In this morning’s Pinch Hitter post, Nick wrote about the evolving strategy of the Yankees front office, and I think he’s right that the Yankees are trying to find a balance between sustainable player development and powerful free agent spending.
Truth is, the current roster is beginning to reflect that balance. It’s hard to project a 25-man roster right now — the Yankees clearly need to settle their DH and bench situations — but based on what they have right now, player development has produced more of the projected big league roster than free agency. The trade market has been an equalizer, a way to use player development to land proven veterans.
Here’s the current 40-man roster, minus the two Rule 5 picks:
Dellin Betances, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, George Kontos, D.J. Mitchell, David Phelps, Dave Robertson, Austin Romine, David Adams, Derek Jeter, Corban Joseph, Brandon Laird, Brett Gardner
Big leaguers: 5
Quite often, the Yankees are risk takers in the draft, and that’s led to plenty of disappointments. The Yankees more or less went bust on four straight draft classes from 2000 through 2003, and Hughes is really all they have to show for 2004. But things have turned a little bit. Gardner, Austin Jackson and a couple of pitching role players came out of the 2005 draft, and the 2006 class has produced 10 big leaguers, ranging from Robertson and Chamberlain in the Yankees bullpen to Mark Melancon and Dan McCutchen as trade chips. There’s a lot of disappointment in the 2007 class — starting with Andrew Brackman — but Romine still has considerable potential, and it’s too early to know much about the 2008-11 classes (though there’s some real promise in those groups, and some of that promise is close to the big leagues).
The Yankees ability to find impact players on the international market is somewhat underrated. They’ve missed a few times — Juan Miranda, Kei Igawa, etc. — but they’ve also found significantly overlooked gems that aren’t mentioned here (Alfredo Aceves and Manny Banuelos jump to mind). Twenty percent of the projected Opening Day roster came from the international market, including the Yankees best hitter and best (ever) reliever. The emergence of Nova as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, and a progress of Nunez from forgotten prospect to big league role player, have helped ease some financial burden on the front office.
If the 40-man roster is unchanged, I guess you have to assume either Dickerson or Maxwell will make the team as a bench player, but if you prefer to think of this as five big leaguers, that’s perfectly fair. Either way, the point stands: The Yankees have done a nice job using the trade market to supplement their roster. They bought low on Swisher, got Logan as a secondary part of a bigger trade, gave up their own top prospect to get Pineda, gave up forgettable players for Dickerson and Maxwell, and pulled off an incredibly complicated deal for Granderson. Rodriguez is clearly the product of financial might, but the rest are the product of using positions of strength to fill positions of weakness.
Obviously, when the Yankees sign a free agent, it’s with full intention of putting him on the big league roster. The only non-big leaguer on this list is Feliciano, and he’d be there if he were healthy. One interesting thing about this list: The Yankees made that huge splash in the December of 2008, landing Sabathia, Burnett and Teixeira within days of one another. But the only other multi-year free agent contracts currently on the roster are Feliciano and Soriano.
Associated Press photo