With the signing of Andruw Jones as a dangerous bench bat/4th outfielder, I thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a look at the possible composition of the Yankees’ likely 25-man roster, if the season were to begin today. Most of the spots are set at this point, but there are a few that may still be up for grabs. Let’s take a look first at the players who either definitely have spots on the team, or are most likely to.
Definite: Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Russell Martin, Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner, Andruw Jones. (10)
Likely: Francisco Cervelli, Ramiro Pena (2)
Definite: CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Phil Hughes (3)
Likely: Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre (2)
Definite: Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson, Pedro Feliciano, Boone Logan (6)
This yields a total of 23 likely occupied spots on the 25-man. One of the two remaining spots will likely go to a position player, and the other to a bullpen arm/long reliever. Who are the best candidates for these spots? Let’s take a look at the remaining contenders, as well as their pros and cons, in order of likelihood of making the team.
Eduardo Nunez: He’s a better hitter than Pena, but less valuable in the field. Nunez and Pena’s ability to play all the infield positions is pretty useful on the bench, but I can’t imagine them wanting 2 utilitymen with weak bats on the bench. For a utility player, I would take Pena’s glove over Nunez’s bat.
Brandon Laird: Laird could be a useful backup at 1st base or 3rd base (I’d rather have him in the lineup than Penez), and is more dangerous with the stick than Nunez or Pena. Probably a long shot because he only has 31 games of AAA experience, but I like that his skillset is not really redundant with Pena’s as Nunez’s is.
Jesus Montero: We’ve heard about everything this kid does well with the bat, and everything that he does poorly behind the dish. I can’t see him being called up to sit on the bench, but for hypothetical roster construction, I would take him over Cervelli on the team anyday. I imagine he’ll get a chance to get some more AAA seasoning while the Yankees see what they have in Russell Martin. However, if he continues to tear the cover off the ball in AAA, he may force his way up soon enough.
Greg Golson: He became a favorite of mine last year after his ridiculous throw from rightfield to nail Carl Crawford, and if the Yankees decide to carry a 5th outfielder/pinch runner, Golson could be the leading candidate. However, with the Jones signing, I don’t see Golson being utilized enough to be worth the roster spot. His defense gives him an edge over Colin Curtis, even though Curtis’s bat may be more useful.
Romulo Sanchez: Of the other pitchers on the 40-man, Sanchez has the most major league experience. Is he better than Phelps/Noesi/Brackman? In the long-term, no way, but he could be useful in the short term to soak up some innings (and with his fastball averaging 95 last season, he can throw some gas).
After Sanchez, there are a whole bunch of guys without much big league experience who could take the long man spot. Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman, David Phelps and Hector Noesi likely will be kept as starters in the minors, but someone like Ryan Pope could earn the long man spot with a strong spring. One sleeper to make the team could be Brian Schlitter, who was claimed off of waivers from the Cubs (despite a mediocre debut this season, so maybe Larry Rothschild saw something he liked). Mark Prior is another sleeper, and likely more of a feel-good story at this point, but I’ll be pulling for him.
The Yankees do have some big choices to make with their remaining roster spots. Of highest importance is determining how to handle Jesus Montero, and I imagine (and hope) that they will send him to AAA to play full-time if they decide he’s not ready to play every day in the bigs. Pitching depth looks weak, but the addition of a legitimate back-end starter (Justin Duchscherer?) would push Sergio Mitre or Ivan Nova to the long man role, which would make things look less horrible. There are some intriguing options for additional bench bats, depending on the direction the Yankees want to go with the roster (Flexibility? Nunez. Power? Laird. Speed and defense? Golson). This is certainly not an incredibly exciting subject, but barring a major pitching acquisition, these decisions will occupy a lot of my attention.