The flexibility of the Yankees 25-man roster

Is Andruw Jones really a lefty masher?
2011 Season Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

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.

C: Russell Martin
1B: Mark Teixeira
2B: Robinson Cano
3B: Alex Rodriguez
SS: Derek Jeter
LF: Brett Gardner
CF: Curtis Granderson
RF: Nick Swisher
DH: Jorge Posada

IF: Eduardo Nunez
IF: Eric Chavez
OF: Andruw Jones
C: Gustavo Molina

LHP CC Sabathia
RHP A.J. Burnett
RHP Phil Hughes
RHP Ivan Nova
RHP Freddy Garcia

RHP Mariano Rivera
RHP Rafael Soriano
RHP Joba Chamberlain
RHP David Robertson
RHP Bartolo Colon
LHP Boone Logan
RHP Luis Ayala

Disabled List
C Francisco Cervelli
LHP Pedro Feliciano

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.

Is Andruw Jones really a lefty masher?
2011 Season Preview: Tampa Bay Rays
  • David

    You left Posada off the list…

  • Jeremy

    Who gets to be the one to tell Jorge he didn’t make the team?

  • SCT

    Joe, where does Kevin Millwood fit into all of this? Garcia/Nova insurance? Or would Colon slide into the rotation if either of those two falter?

    • Manimal

      Innings eater just in case Nova+Garcia+Colon don’t do their job

    • Johnny O

      Hopefully he opts out after May 1 because they Yankees haven’t called him up because everyone’s pitching well.

  • Johnny O

    But..but..Joba’s FAT!!!!

    Yeah there’s 23 guys on the list. Jorge plus LOOGY #2, right?

  • Manimal

    I wish they stuck with Ayala for the back end of the bullpen, kid had a great spring. I really don’t care about having two LOOGY’s available,considering Garrison sucks.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Any chance Cervelli goes to Scranton to get back in shape and Jesus comes up for a few weeks if he’s hitting well?

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      Nah. I think if that was a possibility he’d have broken camp with the team. Now it’s about an opportunity for regular playing time presenting itself.

  • CountryClub

    I believe Chavez is going to get more playing time than you think. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him play 1 game a week at 3rd and 1st with Arod and Tex DHing on those days. Obviously, this would mean that Chavez continues to stay healthy and hit.

    • jsbrendog

      i hope he stays healthy cause i honestly think if he could he could still be a starting player on some teams so he is a hgue asset to our bench. of course, that is one big caveat, if he stays healthy

      • CountryClub

        The offense wouldnt suffer either because you’d be replacing Posada’s bat with Chavez’s. At this stage of their careers, I think they’re pretty equal.

        • Ted Nelson

          Posada had a wOBA of .357 last season… Chavez hasn’t topped that since 2004. I don’t know where so many guys get the impression Posada sucks.

          • rbizzler

            Agreed that Posada is undervalued at this point. His OB skills are still solid and maybe a move from behind the dish will lead to a little more pop from Jorge this year.

            As an unabashed fan of Chavy from my Bay Area days, I hope that he can provide some value as a corner util guy. The guy played a mean 3b back in the day and if his back and shoulder woes are behind him, maybe we will see some flashes of that former brilliance this season.

            /hope springs eternal

          • CountryClub

            I don’t think Posada sucks at all. I just think that IF Chavez saty healthy he will hit well this year. Of course, it’s no given that Posad will stay healthy either.

  • Bpdelia

    I continue to believe that garcia is being terribly undersold here. what’s with all the hate? youwould think that #5 sps who have mid 4 eras grow on,trees. I fully expect garcia to be on the team all year and basically repeat his 2010 season. unless injured I don’t get the utter lack of faith on what seems trip me a pretty solid #5. to me the questions are about the 2, 3, 4 spots. garcia is a fine #5 and he likely won’t be the reason for problems yhis season.,

    • Monteroisdinero

      That would be fine because if it’s one thing I dread:

      It’s another thread
      On Bart vs Fred!


  • Mister Delaware

    So what happens if Feliciano is ready to come back, Ayala is pitching effectively and Colon has gotten roughed up but not completely blasted? Would we stick with the current (and potentially “long term”) better pitcher or still chop Ayala and keep Colon around to maintain another potential starter?

    • A.D.

      Could just send down Boone, 3 lefties would be overkill

      • Joe Pawlikowski

        1) Can’t send down Boone, since he’s out of options. 2) Ayala is a righty.

      • Ted Nelson

        Boone’s out of options, but who are the 3 lefties?

        • Tom Zig

          I guess Marte if he ever decides to be healthy again?

    • jsbrendog

      colon is in the mitre zone. he stays as insurance imo. plus i really want to see him get a chance to start. his pitches were moving well, he was spotting them well, and his velocity was impressive for a fat 38 yr old.

      • Mister Delaware

        When I posted, its because I was the flipside. I’d rather bank on Ayala being effective for 6 months as a reliever than Colon as a starter. I imagine my opinion goes against both roster efficiency and the mass logic, but I just can’t fathom Colon throwing even 75 good innings this season.

  • ADam

    Eduardo Nunez: Is going to get more AB’s than anyone expects… IMO, He’ll play a nice role as the super utility guy

    • Joe Pawlikowski

      But where and when? Jeter starts about 150 games/year at short. For the past two years Cano has started 157 and 158 games at second. So that’s what, 21 starts for Nunez? At 4.5 PA/game, he’s still under 100 PA on the season. I don’t see how he’s going to get over 150.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      Last year, Jeter played in 157 games and Cano in 160.

      Assuming no injuries, just how do you think Nunez will get > 150 ABs?

    • Ted Nelson

      Besides from how much playing time he actually gets… I don’t think regular reps are as important for Nunez as Montero. Nunez is 24 this season. His value comes from being able to play middle infield, make contact, and steal a few bases. Montero, on the other hand, is 21, his value comes from his offense and especially power, and his defense is poor.

      • Mister Delaware

        Well, his value to us comes from versatility. I worry that whatever marginal gains we see in 100 PAs of Nunez over Pena are lost in development / trade value.

        • Ted Nelson

          I don’t think versatility has nearly as much to do with it as playing SS and 2B and being able to hit half decently. Pena can play all the positions Nunez can (probably better defensively), and so can a lot of other guys… they just can’t hit even half decently. Nunez will probably see some 3B PAs and maybe even some OF (if he hits), but is not the primary option there. Middle infield is what gives him his value. Finding versatile corner guys is not that tough… and basically any SS can also play other positions.

          I don’t think it will be 100 PAs. Crap happens. Pena was someone the Yankees wanted in the lineup as little as possible and still got 167 PAs in 2010. If it’s only 100 PAs, great. That means everyone else (A-Rod, Jeter, Cano, Chavez, the OF, Jones and/or another 4th OF…) was healthy and productive all season… a good sign the Yankees offense will be sick.

          He’s a 24 year old (almost) slap hitter with a full season of AAA, so I don’t know how much more he’ll develop. Certainly development into a solid starting SS would be nice, but he’s already a solid utility guy and very possibly a passable starter. At 24, I don’t think more development time is as valuable as younger prospects.

          As far as trade value… why is a 24 year old still in AAA more valuable than a utility guy in the MLB? If Nunez hits MLB pitching decently that’s going to drive his trade value up compared to playing another season in AAA.

          • Ted Nelson

            “Nunez will probably see some 3B PAs and maybe even some OF (if he hits), but is not the primary option there.”

            Not the primary back-up option…

          • Mister Delaware

            I know its been said ad nauseum, but if other teams find him valuable, he’s valuable regardless of how we assess him. If someone gets hurt (the crap happens scenario), absolutely bring him up rather than let Ramiro go for a few weeks. Until then, I’d rather punt the equivalent of 1 run (or whatever the low playing time variance between Nunez and Pena is) and let Nunez keep playing every day so he’s developing like an every day player.

            • Ted Nelson

              He’s already developed is the point that I’m making… he’s 24 and a slap hitter. Not fully developed, but probably doesn’t have that much more to gain from MiLB time.

              For both his development and trade value, I think adjusting to MLB pitching can be just as valuable as another AAA season. I think the Yankees whole contention is that his MiLB stats will translate better than some other guys’ because he’s a contact hitter. To see if that’s the case they need to give him MLB PAs. If they do translate well maybe he can start somewhere, but even with a normal discount on his AAA stats he can be a utilityman.

              So, I don’t think it’s obvious AAA is best for Nunez. For the Yankees, Nunez instead of Pena not only gives them increased production in typical utility situations but potentially (if Nunez is productive) also the option to rest Jeter or Cano occasionally. Jeter is turning 37 this season, so some rest might not be the worst thing for him.

              • Mister Delaware

                “For both his development and trade value, I think adjusting to MLB pitching can be just as valuable as another AAA season.”

                And this is the part I find risky. Assuming he’s trade bait (since 2B/SS/3B are locked down until he’s 27) and knowing other teams value him right now, irregular playing time against better pitching doesn’t seem like a safe way to manage an asset.

                “So, I don’t think it’s obvious AAA is best for Nunez.”

                Nor I. Just an opinion.

                • Ted Nelson

                  I don’t think his value is that high… sort of lock utilityguy/possible below-average starter… that being a utilityman is going to lower his value.

                  • Mister Delaware

                    All any of us here know about his value is what we’ve been told about Seattle and Kansas City (and I guess Atlanta although there were no specifics I recall there) and they both were said to view him as a key piece. If two major league teams covet him to some degree and 100 Yankee message board posters think he tops out as a role player, guess who wins.

  • zs190

    Is flexibility with options a good thing? The takeaway I get from this article is that our starting 9 is really good, our top 2 starters are good, our back of bullpen is good so none of those are not really options to be cut loose or optioned down.

    So we have flexibility with bench players, mopup guys and back of rotation guys, isn’t that what’s supposed to happen for good teams anyways? If you have more flexibility than that(i.e. ability to option down starting 9, top of rotation or back end of bullpen guys), it would seem to indicate that your team kind of sucks.

  • The Lodge

    Posada suits up and gets behind the plate 15 times this year.

    Over or Under?

    • zs190

      Way under, I probably would take the under at 1.5. Everything suggests that it’s not an option right now short of something catastrophic like Cervelli hurt, Martin hurt, and Montero can’t catch at all. Even if that happens, I probably expect them to trade for a catch rather than use Posada.

      • The Lodge

        I see him getting an inning here and there at the end of a game where Jones or Chavez pinch hits for Russel M (Girardi has made lose-the-DH moves enough in the past for me to think this would happen).

    • Sean C

      I’ll take the under.

    • Mister Delaware

      I’d take the under of 5 at this point. If we’re carrying an imposter Molina it means Jorgie as C is done.

      • the Other Steve S.

        Hey, If I had Jorge’s wife, I wouldn’t want to risk being 45 years old and not able to recognize her.

  • Bpdelia

    honestly I take the under at 2. only in a long interleague game or like a 14 inning game where martin is pinch run for and molina is later pinch hit for. way way unlikely


    Phil Hughes is not going anywhere so his options aren’t an issue. Hughes won 18 games last year and on most teams he would be a really good number 2 on other teams he would be an ace. Joba will have a bounce back year you can bet on that. Remember both guys “Hughes and Chamberlain” are young guys who aren’t even in there prime yet so give them some time….