With the free agents gone and the injured players activated, the current Yankees 40-man roster has 31 players and plenty of room to grow. I really haven’t done a lot of digging into the Rule 5 eligible players, but a very quick glance suggests there aren’t a ton of guys who absolutely must be protected. However, there are a lot of big league spots that absolutely must be filled between now and Opening Day.
Here’s the current 40-man roster, with obvious room to add some names in the next three to four months.
Of these seven, Sabathia and Hughes are the best bets for the Opening Day rotation. Betances and Pineda are pretty easy to eliminate as Opening Day options (Betances because of his performance, Pineda because of his health). That leaves a three-man murky middle of Nova, Phelps and Warren. All three could be seen as legitimate trade bait, and all three could be seen as potential fifth-starter competition. Phelps, in particular, could also be seen as a potential reliever. I would bet that at least three to five names will be added to this group (prospect Brett Marshall headlining the Rule 5 eligible guys, plus at least a couple of free agents to plug the holes in the rotation).
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At some point, Mariano Rivera will be added to this list, and an Opening Day bullpen made entirely from this group — with either Cabral or Rapada as the second lefty, and Rivera inserted as closer – wouldn’t be the worst bullpen in the world. In fact, it would be fairly similar to the one that pitched so well through much of this season. Adding another option certainly wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but the bullpen probably isn’t the biggest concern at the moment.
It’s a safe bet that one catcher will be added to this mix, either Russell Martin himself or a Russell Martin replacement. Romine seems to be healthy again, and Cervelli, Stewart and Whiteside are each legitimate backups, but it’s hard to imagine the Yankees going into a season with only these options behind the plate.
Unless the Yankees make an unexpected trade, the starting infield is right here. Teixeira, Cano, Rodriguez and Jeter are coming back for another season, and all that’s left to do is figure out the bench and fill in the edges. A guy like Eric Chavez could certainly come back to play a bench role again, but it’s still unknown whether Chavez wants to play again. Nix could be a non-tender candidate, but given Jeter’s injury, my guess is that the Yankees will keep him. And if Jeter’s recovery doesn’t go as expected, the Yankees might have to find room here for another regular shortstop who could slide into a utility role down the road.
Two everyday big leaguers, two minor league prospects, and one bench player who would have to hit his way into more playing time if given the opportunity. Without Nick Swisher, Ichiro Suzuki or Raul Ibanez, the Yankees have a clear hole in their outfield which will certainly be addressed this offseason. It’s a good bet that at least one and probably two outfielders will be added at some point, someone to play right field and someone to help out at DH and in the corners.
Associated Press photos