Playing baseball seems pretty reckless right now, but things will move full steam ahead starting this week. The Yankees already announced their initial player pool yesterday, which I broke down here. Most of those players will report to “summer camp” by Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. The rest, i.e. the taxi squad, will head to another location.
Since it’s been a long time since spring training was cut short, now’s a good time to refresh our memories of where the Yankees stand today. But first, let’s run down some of the new rules for this season:
- Universal designated-hitter
- 30-man roster for first two weeks of season, followed by 28 players for the next two weeks, and lastly 26 players the rest of the way
- August 31st trade deadline
- Postseason eligibility: player must be added to Major League roster by September 15th
- Teams can have three players on their taxi-squad for road games, one of three must be a catcher
- Extra-innings will begin with a runner on second base (batter who made final our in previous inning or a pinch runner)
- 10-day injured list for pitchers and hitters
- 60-day injured list is now 45-days
- Separate injured list for players who test positive or have symptoms of COVID-19 with no minimum or maximum days for list
With that out of the way, here’s how the Yankees shape up at the moment.
Aaron Judge could be ready for Opening Day
The saga continues, three months later. Newsday’s Erik Boland reported on the right fielder’s status over the weekend, and while its good news that Judge is hitting off a tee, it’s not as much progress as one might have hoped since March.
As a reminder, Judge suffered a rib stress fracture and collapsed lung late last season, though nobody found out until this spring. His lung is healthy, but his rib is another story. We learned that Judge was set to have a CT scan to check his progress in mid-May, and perhaps another one not long after. However, we’ve been in the dark ever since.
Boland quotes one club insider who said that Judge “didn’t seem to be holding anything back”. That’s good and all, but tee work is still a long ways away from game action. Hopefully, the three week tune up is enough time for him to ramp up from the tee to game-ready. The Yankees really need as much of Judge as possible in this shortened season, so hopefully we get better news when the players report to camp this week. For now though, “could” doesn’t leave me particularly optimistic.
Stanton, Hicks, and Paxton are healthy
In better injury news: Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and James Paxton are healthy.
Stanton, who lost nearly all of 2019 to a myriad of injuries, suffered a calf strain back in February. It’s not new news that Stanton’s ready, though. Manager Aaron Boone said so back in March, as Bobby reminded us in a post a few weeks ago.
Last week, Hicks told the New York Post he’s ready to play. So that’s that. I think we all anticipated this, particularly after seeing how long it took Didi Gregorius to rehab offseason Tommy John surgery last season.
Finally, Paxton’s surgically repaired herniated disc is a non-issue at this point. This is old news, but positive nonetheless. Having a healthy Paxton piggy back Gerrit Cole during the 60 game sprint will be key, especially if the southpaw is as good as he was down the stretch last summer. Remember, the Yankees were undefeated in his final eleven starts of 2019 when he posted a 2.51 ERA. Not only would a repeat performance obviously propel the Yankees, but it would help Paxton land a big contract this winter when he hits free agency.
Domingo Germán’s suspension
The shortened season has guaranteed that the Yankees won’t have Domingo Germán in 2020. The 27 year-old right hander was suspended at the end of 2019 after MLB’s investigated a domestic violence altercation between Germán and his girlfriend.
Entering this year, there were 63 games remaining on his suspension which would have put him on track for a return in June under normal circumstances. Instead, the remainder of his suspension will keep him on the sidelines for all of the regular season and three postseason games should the Yankees make it. I can’t imagine the Yankees bringing him back for the postseason, though.
About JA Happ’s Vesting Option
I doubt that the Yankees want to bring JA Happ back in 2021. Over a full 162 game season, it wouldn’t be too much of a challenge for the Yankees to prevent his $17 million option from vesting. Was he really going to make 27 starts or throw 165 innings over a full season this year? Probably not. But now, under the terms of the March agreement, things get trickier for the Yankees. Take a look:
Each player signed to a major league contract at the start of the season shall have his salary determined by multiplying his full-season salary by the number of games scheduled (not adjusting for weather-related postponements or cancellations) divided by 162, minus any advanced salary. In the event of an additional interruption or delay, the salary shall be determined by multiplying his full-season salary by the games played by the player’s club divided by 162. Thresholds and amounts for bonuses, escalators and vesting options would be reduced by using the same formula.
In a 60 game schedule, Happ needs to make 10 starts or throw at least 61 1/3 innings to return to the Yankees in 2021. I wouldn’t fret about the innings threshold. However, limiting Happ to just nine starts during that span won’t be so simple. It’ll take an injury or a demotion to the bullpen to fall short. I guess we can’t rule out contraction of COVID-19 either, sadly. What a world we live in.
What if the pandemic interrupts or ends the 60 game season prematurely? Happ’s thresholds would be recalculated based on the amount of games the Yankees play. Since Happ will only need to make one start every six games, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where the season ends after just 10 games and Happ’s already made two starts, thereby guaranteeing his 2021 option.