Right now the Yankees 40-man roster sits at 39 players, and we know they’re on the verge of adding Brendan Ryan and Brian McCann. That means at least one roster spot needs to be opened almost immediately. It’s worth noting, though, that it doesn’t always make sense to open a roster spot by non-tendering a player. If it’s all about opening a 40-man spot, the Yankees would be better off designating for a assignment some of their younger players who might clear waivers and remain in the organization.
Really, I see only two really strong non-tender candidates on the current roster.
1. Chris Stewart — The Brian McCann signing more or less wiped out his chances of making the team out of camp. Might be worth adding a Stewart-type on a minor league deal, but the Yankees — and Stewart — would be better off going in a different direction.
2. Jayson Nix — Perfectly good utility infielder, but with Brendan Ryan signed to a multi-year deal, Nix doesn’t have much of a role to play. Again, might be worth getting a Nix-type on a minor league deal — they’ve already done that with Yamaico Navarro — but it’s not worth keep Nix on the roster and giving him an arbitration raise.
Those two are arbitration eligible, in line to make roughly a million apiece, and have already been crowded out by offseason moves. That’s what makes them good non-tender candidates. The other marginal Yankees players who could come off the 40-man at some point don’t come with an overwhelming need to non-tender. It might happen, but the benefit is limited and a DFA might be a better way to go. Guys like Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells are signed to guaranteed deals, so non-tendering them isn’t really an option and serves no purpose.
3. Matt Daley — Given all the holes the Yankees have to fill, it’s hard to imagine Daley staying on the 40-man all winter. He could absolutely be non-tendered, but as a guy who’s making the minimum, there’s not much upside to it. Could DFA him instead and do basically the same thing. If I had to guess right now, I’d say he’ll be non-tendered just because there’s not much for him to do going forward.
4. David Huff — Could legitimately make the roster as a left-handed reliever and possible spot starter, but the crowded 40-man just doesn’t leave much room for him. He’s apparently not arbitration eligible, which means there’s little financial upside to non-tendering him. That said, he probably should have the right to refuse a outright assignment to the minors, which means a DFA is basically the same as a non-tender. Seems like their fourth-best non-tender candidate to me.
5. Brett Marshall — Now we’re into the guys with almost no reason to non-tender. Marshall is coming off a pretty bad year in Triple-A, and he’s clearly behind David Phelps, Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno in the fifth starter / long reliever pecking order. But he does have a good sinker, and if the Yankees can’t keep him on the 40-man, might as well DFA him in hopes of clearing waivers and keeping him in the system. Might not keep his 40-man spot, but that doesn’t mean he’s not worth a contract.
6. Eduardo Nunez — The Brendan Ryan signing creates real questions about the role for Nunez going forward. The Yankees clearly felt the need to get additional shortstop insurance, and basically leaves Nunez third in the pecking order. Non-tender him, though? Surely there’s still some trade value in a relatively young guy who has some offensive potential. I would think that a few teams would be interested in getting a first-hand look at him. And he’s still not arbitration eligible. Unless the Yankees have decided Nunez has absolutely no value, they might as well at least tender him a contract offer and see what happens.
7. Ramon Flores — A perfectly good outfield prospect with some speed and a good eye at the plate, but Flores could become a victim of numbers at some point. He shouldn’t be non-tendered, but he could be DFA to open a roster spot. Flores does a lot of things pretty well, but he’s been primarily a left fielder and he’s never hit for power. Even his speed numbers are not overwhelming. He’s just not a typical corner outfielder, and that might hurt him given the roster crunch.
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