Rule 5 Protection Deadline: Reaction
By Andy Singer
Photo Credit: Douglas P. DeFelice, Getty Images
As expected, Friday’s 40-man roster deadline brought a flurry of moves from the Yankees. I took a deep dive into the various roster considerations and decisions that the Yankees had in front of them in the SSTN Mailbag a week prior to the deadline. Even compared to previous years, I felt well-researched heading into this year’s 40-man roster deadline to protect players from Rule 5 eligibility, yet I am still surprised by some of the moves the Yankees made.
Before I give you my reaction, I want to make a couple of notes regarding assumptions I got wrong when writing last week’s SSTN Mailbag. First, I was not aware that Stephen Ridings was no longer on the 40-man roster as of last week, and needed to be added. I would have included him in my definite Rule 5 protection candidates given the electric stuff he showed last summer. Also, I want to give a shoutout to UnnamedSource from the SSTN comments section who correctly pointed out reasoning as to why Randy Vasquez was not, in fact, Rule 5 eligible this offseason. I took it for granted that the 3-4 sources I looked at were correct since all listed Vasquez as Rule 5 eligible, but I agree that by reading the MLB rulebook, Vasquez remains under team control for one more season without being added to the 40-man roster.
Now, without further ado, let’s get to the roster moves:
I completely expected Nick Nelson to be either designated for assignment or traded prior to the 40-man roster deadline this past Friday. Nelson’s season can only be described as a complete meltdown, and with other similar arms already in the system waiting to prove themselves, Nelson was expendable. Trading Nelson to the Phillies did not surprise me at all.
Trading Donny Sands, on the other hand, was a surprise to me given the fact that he looked primed to compete for a spot on the catching depth chart in 2021. Clearly, the Yankees thought they could sell “high” on his performance in 2021, and they really didn’t see him as better than what is currently on the Yankee roster.
I often raise an eyebrow at the idea many Yankee fans have that Brian Cashman tries to “win every trade.” At the end of the day, shouldn’t the GM’s job be to win every trade? Generally, Cashman wins more often than he loses on the trade market, but I can’t honestly say that happened this time around.
Neither player, lefty Joel Valdez nor first baseman TJ Rumfield, project to be guys on even a top-50 Yankees prospect list. Both players are organizational filler for the low minors, but maybe the Yankees see something in both guys that isn’t publicly known. At the very least, Rumfield has walked more than he struck out at every major level of competition at which he’s ever competed.
This trade was nothing more than a dump to save two roster spots and get two lottery tickets…very unlikely lottery tickets.
The Players Designated For Assignment
Most of you know that I wanted Rougned Odor designated for assignment less than halfway through the season. I never saw the point of keeping him around, and Odor was certainly expendable.
Designating both Clint Frazier and Tyler Wade for assignment were far more interesting decisions. The Yankees finally gave up on the Clint Frazier experiment, signaling that he is no longer in their long-term plans, which is smart. I can’t help but feel badly for both sides in this one. The Yankees desperately wanted Frazier to force his way into a starting outfielder’s job, and Frazier was largely not healthy enough consistently enough to make that happen. Brain injuries are no laughing matter, and I sincerely hope that Cashman is serious that Frazier’s scary issues from this past season will largely be behind him going forward. I still believe in Frazier’s talent at the plate, but I think it’s best that he tries his luck elsewhere to reestablish his career.
I am an unapologetic Tyler Wade fan; I thought his speed and defense combination with just enough bat to not embarrass himself was a great fit for the bench, even if the Yankees chose to use him sparingly. In retrospect, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this move, since the Yankees proved all summer long that they did not trust Wade as anything other than an emergency option this summer. I still can’t help but think that Wade might have success elsewhere.
The Players Protected
Other than Stephen Ridings, I wrote extensively about each of the players protected in the SSTN Mailbag a week ago. Ridings would have gotten a write-up last week, and I would have said that 3-digit fastballs with some modicum of control/command is a talent you keep around. I was also happy to see Ron Marinaccio protected; he burst onto the scene in 2021 with an electric fastball and great strikeout numbers, so it’s very interesting to see that the Yankees believe that strongly in a breakout for a relief-only arm.
Beyond that, as much as I liked some guys like Brandon Lockridge, I don’t think it’s likely that any of the players currently exposed for Rule 5 consideration could stick on a Major League roster all season. I think the Yankees largely acted as I would have expected on the protection front.
Looking At The Big Picture
I think the biggest surprise is just how much wiggle room the Yankees still have on the 40-man roster. By my count, the Yankees still have somewhere between 5-7 guys that could easily be moved via trade or DFA to make roster space. The fact that the Yankees kept around that many guys who fit that mold tells me that a lot of roster activity is coming both on the Free Agent and trade front.
It was reported yesterday that the Yankees made a 1 year/$25 million offer to Justin Verlander. That tells me that the Yankees are serious about opening their wallets this offseason. With roster spots to burn, the flurry of activity we saw on Friday is just the beginning.