September starts on Sunday, which means expanded rosters and September call-ups. It’s worth noting that the Triple-A season ends on Monday, so some call-ups — the guys really just serving extreme backup and depth roles — might not happen until Tuesday. Here’s a look at the roles the Yankees might look to fill, and some of the possibilities for each.
Pretty standard for September call-ups, teams usually — but not always — add an extra catcher to open up pinch hitting and substitution possibilities.
40-man roster: None
Other options: J.R. Murphy, Bobby Wilson
The Yankees have an extra catcher on the 40-man, but it’s Francisco Cervelli, and he’s unavailable for several reasons. That leaves the Yankees with three logical choices, either the veteran Wilson, the prospect Murphy, or no one at all. A third catcher isn’t a huge need for the Yankees, but I’m sure they’d like to be able to pinch hit a little more often without feeling like they’re running thin behind the plate. Wilson has plenty of experience but not much bat. Murhpy has an intriguing bat, but no big league experience. Could be a good chance to let Murphy get his feet wet after a strong season in Double-A and Triple-A.
Makes more sense now that Robinson Cano and Eduardo Nunez are dealing with nagging injuries. The Yankees can’t go into September with the possibility of using Mark Reynolds at second base again.
40-man roster: David Adams
Other options: Brent Lillibridge, Alberto Gonzalez, Dan Johnson, Ronnier Mustelier
Adams is a no-brainer, if only because he can give Cano or Alex Rodriguez a breather late in games. Corban Joseph might make sense too as a left-handed bat, but he’s lost for the year. What’s left are a few veterans, any one of whom could replace Jayson Nix if Nix were placed on the 60-day. Lillibridge and Gonzalez are fine defensive players who don’t hit much — and there’s value in that considering the range limitations of Rodriguez and Jeter — but Johnson is an interesting possibility as a left-handed hitter who could pinch hit. He got off to a really slow start, but Johnson’s been pretty good for a few months now, and he’s been terrific in August in particular.
Not a huge need for the Yankees now that they’re carrying five veteran outfielders, three of whom can play center field. This would be more of a pinch hitter/pinch runner situation and maybe a late defensive replacement.
40-man roster: Melky Mesa, Ramon Flores
Other options: Ronnier Mustelier
Flores probably isn’t much of an option since he’s a Double-A guy, but Mesa could be available for a call-up despite his hamstring issue. If Mesa can’t come up — and knowing Zoilo Almonte is out with his ankle injury — the Yankees don’t have many outfield call-up options. Veteran Corey Patterson and Cuban outfielder Adonis Garcia are in Triple-A, but neither has standout numbers. And if the Yankees don’t have to add Garcia to the 40-man this winter — I don’t think they do — I doubt they’d add him early just for a tiny big league job down the stretch. Mustelier is kind of in the same situation. He’s finally started to hit this month, but not sure he’d be added to the 40-man for what amounts to a handful of pinch hitting opportunities. This is such a low priority, the Yankees could go without an extra outfielder.
Extra mopup arms are useful, if only because they make extra-inning games a little less stressful, and because they free guys like Huff and Adam Warren to pitch in different spots without having to stay in just-in-case mode all game.
40-man roster: Brett Marshall, Nik Turley, Jose Ramirez, Michael Pineda
Other options: Chris Bootcheck, Chase Whitley
Marshall hasn’t had a particularly good year, but he might make the most sense of this bunch. He’s stretched out, and he’s on the roster, and he could eat plenty of innings if necessary. For whatever it’s worth, he pitched really well last time out. Turley is in Double-A, and both Ramirez and Pineda are on the Triple-A disabled list, so they might be out of the question. If the Yankees want to add someone to the 40-man, Bootcheck has been steady and won a big league call-up earlier this season. There’s also Whitley, who’s pitched out of the Triple-A rotation lately and has pitched well. He needs to be added to the 40-man this offseason anyway, so it wouldn’t hurt to add him a few months early.
With David Huff in the bullpen, the Yankees finally have two lefties. Huff has been used as a long man, but he could become more situational if the Yankees add another true long man.
40-man roster: Nik Turley
Other options: Cesar Cabral
The Triple-A roster has run through a ton of lefties this season. Huff, Josh Spence, Juan Cedeno, Mike Zagurski and Clay Rapada each spent time on the Triple-A roster — not to mention Vidal Nuno and Francisco Rondon — but the only healthy lefty still playing for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is Cesar Cabral. The Yankees obviously like his arm, and they nearly kept him on their Opening Day roster last season, but giving him a September call-up might depend on whether the Yankees think he has a legitimate chance of helping them next season. Otherwise, a third lefty probably isn’t worth the 40-man spot. Turley has a 40-man spot, but he’s also a Double-A starter and hardly an ideal choice for key big league matchups out of the bullpen.
There are some specific bullpen roles to fill — lefty, long man — but there’s always room for a few more relatively anonymous relievers. In the Yankees case, some of those anonymous potential call-ups are fairly interesting.
40-man roster: Dellin Betances, Preston Claiborne
Other options: David Herndon, Matt Daley, Sam Demel, Jim Miller, Yoshinori Tateyama
All seven of these guys have pitched in the big leagues at some point. Betances and Claiborne have to be September locks — both could play legitimate roles next season, and Betances has pitched too well to be ignored — but there’s something to be said for the other five as well. There’s no chance all will be called up, and there’s a solid chance none will be, but all five have pitched well in Triple-A, and it might be worthwhile to consider protecting a fairly young guy like Herndon or Demel for a potential big league job next season. With Betances and Claiborne likely coming up anyway, there’s not a ton of work for yet another middle reliever, but these guys have pitched well enough to suggest they could play a role if necessary.
Associated Press photos