Last week, we found out that Alternate Sites are returning as a result of the delayed start to the Triple-A season. The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler has all the details regarding the rules and regulations for the Alternate Site. I have a couple of thoughts on roster implications as a result of the Alternate Site’s return, along with a closing note on a surprising non-roster invitee in camp. Let’s dive in.
The Yankees will probably use the Alternate Site to protect Deivi García’s workload. Like it or not, it’s been pretty clear that the fifth starter’s job is Domingo Germán’s to lose. Not that he needed any more help, but the delay to the Triple-A season might give him a further boost. The Yankees could use the Alternate Site as a way to limit innings for certain pitchers who Germán is in competition with and the organization want to protect, namely García.
There should be no qualms about Deivi’s candidacy for the fifth spot, and in fact, I’d argue he’s the best option. Yet, he’s also never thrown more than 111.2 innings in a season (2019) and is still just 21 years old. I’d wager that the Yankees will be careful to not significantly overstep the young righty’s previous high water mark in 2021. It’s not like the organization needs him to bear a significant anyway. The team has very good starting depth.
So, optioning García to the Alternate Site to start the year would make it easier to manage his 2021 workload. He could pitch in a few exhibition games in April, but wouldn’t need to pitch him every fifth day. Alternatively, there would be no need for him to go five or six frames each time out either. Of course, this could also just be used as a front for service time shenanigans, but there are certainly legitimate health considerations.
This would have applied to Clarke Schmidt too, especially if he stayed healthy and pitched as well as he did last March. But now, his common extensor strain will make his time at the Alternate Site more like spring training all over again anyway.
Now, with Deivi in particular, this scenario only works as long as everyone else stays healthy this month. For instance, I can’t imagine running out Jhoulys Chacín every fifth day in the name of limiting Deivi’s innings. In that case, García should be in the rotation and the Yankees could kick can down the road on workload concerns.
The Alternate Site and Taxi Squad could entice some non-roster invitees to stick around. In particular, those with six-plus years of major league service time who are entitled to a retention bonus or release before the end of camp. Those players are:
- Robinson Chirinos
- Derek Dietrich
- Jay Bruce
- Jhoulys Chacín
- Adam Warren
We know Bruce has a March 25th opt-out, but at the minimum, every other player here can opt out within five days of Opening Day if the Yankees don’t either a) pay them a $100,000 retention bonus to remain in the organization in the same non-roster status or b) add them to the Major League roster.
Now, without a traditional start to the minor league season, I wonder if this group will be more inclined to accept the retention bonus. In some ways, the Alternate Site sounds more appealing than a routine trip to Triple-A.
Compared to the typical Triple-A season, the Alternate Site will offer more stability for player’s lives in April. Less travel is big, but also the opportunity to travel with the major league team on road trips could be considered a perk. Players on the five-man taxi squads will receive full major league per diems and accommodations as if they were on the 26-man roster for those days. No big league salary, but it’s certainly better than riding a bus or flying commercial in a typical Triple-A April. And it’s kind of like being on the major league team.
Keep in mind that the Yankees play 14 of their last 20 games on the road in April. That’s a lot of time to be with the big league team, even if not in official capacity or at a big league salary, while mostly receiving major league treatment.
I doubt all of these NRIs will still be here with five days to go before Opening Day, of course. There’s a good chance other teams will poach them for roster spots if the Yankees can’t guarantee one. But in the case that no other team comes calling, the Alternate Site and taxi squad doesn’t look too bad.
We should talk about Lucas Luetge for a second. If your response to that is “Who?”, I understand. I don’t think I had heard of him either when he was announced as a non-roster invitee. But considering what the lefty has done in exhibition play thus far, he’s at least worth a cursory look.
Small sample size alert, but: Luetge has struck out 8 of 11 batters (72.7 percent) in Grapefruit League play so far. Look at this breakdown:
|Pitch Type||Pitch Count (%)||Whiffs/Swing (%)|
|Four-Seamer||18 (38.3)||2/7 (28.6)|
|Slider||22 (46.8)||12/16 (75.0)|
|Curve||7 (14.9)||3/3 (100.0)|
Um, those are some ridiculous whiff rates, small sample size notwithstanding. And yesterday, he struck out Andrew McCutchen, Didi Gregorius, and Bryce Harper in order.
It’s always perilous to react to a handful of innings in spring training, but at the same time, it’s not easy to make this many hitters swing-and-miss. And the three he retired yesterday are big time hitters. Not bad for a 33 year-old who’s been out of the majors since 2015.
Maybe the Yankees have found something in Luetge? I can’t help but start to wonder. Perhaps he’s actually a candidate to get a bullpen spot, even though I didn’t even mention him last week. Or maybe I’m just overthinking this all. It’s just 11 batters faced, after all. Regardless, I think he’s worth paying attention to as long as he keeps missing bats like this.