As it stands, the Yankees have nine infielders on their roster: Four starters, first baseman Juan Miranda and four young utility infield candidates. Ramiro Pena has played a small major league role in the past, but the newest members of the 40-man – Reegie Corona, Kevin Russo and Eduardo Nunez — have never played above Triple-A. Corona and Nunez have limited experience beyond Double-A.
Given that lack of experience, and despite the wealth of infielders already in the mix, general manager Brian Cashman has said he could still be in the market for a backup infielder. Protecting three infielders from the Rule 5, he said, will have no impact on his decision to go after a utility man.
“This year, the guys that we protected, we felt that we wouldn’t get them back,” Cashman said. “These were guys that would stick, or had a very high probability of sticking. I just didn’t want to risk that. Even though, yeah, there were some extra infielders along the way with Nunez, Corona and Russo, but I wasn’t willing to give someone away for a waiver price.”
Last year the Yankees went into spring training with unproven Cody Ransom as their top utility candidate. Pena was a surprise choice to open the season in the big leagues even with no Triple-A experience. They went through most of the season with a mix of Ransom, Pena and Angel Berroa before finally adding Jerry Hairston Jr. at the trade deadline. The Yankees might not rule out adding a utility man, but a backup infielder wasn’t a priority last year, and there’s little reason for it to be a priority this year.