Ronnier Mustelier. Ben Francisco. Juan Rivera. Jayson Nix. Vidal Nuno. Jim Miller.
In theory, there are enough bench spots open, and enough players heading to the disabled list, for the Yankees to carry all six of those guys on Opening Day. And all six have done enough to be worth Opening Day consideration.
But not one of those players is on the 40-man roster, and that’s becoming a real problem for the Yankees.
Oe 40-man spot can be easily opened — Cesar Cabral going on the 60-day disabled list — but every other roster spot belongs to a player the Yankees would like to keep. They don’t want to put either Curtis Granderson or Mark Teixeira on the 60-day — don’t want to lock themselves into losing either player for two months — and they aren’t willing to put Manny Banuelos on the 60-day because they don’t want to start his big league clock.
As it stands, the Yankees seem locked into carrying Nix, plus at least one of Mustelier and Rivera. Nuno, also, has emerged as a strong roster candidate who could make up for both Clay Rapada (as a lefty) and Phil Hughes (as a long man). But how do the Yankees find room on the 40-man for all the pieces they might want? It’s not going to be easy, and that might help the chances of a guy like Melky Mesa or Cody Eppley.
Presumably on the Opening Day roster (18)
David Aardsma, Joba Chamberlain, Hiroki Kuroda, Boone Logan, Ivan Nova, Andy Pettitte, David Phelps, Mariano Rivera, Dave Robertson, CC Sabathia, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, Robinson Cano, Eduardo Nunez, Kevin Youkilis, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, Travis Hafner
Presumably heading to the 15-day disabled list (5)
Phil Hughes, Clay Rapada, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson
Minor league prospects (13)
Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Brett Marshall, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Rondon, Nik Turley, Adam Warren, Austin Romine, David Adams, Corban Joseph, Zoilo Almonte, Ramon Flores, Melky Mesa
Experienced players competing for big league jobs (3)
Cody Eppley, Shawn Kelley, Brennan Boesch
Players who can be easily added to the 60-day disabled list (1)
Cesar Cabral (Alex Rodriguez and Michael Pineda are already there)
If the Vernon Wells trade involves a player on the 40-man, then it’s a 1-for-1 swap in terms of roster spots. If not, then Cabral can go on the 60-day to make room for Wells, and the Yankees will be back to a full roster with no easy way to open a spot.
Just guessing here, but…
• The Yankees could carry either Eppley or Kelley, then DFA the other to make room for Nuno. An alternative would be to send Nuno to Triple-A — especially if that roster spot is going to Hughes after only four games anyway — and fill the long relief hole with either Warren or Marshall.
• Boesch could be an all-or-nothing guy at this point. If he’s not going to break camp with the Yankees, it might make sense to DFA him to make room for Rivera (or Francisco, or Mustelier, or Nix). In terms of a pecking order, who would you rather DFA Boesch or one of Joseph, Mesa and Almonte?
• Manny Banuelos, Ramon Flores, Austin Romine, Jose Ramirez and Brett Marshall are — in my opinion — the five safest minor leaguers on the 40-man roster. The next five? I’ll go with David Adams, Dellin Betances, Nik Turley, Zoilo Almonte and maybe Francisco Rondon. Melky Mesa’s strikeouts and Corban Joseph’s defense make me think — again, totally guessing here — that they’re the minor leaguers most at risk of a cross-your-fingers DFA (and I’d be stunned if they weren’t claimed).
It’s going to be a tight fit, and for the Yankees to keep all the guys they might need, they might have to lose a guy they really want.
Associated Press photos