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Yankees Make Major Roster Changes Prior to Rule 5 Protection Deadline

Late last night, the New York Yankees announced a plethora of moves they have made prior to the Rule 5 protection deadline.

Three MLB players were removed through either being DFA’ed or released from the 40-Man. These included 1B Greg Bird, RHP Nestor Cortes Jr. (both designated for assignment) and OF Jacoby Ellsbury (released).

Seven prospects were added in their place. These included OF Estevan Florial and 6 RHP’s Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Brooks Kriske, Luis Medina, Nick Nelson, and Miguel Yajure.

The Yankees had 4 open 40-Man Roster spots prior to the deadline today, and after these moves have now filled their 40-man roster.

Here we look at what could happen to the three ex-Yankees:


The Announcement: — New York Yankees (@Yankees) November 21, 2019
The Yankees made the following roster moves: •Added OF Estevan Florial, RHPs Deivi García, Luis Gil, Brooks Kriske, Luis Medina, Nick Nelson & Miguel Yajure to the Major League roster •Released OF Jacoby Ellsbury •Designated 1B Greg Bird & LHP Nestor Cortes Jr. for assignment — Yankees PR Dept. (@YankeesPR) November 21, 2019

Quick Review on Terms:

Usually in my posts, I like to include basic descriptions and overviews about baseball terminology, rules, or information that may be not as well known to the common fan. I don’t think I need to go over this, but I’ll quickly do so just in case.

When a player is DFA’ed (designated for assignment) the team has two options:

Returning the player to the 40-Man roster with 7 days of original DFA date, or,

Trading, Releasing, Designating the player to the minor leagues, or placing the player on waivers.

A player on waivers then can be selected by any other MLB team, and if they are, three things that may occur:

The two teams can arrange a trade within 2 days of the claim, or,

The waiving team can select the player back to their roster, or,

The waiving team does nothing, allowing the claiming team to absorb the contract, pay a waiving fee, and move the player to their own roster.

If none of the above occurs, the player can elect free agency or agree to be demoted to their original teams minor league affiliates.

What Should We Expect With the Players Who Are (Now) Gone?

Honestly, anything of the above could happen with Greg Bird or Nestor Cortes Jr. For Jacoby Ellsbury, he is now an UFA (unrestricted free agent) and able to sign a deal with any MLB team (more on this in a second).

Personally, I would expect that Bird and Cortes will be picked by some MLB team within the next few days, possibly via a small trade for a player to be named later (PTBNL) or international bonus pool money, but they could also just as realistically be moved for nothing at all. Speculating the details of which doesn’t concern me, but I would expect the two of them to find a different major league roster to move to.

Or, at the worst, moving to an international league, which is a common move for the typical Quadruple-AAAA MLB journeyman. Former Yankees 1B Tyler Austin within this past week signed a deal with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars- (remember them from my article yesterday?)- to play in the NPB. Many other stars have rediscovered their game while abroad and had successful careers overseas. If no MLB team takes a flier on Bird or Cortes, this could definitely be option B.

However, especially now that teams will have a 26-Man roster for the 2020 season, front offices may see that new spot on the roster as a viable spot for a lottery arm/bat. Having a good lefty bat off the bench could benefit most every team in baseball, as does having a decent multi-inning reliever to eat innings out of the bullpen. If they can stay healthy and tweak their game a little, Bird and Cortes could become those players.

Regardless of where- MLB, NPB, Korea, Mexico- I see Greg Bird and Nestor Cortes Jr. finding a place to play baseball in 2020 relatively soon.

Outside of this, I also see the chances of Jacoby Ellsbury finding a spot with a major league team to be about the same likelyhood, although he may have to wait until closer to the end of the offseason. For a very similar reason as to why the Yankees in the 2019 offseason went out and signed Troy Tulowitzski, I could see Ellsbury finding his way back onto an MLB roster: he will be cheap and he could to fill a temporary need (Tulo for middle infield; Ellsbury for the outfield).

Because Jacoby Ellsbury was released, the Yankees are responsible for paying the rest of his $26 million contract for the 2020 season, and he can sign with any other MLB team to play where they would only be paying the league minimum salary ($555,000 in 2019). I also don’t see Ellsbury planning on playing abroad as he has already cashed out with a big salary back when the Yankees signed him in 2014. Typically going abroad is for players looking to cash-in on what they can, while they still can, in hopes that they can interest a team again in the MLB.

If healthy- a BIG IF that Yankees fans have come to know all to well regarding Ellsbury over the past two lost years in 2018 and 2019- then a team who is looking for a cheap outfielder to fill-in their roster, who also comes with the benefit of being a veteran presence in two big markets (Boston and New York) for younger/rising stars, who could maybe have decent speed on the basepaths, he could very easily be picked up.

Again, I see this happening in late-January or February if it does, but I wouldn’t count it out completely. Someone could very easily get hurt and a team could get desperate for a filler player, of which no free agent is going to cost less than Ellsbury to acquire.


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