New York Yankees non-roster invitees to watch this spring 1
Oct 18, 2016; Mesa, AZ, USA; Scottsdale Scorpions infielder Gleyber Torres of the New York Yankees against the Mesa Solar Sox during an Arizona Fall League game at Sloan Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are already winning the offseason. Here’s a quick look at what happened, why it happened, and the probable impact these moves will have on the team in 2018.

Good teams in baseball don’t sit still. And this week, the New York Yankees responded to the Rule 5 Draft crunch by making a series of additions and subtractions to their 40-man roster.

Top prospect Gleyber Torres is officially a member of the New York Yankees. Also, welcome Thairo Estrada, outfielder Billy McKinney and right-handers Albert Abreu, Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo Acevedo who, along with Torres, are now included on the Yankees 40-man roster.

For a player who has been toiling in the minor leagues wondering how his value to the organization is seen by the Yankees’ front office, their inclusion on the roster sends a signal that the team views each of them as a piece of the Yankees future.

A big deal: Making the Yankees 40-man roster

Moreover, the player inherits benefits he didn’t have before. If you have about an hour-and-a-half, you can read an attempt by MLB Daily Dish to spell out those benefits but, suffice to say, the most important thing now is that each of these players can be added to the 25-man roster at a moment’s notice. Whereas before, Brian Cashman had to jump through a series of hoops to call up one of these players to replace, for example, a Yankees player who landed on the disabled list.

The Yankees cleared space on their roster for Torres et al. to be added by trading right-hander Ronald Herrera to the Rangers for minor league left-hander Reiver Sanmartin. Then they traded infielder Garrett Cooper and left-hander Caleb Smith to the Marlins for right-hander Michael King and 2017-18 international signing bonus pool money.

That last move came courtesy of Derek Jeter and that little blurb about including “international signing bonus pool money” is something Brian Cashman has been sneaking into recent deals he’s made. The trade, for instance, with the A’s for Sonny Gray also added to the Yankees’ stash of pool money, and this could become significant this time next week when Shohei Ohtani is expected to be a free agent on the international market. Ohtani is being advertised as the next Babe Ruth because of his ability to pitch and hit with power at a high level.

New York Yankees

What’s that Rule 5 thing?

All of this roster “action” emanated from what is widely known as baseball’s Rule 5. If you have another hour or so, Baseball America takes a stab at explaining all the ins and outs of the rule. But basically, the reason it’s there is to prevent teams from stockpiling players in their organization and, in effect, never giving a player a real chance to make it to “The Show.”

It’s one of the best rules MLB has in my judgment because it says to a team, do you like this guy or not? He’s been in your system for three or four years now, and it’s time that you fish or cut bait with him. Without the rule, and although it’s a stretch, Gleyber Torres could have been kept in the minors and used as trade bait for the next decade.

A better example of the fairness Rule 5 gives to players, though, is the case of Caleb Smith. This week, the Yankees traded and, in effect, “let go” to pursue a real chance to pitch in the major leagues, after having spent four years with the organization with only nine appearances with the Yankees, lining up behind a plethora of other pitching prospects.

But hold on, there’s gonna be more changes

Gleyber Torres remains the most exciting name on the Yankees’ recent roster additions. He’s a shortstop by trade, but there’s no way he is going to supplant Didi Gregorius. In the minors, he’s been positioned mostly at second and third base where the Yankees have Starlin Castro and Chase Headley, who has 2018 to fulfill his contract with the Yankees, after which Headley frees up a spot at third for Torres.

But as much as Headley helped the Yankees last season, he is on the downside of his career while Torres has a zooming upside. Assuming that Torres is fully healed from his season-ending injury last year, it’s likely he’ll play a couple of months at Triple-A Scranton before Cashman considers calling him up. At which point (June), the Yankees can be expected to move Headley, making room for the phenomenal Torres.

Or (it’s hardly sensible when you consider the contribution Starlin Castro has made to the team) Cashman could trade Castro during the offseason while his value is at its highest, using Ronald Torreyes as a fill-in until Torres is 100 percent.

Shifting over to the outfield, things get even more intriguing. Billy McKinney apparently is seen as a fourth outfielder possibility for this season. The Yankees like him in the way Joe Girardi liked Aaron Hicks, leaving open the chance that Hicks’ days with the Yankees are dwindling down and he will also be moved sooner rather than later.

And oops, did I forget Clint Frazier? What a mess the Yankees have with all this talent.

As with all teams at this stage of the offseason, there a lot of ifs, ands, or buts with the Yankees, not to mention the team has yet to appoint a new manager. All of which makes for a ton of storylines for Yankees fans to follow over the winter.

And usually, I would say I can’t wait for Spring Training. Except for this year, I can’t wait for next week to see what’s going to happen with the 2018 New York Yankees.

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