The New York Yankees, following this week’s moves to save players from exposure to the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, and Brian Cashman can now move forward with the composition of the 25-man roster that will head north when the 2018 season begins. And that’s where the trouble starts.
When you look at the Yankees depth chart for 2018, based on the composition of their recent reconstructed 40-man roster, it quickly becomes apparent the team still has some heavy lifting to do. This, despite Brian Cashman’s repeated claim that “most of the heavy lifting is done” for 2018.
The Minnesota Twins used 35 pitchers to make it through the 2017 season. So, we know that in baseball, you can never have too much of a good thing. Still, the Yankees are lopsided in several areas, and further paring will be needed before opening day and beyond.
Plus, the Yankees current 40-man roster does not contain the likes of CC Sabathia, who hopefully remains on the team’s radar as a one-year free agent signee. Couple that with the availability later this week of Shohei Ohtani as an international free agent, along with decisions yet to be made on free agents Matt Holliday and Todd Frazier, and the formation of the puzzle becomes more evident.
The Yankees, through the genius of Brian Cashman, have been building up what is called “pool money,” obtained through trades they can use to attract the over-the-top talented Ohtani. At present, the only team with more dollar leverage than the Yankees are the Texas Rangers, and according to Las Vegas, are still the odds-on favorite to win his services.
That having been said, Masahiro Tanaka is reportedly working behind the scenes to bring “baseball’s next Babe Ruth” to New York. And if that happens, the din in the Yankees’ outfield and starting pitching staff reaches new heights. A player of Ohtani’s caliber is not being brought to America to play in the minor leagues.
Sorting out the outfield conundrum
And it’s in the outfield where the overload problem is most prevalent. On paper, Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Aaron Judge will be in the starting lineup when the Yankees play Toronto on Opening Day: Judge and Gardner because they’ve earned the spot, and Ellsbury because no other team appears interested in inheriting his expensive salary and contract.
Conceivably, the Yankees can carry two more outfielders on their 25-man roster. And here’s where the fun begins. Again, looking at the Depth Chart provided by MLB, Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks, Tyler Austin, Billy McKinney, and Tyler Wade are all candidates to fill the two positions. Meaning, of course, that three of these players are not going to be happy campers come April 1, and they are not among those heading north.
With the possible exception of McKinney, who was added to the roster just this week, they’re all “major league ready” and would easily slide into a starting position on practically any other team. To ease the problem, Cashman seems likely to swing a deal involving Hicks, who was known to be a personal favorite of the departed Joe Girardi. Still, that doesn’t erase the problem.
Infield versatility – the Yankees have that, too
Most teams today, and the Yankees are one of them, look to their infielders to find the bench players who are versatile enough to play all of the four positions and who can handle the mental strain of not playing every day.
Last year, Ronald Torreyes emerged as the team’s “Super Sub”, saving the Yankees on more than one occasion when a starter succumbed to injury. And hopefully, Cashman sees him in this role again for 2018. But beyond Torreyes, the Yankees’ pressure cooker of talent overload surfaces again.
Assuming that Greg Bird, Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, and Chase Headley are penciled in the starting lineup, Miguel Andujar, Tyler Wade, and, eventually, Gleyber Torres all have no place to call home. Again, each is major league ready, and at least one of the three (possibly two, depending on how many pitchers are carried) is likely to be the odd man out, taking bus rides in the minor leagues.
Pitching? Oh yeah, the same thing there
Presently, the Yankees have 17 pitchers on their 40-man roster, which on the surface should not be a problem given the propensity for pitchers to land on the disabled list. But remember, Sabathia and Ohtani, should they be signed, are not currently on the roster.
Beyond that, there is a contingent of pitchers who are knocking on the door, begging to get in. Chance Adams has to be the only 31-7 lifetime minor league pitcher not pitching in the major leagues. Albert Abreu caught the attention of the Yankees with his performance in the Arizona Fall League. Abreu probably needs more seasoning but he’s not far away. And then there’s Justus Sheffield who also raised some eyebrows in the AFL with his Luis Severino-like stuff from the other side of the rubber. And that doesn’t include Domingo Acevedo, who tips in at a frightening 6-foot-7, 250 lb right-hander with stuff veteran pitchers dream of.
At what point does less become more?
Brian Cashman is probably right that the Yankees have done most of the heavy lifting in preparation for the 2018 season. But it’s in the small weights category that much more work needs to be done.
Remember too, none of this includes any discussion as to who the Yankees might pursue from the free-agent market, as seen here in this Elite Sports NY video:
The sum of the whole is equal to its parts. As things stand now, the Yankees have too many pieces to satisfy everyone in their organization. So far, there is no known dissension in the Yankees system. If there is, it’s at least been kept away from the 25 guys assembled in the clubhouse.
But that can change quickly. Gleyber Torres, for example, has quietly and professionally played along with the reins enforced on his talent. Same thing goes with Chance Adams, Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, and probably some others.
For them, this is it. Brian Cashman’s job just got harder, not easier. And just as he had to make decisions on players paring down the 40-man roster this week, the overriding challenge still to be reckoned with is doing the same thing with the Yankees’ 25-man roster come spring.