The Yankees are a physical and a signature away from signing Kevin Youkilis. They seem to be nearly as close to re-signing Ichiro Suzuki. At some point, they’ll add a designated hitter, and a right-handed outfielder and quite possibly another bench player. That’s five additions to a full 40-man roster that doesn’t have much easy wiggle room. Of course it’s possible that a trade could open a spot or two, but if the Yankees have to DFA five players from this list, who’s it going to be?
Obviously not going anywhere (19)
David Aardsma, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Boone Logan, Ivan Nova, Andy Pettitte, David Phelps, Michael Pineda, Mariano Rivera, Dave Robertson, CC Sabathia, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson
These are the most recognizable names on the roster, and there’s no chance the Yankees are getting rid of them without getting something in return. A case could be made for trading guys like Nova, Nunez and Granderson, but in terms of immediately opening a roster spot for a newly signed free agent, this group is strictly off limits. Obviously.
Legitimately fit into the Yankees plans (5)
Cesar Cabral, Cody Eppley, Clay Rapada, Chris Stewart, Francisco Cervelli
There’s no guarantee that any of these five will be on the big league roster next season, but the Yankees want them as options. Stewart or Cervelli might have been expendable had the Yankees signed a starting catcher, but without that, things are too thin behind the plate. Cabral might be able to replace Rapada in the bullpen, but that’s not a sure thing. Eppley was designated for assignment last spring, only to land with the Yankees and become an important part of the bullpen. This group isn’t as irreplaceable as the previous group, but these aren’t players the Yankees want to lose either.
Aside from the outside chance of Romine winning a starting job, these nine have very little chance of making the big league roster out of spring training (Romine, Warren and Adams probably have a better shot than the others). But all nine have significant upside, too much upside to lose in a DFA just to open a roster spot. Unless one of them is traded, these spots seem perfectly secure. And yes, I’m including Betances in this group. His stock has fallen significantly, but there’s still significant potential in his arm and the Yankees have invested a lot of time and effort into getting him straightened out. Surely he would be near the bottom of DFA possibilities. This isn’t an Andrew Brackman situation.
Prospects with slightly less upside (4)
Francisco Rondon, Corban Joseph, Zoilo Almonte, Melky Mesa
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about these guys. A young lefty. A second baseman who hit for surprising power last year. A corner outfielder whose bat is finally coming together. A toolsy center fielder with speed. In no way am I suggesting the Yankees could easily DFA one of these four, but they probably rank ahead of the previous nine in terms of DFA possibilities. Without a trade, a tight roster means tough decisions.
Uncertain role heading into next year (3)
Jim Miller, Josh Spence, Chris Dickerson
I like Dickerson a lot. I believe he deserves a spot on a big league roster, and I believe he could help the Yankees next year. But if they’re going to sign Ichiro to form an all-left-handed outfield, I’m not sure it’s going to be worth carrying Dickerson as well. He might have to be sacrificed to open a roster spot. As for Spence and Miller, those two fell all the way to the Yankees in the waiver wire. That means plenty of teams passed on them once, and maybe they’ll do it again. The Yankees wouldn’t have claimed those two if they didn’t like them, but on this roster, Spence and Miller might be the easiest to lose.
Associated Press photos