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The State of The Yankees Roster

by James Vlietstra 10/14/20

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Earlier this week, I had noticed that the Yankees 40- man roster only has 39 players. The next day Domingo German was reinstated by the Commissioner’s office from his domestic violence suspension and was a below the radar roster transaction. No players had to be released for them to add him.

This got me thinking of some of the upcoming roster moves that will be taking place after the World Series ends and then followed by protection of Rule 5 players and then the upcoming draft at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings that are scheduled for Dallas, Texas from December 6-10.

In the past 13 months, the Yankees have added to their roster: Michael King, Brooks Kriske, Nick Nelson, Estevan Florial, Miguel Yajure, Luis Medina, Clarke Schmidt, Luis Gil, and Deivi Garcia. They lost Rony Garcia when the Detroit Tigers took him with the first pick in last year’s Rule 5 Draft.

This year, players that signed as International Free Agent or drafted out of high school in 2016, or college students drafted in 2017 are rule 5 eligible.

For all current prospect rankings I will be using MLB Pipeline which is also used on the Yankees official website.

Albert Abreu– RHP, 25. 12th ranked prospect. Made his MLB debut in 2020. 6+ years of team control remaining. Used first option this year. Will be part of Scranton shuttle next year.

Miguel Andujar-3B/DH, 25. Pre-arbitration. Proven professional hitter. May be on the trade block to free up roster spot for incoming free agent.

Zack Britton-LHP, 32. Set up man/ closer signed through 2021. Key part to the bullpen . Luis Cessa-RHP , 28. Arbitration eligible. Last year made under $850K. Quietly had a good season as a middle reliever. A slight raise to $1.2M is likely.

Aroldis Chapman-LHP, 32. Closer signed through 2022. Still elite, just not Mariano Rivera.

Gerrit Cole-RHP, 30. Ace pitcher signed through 2028. Was brought in to get the Yankees their long overdue 28th World Series. He just couldn’t do it on his own.

Thairo Estrada-IF,24. Pre-arbitration. Utility infielder that can fill in just about anywhere they need him.

Mike Ford-1B, 28. Pre arbitration eligible. Back up first baseman to an All-Star. Had a drop in production from last year. Can see him as a roster casualty especially with Chris Gittens in waiting.

Estevan Florial-OF, 22. The Yankees number 7 prospect. Made his MLB debut in 2020. Abundance of raw skills. Should be entering next year as the 5th outfielder. Playing everyday in Scranton until the inevitable injuries occur.

Clint Frazier-OF, 26. Finally has emerged as an important part of the team. Next year should be the everyday left fielder. Pre- arbitration. Has definitely restored trade value if that’s the route the front office goes.

Deivi Garcia-RHP, 21. The team’s number 3 prospect. Made his MLB debut in 2020. We will one day look back and wonder why he only got one inning in the 2020 ALDS. Should enter 2021 fighting for 1 of 3 available spots in the rotation.

Brett Gardner-OF, 37. The team’s leader and longest tenured player. He is a free agent. I have the odds of him coming back at just under 50/50. A $5M a year defensive replacement.

Domingo German– RHP, 28. Pre- arbitration. Just finished serving a 81- game suspension for domestic violence. Prior to that, he was one of the top starters on the staff, pre-Cole. It will be interesting to see if he is able to return to the same level as he is receiving his second chance.

Luis Gil-RHP, 22. The team’s number 5 prospect. Was added to the roster prior to last year’s rule 5 draft. He spent the entire season at the alternate site, receiving top notch instruction. May emerge as a Scranton Shuttle piece next year.

Chad Green,RHP, 29. Arbitration eligible. Made $1.2M in 2020. Once again was a top performer out of the bullpen. Possibly $2.5M for 2021.

J.A.Happ-LHP , 37. Had a bounce back season. He is a free agent. Chance of bringing him back at a reduced rate is about 25%. Probably receives better offer elsewhere.

Ben Heller-RHP, 29. Pre- arbitration. Heller ended the year on the 60-day IL (45 this year) with a right bicep nerve injury. It is unclear the severity of the injury or the timetable for return.

Kyle Higashioka-C, 30. Pre-arbitration. He emerged in the playoffs as an effective alternative to the regular starter. The catching position is going to be an interesting storyline during the off-season. If all goes well, he continues to be the backup for several more years.

Aaron Hicks-OF, 31. The starting center fielder is signed through 2025. He returned from Offseason Tommy John Surgery without missing a game. After a winter of recuperating he should come to spring training at full strength.

Jonathan Holder-RHP, 27. Arbitration eligible after making under $1M last year. Should get a raise to around $1.5M. Like Cessa, he had a solid season. Should be in the same role next year.

Aaron Judge-OF, 28. When healthy, the MVP candidate starting right fielder. Health issues robbed him of several weeks of play and he returned clearly not the same. Hopefully an offseason of recovery returns him to normal success. Last year he earned $8.5M in arbitration. This year a raise to the $12M range seems fair.

Tommy Kahnle-RHP, 31. Ended the year on the 60-day IL after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. He earned $2.5M in arbitration last year. Bullpen clearly was not the same without him. Here’s a player that they should get creative with. Waive him and then Sign him to a 3-year minor league contract for $10-12M. He has guaranteed money, Yankees keep his rights, and free up a roster spot.

Erik Kratz-C, 40. He is a father figure and future manager. He is a free agent. Allow him to catch in the minors as long as he wants before transitioning him to be a coach.

Michael King-RHP, 25. Pre arbitration eligible. He will be in competition for one of the openings in the starting rotation. Scranton Shuttle bullpen role also possible.

Brooks Kriske-RHP, 26. Was a surprise protected player last year. The Yankees must really like what they see. He made his MLB debut in 2020. Another Scranton Shuttle option.

DJ LeMahieu-2B, 32. American League batting champ and perennial Gold Glove winner. Free agent. Signing him should be a priority. I think 85%+ chance it gets done. Neighborhood of 4 years/$80M. Nice raise from the 2/$24 he just completed.

Jonathan Loasiga-RHP, 25. Pre arbitration eligible. Bullpen seems to be where he’s best at. Could bloom into back end.

Luis Medina-RHP, 21. The Yankees number 11 prospect. Was added last fall and spent all season at the alternate site. Has the repertoire to be an ace if he can show better command. 2021 could be his break out year.

Jordan Montgomery-LHP, 27. Arbitration eligible after making less than $1M last year. A raise to about $1.5M is likely. Should be cemented in the rotation after his gutty performance in an elimination game 4 of the ALDS.

Nick Nelson-RHP, 24. Made his MLB debut in 2020. Another Scranton Shuttle option.

Adam Ottavino-RHP, 34. Signed through 2021. When at his best, he’s an important bullpen stopper. However we haven’t seen that version very much in the last 14 months. I can see him being traded or released before the end of his contract.

James Paxton-LHP, 31. Free agent. Ended the year on the 60- day IL. Ultimately the trade with Seattle for Justus Sheffield was not what we had hoped. Perhaps they offer him a 2- year/$20M contract but I figure that he will get more elsewhere.

Gary Sanchez-C, 27. Arbitration eligible after making $5M this season. Is a raise warranted? He had a historically poor year and lost the starting job in the playoffs. Do they make some sort of change by trading Sanchez and attempting to sign Realmuto? Or do they keep going back to Sanchez and hope that he turns it around? Interesting to watch.

Wynston Sawyer-C, 28. They brought him in to the alternate site as depth in case it was needed in the playoffs. He is just passing through.

Clarke Schmidt-RHP, 24. Team’s number 2 prospect. Made his MLB debut in 2020. After watching him dominate in spring training I was hoping to see him seize a rotation spot and along with Cole push for a World Series. That wasn’t in the cards. Perhaps in 2021.

Luis Severino-RHP, 26. Ended the year on the 60-day IL after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. He’s signed through 2022. Perhaps we see him late in 2021 to help make a playoff push.

Giancarlo Stanton-OF/DH, 30. Signed through 2027. He has an opt out this offseason that he will not exercise. When healthy, he’s a game changer. He ended the playoffs healthy. Let’s hope it continues into next year. To me, his days as an outfielder are over. Not worth the risk.

Masahiro Tanaka-RHP, 31. Free agent pitcher that just completed a 7- year contract. He struggled at the end of it. Rumor has it Japan is willing to overpay to get him back.

Mike Tauchman-OF, 29. Pre arbitration eligible. Nice defensive number 4 outfielder. Regressed offensively. If Gardner is retained or Florial steps up, Tauchman is the odd man out.

Gleyber Torres-SS, 23. Pre arbitration eligible. Was hurt much of this year and sometimes struggles with the routine play, but he’s our all-star shortstop for years to come

Gio Urshela-3B, 29. Made $2.5M in arbitration last year. Maybe $4M this year. His defense has made returning to Andujar impossible. He’s one of the best in the game.

Luke Voit-1B, 29. Pre arbitration eligible. Not the most nimble or agile, but led the league in Home Runs. He’s our power hitting first baseman we have been missing for quite some time.

Tyler Wade-IF/OF, 25. Pre arbitration eligible. Utility player with speed. Can play anywhere.

Miguel Yajure-RHP, 22. The team’s number 15 prospect. Made his MLB debut in 2020. Has a reputation as an innings eater. Probably will spend next year in Scranton.

By my count, that’s 37 players on the 40-man roster as of the end of the World Series. There’s four players that will need to be considered for these spots:

Oswald Peraza-SS, 20. Number 4 prospect

Alexander Vizcaino-RHP, 23, Number 8 prospect

Yoendrys Gomez-RHP,20. Number 9 prospect

Roansy Contreras-RHP, 20. Number 19 prospect

The team also has to acquire a starting pitcher and a stud reliever. Whether through trade or free agency, those are the biggest positions of need.

One very interesting thing I discovered during the research process is the amount of players on the Yankees roster that basically is making the minimum and will be for years.

Big dollar contracts like Stanton and Cole jump out at you, but with all the impending contracts expiring, they have an awful lot of flexibility.

(Note – all contract information came from Baseball-Reference.com.)

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