SSTN Mailbag: My 40-Man Roster!
Before I get going this week, I think an apology (or maybe more than one) is in order. First, thanks to everyone that commented on last week's Mailbag! That's where my first apology comes in. Normally, I do my best to respond to as many commenters as possible, but by the time the Mailbag actually posted, I was in the sky, and didn't arrive home until after 9:00 PM Friday night...and I was simply fried. For those that asked where I was in Italy (a country I've been lucky enough to spend a lot of time in for work...one of these days I'll even get there for pleasure), I bounced around between Milan, Florence, Siena, and Bologna...in 5 days, plus a lot of work to catch up on when I got home, so it has been an incredibly busy time. I've spent a lot of time in all of those places over the years except Siena, a city I've swept through quickly a few times in the last year and a half. One of these days, I'll see it more fully.
The second apology I'll make is for my unusual absence besides the Mailbag. Work has been incredibly busy, and I still have all of the articles that I promised in partly finished form. Between this month and December, you'll see a lot of what I promised and then some. Unfortunately, some of the things I had planned went by the wayside in late October, so I apologize, but you will see more of me this month and December now that my feet are back on US soil.
Lastly, I want to apologize to a few people who asked questions for this week's Mailbag. The questions were great, and I'll likely use them for next week's Mailbag, but a question came in that really should have a bit more time devoted to the answer.
So, without further ado, thanks as always for the great questions, and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, I am going to walk through the Yankees' current 40-man roster situation, and try my hand at picking the 40-man ahead of the 40-man roster deadline next week. Let's get at it:
Alan B. asks: OK, we are only days away from the 40 man roster being set officially. What does your 40 man roster look like?
Usually, the Yankee 40-man roster is so tightly packed to begin the off-season that it is really difficult for Brian Cashman to maneuver prior to the November deadline to set the 40-man roster. Admittedly, it is a problem of the front office's own making, but depth has been diminished to the point where there appears to be a lot of room for the Yankees to maneuver.
Let's set the expectations now. The Yankees have 38 players currently on the 40-man roster. I fully expect the Yankees to fill the roster to 40 guys, as it is very rare that teams gain a useful piece in the Rule 5 Draft anymore (unless of course the Yankees expose useful pitchers, but I digress). More interestingly, the Yankees have significant wiggle room within those 38 players already on the 40-man roster. I view 27 guys as locks to remain on the roster for the next few days, so I won't include them here (they're the names you all know). Here are the possible casualties, as I see them:
C Kyle Higashioka
C Ben Rortvedt
1B/OF Jake Bauers
OF Estevan Florial
RP Albert Abreu
RP Matt Krook
RP Ron Marinaccio
RP Anthony Misiewicz
RP Nick Ramirez
RP Lou Trivino
RP Greg Weissert
Let's walk through each of these cases. The Yankees signaled their plan to unload at least one catcher on the 40-man roster when they added Carlos Navarez to the 40-man roster. Of the catchers on the current 40-man, I expect that Higashioka and Rortvedt are the most likely casualties. Higgy is getting expensive and is also getting older. He also certainly has some minimal trade value given the dearth of catching around the league. Rortvedt has been banged up since the Yankees acquired him via trade, and while his defensive tools are apparent, it remains uncertain that he'll ever hit enough to be even a viable backup catcher. If need be, I think the Yankees could move on from both of them quite easily.
Jake Bauers was very useful in the first half, and contrary to popular belief, his bubble only burst after he was banged up playing in the outfield. I believe his shoulder was more of an issue in the 2nd half than the Yankees let on, hence the dramatic drop in production. That said, even at his peak, Bauers is a flawed player. He will strike out a ton, and though he is athletic and brings serious pop from the left side, he is really only an outfielder in an emergency, and it was a crime that the Yankees played him out there with such frequency last season. I think he could be a very useful bench piece as insurance for Anthony Rizzo and as a pinch hitter or occasional strong side platoon, but I hope the Yankees find enough upgrades elsewhere that Bauers becomes expendable.
I've beaten the subject of Estevan Florial to death over the last 5 years. I have not ranked him on my Top-15 Yankees prospects lists ever since he broke his wrist in his breakout minor league season, and nothing he has done has convinced me that he makes any sense as a stop-gap outfielder on the Yankee roster other than that he's cheap. The Yankees have shown repeatedly that they do not believe in Florial's chances to be a decent big league player, so I think he'll be expendable this off-season.
Lou Trivino is on the comeback trail, and I could see the Yankees renegotiating his contract, or letting him walk if they don't like what they see from his rehab. I wouldn't remove him from the 40-man now, but I could see it happening down the road.
And now we get to the parade of shuttle relievers. Any of these guys could be on the move for a variety of reasons. Abreu has been a longtime favorite of the front office since he was acquired in the Brian McCann (!) trade a lifetime ago, and though he's flashed stuff and effectiveness for periods of time, he's never become the shutdown reliever his stuff teases. With no options remaining, he is expendable. Marinaccio has had a stunning fall from grace after bursting on the scene in 2022, and were he more than a relief pitcher, it would be a much bigger story. He is clearly battling his mechanics and lacks confidence. I think the Yankees will hang on a bit longer, but they could easily decide to cut bait if they needed the roster spot. Krook, Misiewicz, Ramirez, and Weissert all fall into the same bucket for me. All have attributes that make them interesting. Krook and Weissert both have incredible sweeping sliders, though both have struggled to translate their effectiveness from AAA to the Majors; Ramirez can soak some innings and showed pitchability when needed; and Misiewicz has big league experience with decent stuff. All are fairly easily replaceable should the Yankees decide to move on.
For now, given that the Yankees expect to maneuver for free agents (I hope) this off-season, I am really only looking to protect certain guys from the Rule 5 Draft. Certainly, some other minor league players might earn a spot on the roster either later this off-season or during the season, but that can easily be managed later. For now, here are my candidates for Rule 5 Protection:
Rule 5 Protection Candidates:
C Agustin Ramirez
P Clayton Beeter
P Matt Sauer
P Sean Boyle
P Mitch Spence
P Tyrone Yulie
P Ryan Anderson
For reference, there are plenty of other familiar names eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, but I don't see a high enough likelihood of selection or an ability to stick on an MLB roster all year to include them in this list.
Ramirez broke out this year and moved through 3 levels of the minors, wrapping up his year at Somerset. Ramirez is a toolsy catcher, with pop and some feel for contact at the plate, and enough tools behind the plate to believe he can stick defensively. AA is a long way from the Majors for a catcher, and it is hard to see a team stashing a catcher so green, but I'm scarred enough from the Luis Torrens fiasco a bunch of years ago that I could see someone trying to snatch Ramirez.
Beeter is a lock to get added; he's one of the Yankees' top pitching prospects, and while I believe he's ticketed for the bullpen, I have zero doubt that a team would pick him and stick him in their bullpen for all of 2024 if given the chance.
Matt Sauer is an interesting case study. He's been a reasonably well regarded prospect seemingly forever, and I don't think he's got a good chance of becoming a starter. He flashed two plus pitches in the Arizona Fall League, and I think adding him to the 40-man roster and letting him air it out for an inning or two at a time would let him find another gear, possibly in the Yankee bullpen at some point this year.
Sean Boyle is another interesting case. Boyle is a late round draft pick who made the rare conversion from relieving to starting in the Yankee minor league system (though this seems to happen with some frequency with guys who pitch at Dallas Baptist in college...I'd love to know if there's more to that than coincidence), and he's been fairly successful. However, I don't think he has enough stuff to start in the Majors, and his below-average fastball would likely tick up enough to be very viable out of the bullpen as a guy who can stretch it out to 2-4 innings, if needed.
Mitch Spence was not a prospect on anyone's radar, but he pitched quite well, considering the difficult conditions at AAA in 2023, and he has enough in his arsenal to get hitters out. He's also one of the few Yankee minor league starters already stretched out to 160+ innings, so he can pitch a full workload this year. To me, he's one of the first guys ready to be called up in the event that the Yanks need spot starts.
Tyrone Yulie and Ryan Anderson are longshots. Yulie has great pure stuff, but really can't control or command it yet, though his pure stuff is good enough that you could imagine someone giving him a shot. Anderson had a great season as a reliever, and his delivery has tons of deception, but good minor league relievers are a dime-a-dozen. I don't expect either would be picked, but I'd call their chances of selection better than 1/10.
If it were up to me, I would add the following players prior to the Rule 5 Draft:
C Agustin Ramirez
P Clayton Beeter
P Matt Sauer
P Mitch Spence
From the current 40-man roster, I'd subtract:
OF Estevan Florial
RP Nick Ramirez
Neither of these guys are particular losses, and there is plenty of flexibility elsewhere to add and subtract as needed throughout the off-season. This is how I would approach the 40-man roster to begin the off-season, and allow acquisitions to continually shape it as the off-season moves along.