When the Yankees added seven players to the 40-man roster last week, they left one spot open. That means they can make a selection in the Rule 5 draft — teams have to have an open 40-man spot to do so — but it also means they’ll have to make additional moves before adding more than one free agent.
“There’s always a calculated gamble when you do that kind of stuff,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “Last year, I can’t remember when the Nick Swisher trade came down, but that was a three-for-one. I don’t have a trade sitting in my back pocket, but you hate to be in a position where two weeks from now or three weeks from now you do a deal and you move a few pieces off your 40, and maybe get one of those pieces back or none of those pieces back, and now you have excess. We’ll have to wait and see how the winter plays out, but there is built in flexibility. We’ll have to see how that plays out. I know where my soft spots are on my 40 and I know that a week from now or a month from now some trade opportunity might present itself that creates flexibility also.”
This is the second time I’ve personally heard Cashman talk about the idea of making a two-for-one or three-for-one trade to open a spot on the 40-man roster. It certainly seems to be a strong possibility. If no such trade happens, it’s interesting that Cashman has acknowledged “soft spots” on the roster. Catcher and outfield are obviously not soft spots. Jorge Posada and Francisco Cervelli aren’t going anywhere, and the Yankees barely have enough outfielders as it is. There will be no DFA or non-tender from those groups.
The two soft spots, as I see it, are the infield and the long-reliever/fifth-starter group.
Infield: Hard to imagine the Yankees designating one of the infielders they just added to the roster, but it’s hard to deny that four extra middle infielders is a lot for a team that has Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano playing almost every day. If the Yankees absolutely must open a 40-man spot, they could make a move in the infield and still have solid depth. By the way, Cashman said he hasn’t ruled out adding a proven utility infielder.
Long reliever/fifth starter: I’m not talking about Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, but the Yankees 40-man does have Alfredo Aceves, Chad Gaudin, Ian Kennedy, Sergio Mitre, Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova and Romulo Sanchez. That’s not to mention a slew of minor league starters not on the 40-man. Some of these are stronger non-tender candidates than others, but it’s certainly an area from which the Yankees could lose a player or two and still be OK.
Injury concerns: Two more spots could open this way. You know all about Chien-Ming Wang. Last year’s injuries and struggles could be enough to lead the Yankees to non-tender him, even with his past success. But the Yankees also have Chris Garcia taking a spot on the roster. No one doubts Garcia’s talent, but he made just five starts last year and 13 the year before. Injuries have been a significant problem for the right-hander, and it’s hard not to wonder if the Yankees might have run out of patience and decided to run the risk of passing him through waivers.