Hopefully Brian Cashman was just playing coy when he told the Daily News’s Mark Feinsand that he and the Steinbrenners “haven’t had any talks whatsoever” about a new contract. While a deal seems inevitable, the Yankees do have a few pressing matters they must attend to. But before they can get to player options and CC Sabathia‘s opt out, they have to address one major issue: the 40-man roster.
Plagued by injuries this year, the Yankees made good use of the 60-day disabled list. For the uninitiated, a player on the 60-day DL does not occupy a spot on the 40-man roster. After the season ends, however, the disabled list goes away and those players must return to the 40-man roster. The Yankees currently have seven players on the 60-day DL.
In most years even seven players on the 60-day DL wouldn’t cause many problems. Departing free agents come off the roster at the same time that 60-day players return, so the roster math usually works itself out. But the Yankees have surprisingly few departing free agents this off-season: Jorge Posada, Sergio Mitre, Andruw Jones, Eric Chavez, Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Damaso Marte, and Luis Ayala*. Combine that with the players the Yankees must protect from the Rule 5 draft and it can create a tough situation.
*Scott Proctor is right on the edge of his six years’ service time. I’m not sure if he spent enough pre-September time in the bigs to qualify. But even if he doesn’t, the Yanks aren’t going to carry him through the winter, so we can consider him off. There’s also the matter of CC’s opt-out, but at this point even if he does come off the roster I’ll assume they’ll keep a seat warm for him.
A quick count reveals an even 40 men on the roster once the season ends, assuming Proctor’s departure. Thankfully, the Yankees already added two potential Rule 5 candidates to the roster: Austin Romine and George Kontos. That saves them a bit of trouble at year’s end. But they still need to add David Phelps, and they might want to add D.J. Mitchell, since a bottom-feeding team would almost certainly take him in the Rule 5 draft. That puts the Yankees over the limit.
There are a few expendables on the roster. Aaron Laffey and Raul Valdes are both non-tender candidates, though if the Yankees did like Valdes in September perhaps they want to keep him around. Laffey, however, is as good as gone. Reegie Corona is almost certainly a goner; his presence on the 40-man roster never really made much sense. Then there’s Colin Curtis and Justin Maxwell. They’re both expendable, and Maxwell is out of options. Chances are one of them could go as well.
The Yankees might have to find more room, too. They have spots in the starting rotation and bench that they’re not likely to fill from within. And, if reports are true, they could make room for another lefty reliever as well. Those moves create an even greater crunch on an overcrowded 40-man roster.
The Yankees, being professionals, will surely figure out who goes where in terms of the 40-man roster. In fact, they probably have a tentative plan already in place — it’s not as though they didn’t see this coming. For us, from the outside, it’s a strange picture. We know the Yankees need spots, but there don’t appear to be too many spots available. Observing how Cashman manipulates the 40-man could be one under the radar aspect of this off-season.