The Saturday before Christmas seems to be a good time to take a look at the Yankees projected 25-man roster. I did the same thing last year.
This projection is based entirely on players currently signed (or at least players who have agreed to terms for next season). It’s not meant to be a true guess about the 25 players who will break camp at the end of spring training. It’s more of an exercise to see the current strengths and weaknesses. As you might expect, it reveals a roster that’s strong at the top of the order, but leaves significant concerns at the bottom. It shows a bench that’s uncertain, a rotation that’s an arm short, and a bullpen overcrowded with inexperience.
Little to no chance the Yankees are finished making moves this winter, but this is what the 25-man roster looks like right now.
Something like this, anyway. I’d still say there’s a better-than-average chance that Jeter is the No. 2 hitter and Gardner is bumped to the bottom of the order. There’s plenty of room for argument about the exact order of the Nos. 3-6 hitters. For now, though, I think we have to consider Johnson the favorite at third base and Roberts the regular at second base, against right-handers anyway. It’s worth noting that at this time last year, Eduardo Nunez seemed like the Yankees best bet at DH and we were debating whether Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart or Austin Romine would be the regular catcher. And, by the way, I’m not counting Alex Rodriguez in this scenario. Technically, he’s suspended for all of 2014. We’re simply in the process of determining whether that suspension is reduced, eliminated or upheld. Can’t really count him in as an in-place piece of the 2014 roster.
Francisco Cervelli C
Brendan Ryan SS
Ichiro Suzuki OF
Eduardo Nunez UT
Those top two spots seem to be pretty reliable guesses for next season. The other two spots are very much up for grabs. There’s a chance Ichiro won’t be with the Yankees by the time spring training opens, and the Yankees are in the market for a right-handed infielder who will bump Nunez to Triple-A (if not bump him out of the organization). Depending on how things shake out, Dean Anna, Zoilo Almonte and Vernon Wells could factor into the bench discussion as well.
If the Yankees can add Masahiro Tanaka to this mix, it would add considerable hope for a particularly productive rotation. Without Tanaka, the Yankees would have to choose from three options: 1. Giving a contract they don’t want to give to someone like Ervin Santana or Matt Garza; 2. Taking a shot on a reclamation project like Johan Santana; 3. Sticking with in-house options, hoping Pineda can be an impact starter, and trusting one of Phelps, Adam Warren or Vidal Nuno to serve as a reliable fifth starter. The one part of last year’s roster that we pretty much already knew at this time last year was the rotation.
In this scenario, the Yankees are impressed by Betances, they decide to trust Claiborne’s experience, and they go with a second lefty so that Thornton can be more than a lefty specialist. You could also make a case for a guy like David Herndon pitching his way into the mix, or maybe a young reliever like Chase Whitley, or even a guy like Jose Ramirez dazzling in spring training and forcing the Yankees to find a spot for him in the bullpen as his induction into the big leagues. As it often is this time of year, the bullpen is very much up in the air, with plenty of room for one or two free agent additions. At this time last year, I was predicting both David Aardsma and Clay Rapada playing a role in the Yankees pen. Very little chance these are the actual seven pitchers who open the season in the Yankees pen.
Associated Press photos