A dozen Yankees became free agents yesterday. It was perfectly predictable, but seeing the names come off the roster brings a new appreciation for the current state of the team. Still waiting to find out whether Rafael Soriano is going to opt out, but for now, this is a rough estimate of the Yankees 25-man roster if today were Opening Day.
The offense isn’t a complete mess. The top seven hitters in his lineup are legitimate Opening Day options, and all nine deserve consideration for at least a reserve role. The most glaring holes are at catcher and right field. If the Yankees don’t land a proven everyday catcher, they might as well let the prospect Romine sink or swim. His upside as an everyday guy is much higher than the alternatives. Dickerson proves there’s a little bit of outfield depth in place, but his value to the Yankees comes as a fourth or fifth outfielder, not as an Opening Day starter.
Chris Stewart C
Jayson Nix INF
Corban Joseph INF
Ronnier Mustelier OF
Half of this year’s bench is still on the roster, and it’s not beyond imagination that both Stewart and Nix will be back for another season. Beyond that, though, things are slim. Right-handed Casey McGehee doesn’t do much to balance Rodriguez or Nunez, so I went with the lefty Joseph instead as a kind of Eric Chavez fill-in. The outfield is loaded with left-handed center fielders, so Mustelier gets my vote as a right-handed balance over Melky Mesa and Zoilo Almonte.
The rotation thins out quickly, and there’s no chance the Yankees are going to let it stay that way. As it stands, they would have little choice but to count on Nova bouncing back, Phelps building off his rookie year, and Warren carrying his Triple-A second half into next season. Those three fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation might not be out of the question, but considering general manager Brian Cashman’s focus on starting pitching, the Yankees are going to add at least two starters — maybe more– before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.
The bullpen is in better shape than any other piece of the roster. There’s a heavy assumption that Soriano is going to opt out, but there’s also a heavy assumption that Mariano Rivera is going to re-sign. Even with questions about Rivera’s age and injury recovery, the Yankees have significant late-inning depth considering the offseason is only a day old. The minor league system even provides additional depth with Chase Whitley and Juan Cedeno coming off strong Triple-A seasons, and Mark Montgomery rising fast from Double-A. There’s obviously some risk here — Rivera’s entering uncharted territory, safety net Soriano almost certainly will be gone, Aardsma and Chamberlain are wild cards at this point – but this is pretty good bullpen depth heading into the winter.
Associated Press photos