Everything appears settled. The Yankees have made their cuts, giving us a clear view of the Opening Day 25-man roster. Here’s how it will shake out.
Update: Luis Ayala has made the roster, which clears up the final spot.
As with all Opening Day rosters, the Yankees has its share of strengths and weaknesses. As the season progresses they will try to shed the weaknesses and add players who shore up those aspects. It’s a process that can take three, four, even five months to complete. Oftentimes the weaknesses are left exposed, since there is no reasonable fit.
The ability to make these types of moves depends on flexibility, which came come from two areas: players with minor league options, and players whose release won’t affect the team’s long-term standing. Earlier this month Mike looked at Yankees who have remaining options. Now let’s combine that list with players whom the Yankees can send packing without batting an eyelash.
Freddy Garcia: If the off-season had played out differently, we probably would never have written the name Freddy Garcia in these spaces. His name only appeared after the Yankees lost out on Cliff Lee. But with two open spots in the rotation, utilizing a slightly below average veteran who pitched 150 innings last season is hardly a bad move. If Garcia tanks, the Yankees can DFA him and move onto the next candidate. I’d expect this to happen at some point during the season.
Bartolo Colon: He has the same deal as Garcia, though fewer people expected Colon to make the team out of spring training. He impressed fans and Yankees’ brass alike, but that doesn’t mean they’ll keep him around if he’s ineffective. A few bad outings could write his ticket out of town.
Ivan Nova: If the Yankees wanted to keep all of their options in tact they could have optioned Nova to the minors to start the season. But he’s clearly the fourth best pitcher in camp, and so they’ll give him the spot in the rotation that he earned. He still provides no guarantees, though, and since he has two remaining options the Yankees can send him down at any time.
Phil Hughes: It’s possible, in that he has a remaining option (or two). The Yanks are in trouble if it comes to this.
Joba Chamberlain: This is akin to Hughes, in that I don’t see it happening. By all accounts Joba has impressed this spring, showing high-90s velocity. If he falters they can option him, but given his peripherals from last year and the generally positive report this spring I don’t expect it to become an issue.
David Robertson: He, too, is in the Hughes/Chamberlain mold. If the Yankees need a spot and Robertson is performing poorly they do have the option to send him to AAA. The odds of that appear long.
Boone Logan: Yes, he’s lefty and therefore will have a longer leash than most. But if he pitches in the same way he did the first half of 2010, how long will it take for the Yankees to cut bait? They do have Feliciano as a lefty in the pen, and they have a few guys in AAA who, although righties, can take a pen spot.
Luis Ayala: He makes the team because Pedro Feliciano is on the DL. Given the bullpen composition, I don’t expect him to last past mid-April.
Francisco Cervelli: This would have been more of an issue had Jesus Montero broken camp with the team. But now that he’s headed to AAA, Cervelli is pretty much guaranteed the backup catcher job when he returns from his injury. If the Yankees did want to recall Montero during the season, Cervelli could be optioned to AAA.
Eduardo Nunez: It was something of a surprise to see Nunez make the team. The Yankees have touted him as a prospect. Wouldn’t a true prospect be better served with regular at-bats? There’s something to be said for major league experience, but Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano are hardly guys who take days off. Unless either of them sees more time than expected at DH, I can’t see how Nunez gets more than 150 AB this season. If the Yankees do want to get him regular playing time, it is an option.
Eric Chavez: Again, it was a surprise that he made the roster at all. He probably won’t get a ton of playing time, filling in for A-Rod occasionally and getting a few pinch-hit appearances late in games. I can see the Yankees cutting him if he’s flailing horribly, but if he’s reasonably effective he’s an occasional enough player that they might just keep him.
This gives the Yankees six optionable players. Problem is, half of them are essentially un-optionable. It would take some seriously outlying circumstances for Robertson, Chamberlain, or Hughes to be sent down. So, really, they have three optionable players, and another three whom they can cut without any long-term repercussions. That’s not great flexibility, but it’s enough that they can make moves to improve the team.