Looking Ahead at the Yankees’ Coming Roster Crunch

Unless MLB and the Player’s Association agree to extend the 30-man roster, which is possible, the Yankees’ active roster will shrink from 30 to 28 on Thursday. That alone would crowd things. However, we should expect to see both Aroldis Chapman and Luis Cessa return soon as well. In other words, the Yanks’ already packed roster is about to get even more crowded.

As a reminder, here is where the 30-man roster currently stands, including the 6 players on the restricted and injured lists:

Like I said, things are already packed as it is. This is not going to be an easy decision by any stretch. Still, there are some obvious areas where the team may make a few cuts. Let’s begin by working though the mandatory two-person cut on Thursday. I’m assuming that the Yankees will want to keep as many pitchers rostered as possible. That’s how they use their pen and it’s how they’ve built their rosters over the past few years. In other words, they’re not going to just send down two relievers.

Still, even with that in mind, it’s tough to see any outfield cuts. (Besides, Giancarlo is an outfielder in name only at this point.) The Yanks want to get Andújar game action – and they have – and Tauchman has already proven to be extremely valuable as a reserve outfielder. That just leaves the infield for a position player cut, as both catchers are obviously staying, and we know LeMahieu, Torres, Urshela, and Voit are not going anywhere.

Estrada, Ford, and Wade are left. The Yankees have every reason to believe that Ford is the real deal, and they likely see him as filling an obvious left-handed void in the lineup. I would be very surprised to see Ford get sent down at any point this season, frankly. (Plus, they’ll need a backup 1B and there’s no indication they want to try Miggy there right now.)

Between Estrada and Wade, well, I think the Yankees have already told us which of the two they believe can help the 2020 club right now just based on allocated playing time. Neither see a ton of time on the field, but Wade has appeared in 7 of the team’s 8 games. (He’s often used as a defensive replacement, but that’s valuable in and of itself.) Estrada, by contrast, has appeared in just 1 game. I’d be willing to bet the Yanks send Estrada to the alternative site in Pennsylvania when rosters contract on Thursday.

Now let’s look at the bullpen. Again, we know who is not going anywhere: Britton, Green, Loaisiga, and Ottavino. Those guys are locks. I’d also argue that King, since he is stretched out and able to make a spot start here and there, is also a lock. That leaves us with 5 pitchers. Here they are, with their number of available options in parentheses (if applicable), and their 2020 usage so far:

  • Luis Avilán: 2.2 IP in 3 G
  • David Hale: 3.1 IP in 3 G
  • Jonathan Holder (1): 2.1 IP in 2 G
  • Brooks Kriske (3): 1.0 IP in 1 G
  • Nick Nelson (3): 3.0 IP in 1 G

The usage here, coupled with the options, makes it pretty clear that the first guy to go is Brooks Kriske, right? The Yanks haven’t turned to him much and he has 3 available options. Nelson looked very impressive on Saturday and my guess is that if he were going to go down, it would have been after he threw 40+ pitches. That didn’t happen. Just based on this, I’d say that Kriske is the first to go. It’s a straightforward decision as far as these things go.

So, to wrap this part up, I’d expect the Yankees to send both Thairo Estrada and Brooks Kriske down to the alternative site later this week. They have other options, but that’s how it looks to me.

The imminent returns of Luis Cessa (this week) and Aroldis Chapman (soon) complicate things a bit. It all depends when they’re ready. If either return before the supposed 28-man contraction on Thursday, I still expect Kriske to be the first to go. Remember, for all the grief he caught last year, Cessa was actually really solid for his role.

When Chapman returns, likely a few days after Cessa, I’d expect him to replace either Nelson or Holder. If it were me, I’d go Holder – he really struggled in 2019 and still has a remaining option – as I want to see what Nelson has. I like the upside in the short season. That’s also an argument to move on from Avilán or Hale, who are just okay, but the team might as well preserve depth and capitalize on all of its options.

Whichever route they go, though, I think we all want to see Chapman on the roster over any of them. That’s a no-brainer. All in all, these are good “problems” to have.


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  1. Dutch

    Thiaro is the obvious chlice here. For the shortened season, I’d forget bringing up Clint and roll with the position players we have barring injury. The players have to get a feel for thier roles and bussing players back and forth from the minors are going to help for the duration and postseason. I’m pleased with our embarrassment of riches and now we have to play our pieces correctly.

  2. Gerreddardit Cole

    I’d cut Thairo, Avilan, Kriske and Nelson. Put Paxton on the IL when Cessa and Chappy return. Trade Miggy Andujar and call up Clint. Put King in the rotation. Wade is too valuable. He gives us defense and gives us speed. I don’t know why they always take Voit out late defensively. I don’t think Voit is that bad at 1B and I’d rather have DJ at 2B. If Miggy Andujar isn’t going to hit then what use is he? He bobbled a routine grounder last night. I’d rather have Gardy out there since he can bop one out once in a while.

    • Dutch

      I’m glad youre not the GM. You obviously forgot how bad Clint played OF last year (vs the Red Sox I may add) and you want to promote him to the team cuz Miggie bothced a ground ball? I don’t ever wanna feel the butterflies in my stomach last year, EVERYTIME THE BALL WAS HIT TO CLINT.

  3. MikeD

    Looking at roster construction, at what point do the Yankees:

    1) Think about moving Paxton to the bullpen while his back continues to strengthen, and simply give him the opportunity to work on his mechanics? In a 60-game season, how long is the leash? The goal is to get him back to full strength by the time the playoffs roll around, yet can they continue to put him out on the mound when he’ll burn through the pen by lasting only an inning or two?

    2) At what point do the Yankees consider pulling Happ? No way will they allow that option to vest, which means he can’t start more than nine games.

    Paxton’s woes great problem with pulling Happ from the rotation. They’d be pulling two starters, two lefties, from the rotation at once. That won’t happen, but it’ll be interesting to see how they manage this.

    King, Nelson and Schmidt at the alternate site may all be more worthy of starts, which is all going to impact the roster crunch.

  4. MikeD

    They’ll keep Wade purely for defense, speed and greater versatility. It’s also a step ahead of Estrada in the pecking order on who they want to look at. That’s least important here, but it’s part of the consideration. Beyond that, both Kriske and Nelson likely get sent down. Nelson is intriguing, down to potentially being a rotation option, but they’ll likely do what they can to keep depth. Ford could have value with an open position, but he in many ways he might be in the same boat as Frazier. He’s barely being used. Wouldn’t shock me at all if he was sent down for a while in order to keep a reliever around. At that point, DJLM is the back-up 1B’man and with Ford not on the roster they might be more willing to play Andujar there on occasion to open up some more playing time for Tauchman.

    The “downside” of last year’s injuries is the Yankees have accumulated more MLB talent than they have playing time. Some good players will have to be sent to the alternate site.

    • Bobby

      I thought about this too, actually. Moving Ford down feels like something that will happen in two more weeks when they cut down to 26 guys. For now I think they’ll keep the depth, especially since there’s nowhere for Ford to actually *go*. In the future, though, having DJLM play as the backup 1B might open stuff up.

  5. meatface55

    I miss DOTF

    • Bobby

      Same. I’m working on a few pieces of content re: MiLB that’ll run later this week. But it feels like a huge part of this season is missing.

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