#34) and Gary Sanchez (#24)
After all that, it leaves 29 players on the 40-man roster and 11 open spots for players of the Rule V draft and those who do survive the roster crunch. Now, it goes without saying that this is just speculation, but this would be a very interesting way of doing it.