The impending 40-man roster crunch

2014 Yankees ZiPS Projections
Report: Rakuten "still undecided" about posting Tanaka
Cutting Wells makes so much sense that it won't actually happen. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Cutting Wells makes so much sense it probably won’t happen. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

At some point very soon, perhaps today, the Yankees will formally announce the signing of Carlos Beltran. The 40-man roster is full at the moment, so someone will lose their spot when Beltran puts pen to paper. The same will happen when Brian Roberts becomes official. Ditto Matt Thornton and another starter and a third baseman and a reliever or two.

Needless to say, the Yankees are going to have some tough decisions to make regarding roster spots in the near future. There are more pending contracts and still unaddressed needs than obvious designate for assignment/release candidates. Let’s sort through the roster (here’s the 40-man for reference) and attempt to figure out who is most expendable when 40-man spots are needed in the coming weeks.

Definitely Safe (19): Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Slade Heathcott, Derek Jeter, Kelly Johnson, Shawn Kelley, Hiroki Kuroda, Brian McCann, J.R. Murphy, Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Michael Pineda, David Robertson, Brendan Ryan, CC Sabathia, Gary Sanchez, Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira, Adam Warren

These nineteen players aren’t going anywhere for obvious reasons. They’re either key pieces of the big league roster or among New York’s top prospects. If any of these guys are traded, they’ll be traded for someone to help the big league team. Not a non-40-man roster candidate for a sake of clearing a roster spot.

It’s Complicated (1): Alex Rodriguez

The day will come when the Yankees dump A-Rod off the 40-man, but that day is not imminent. Not as long as the ruling for his appeal hearing — a ruling that could save the team tens of millions of dollars — is still pending.

Now, that said, Rodriguez would not count against the 40-man roster if he is suspended, so he could win up opening a spot anyway. The ruling is expected sometime next month and there are indications the Yankees won’t add another infielder until it comes down — makes sense since there is only one open position player slot on the roster at the moment — so either A-Rod or a player occupying his 40-man spot will man third come Opening Day. Like I said, it’s complicated.

Romine. (Presswire)

Probably Safe (12): Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Cesar Cabral, Jose Campos, Frankie Cervelli, Preston Claiborne, Shane Greene, Bryan Mitchell, Eduardo Nunez, Vidal Nuno, Jose Ramirez, Austin Romine

I don’t think you can say any of these folks are absolutely locked into the roster spots and untouchable, but it would be surprising if they were dumped to make room for someone else. Is it possible? Sure. Likely? Nah. There’s no such thing as too much pitching or catching depth, and the Yankees are in a position to cut loose an infielder like Nunez at this moment.

On The Bubble (6): Zoilo Almonte, Dean Anna, Ramon Flores, Brett Marshall, Ichiro Suzuki, Nik Turley

These are the guys who could legitimately lose their roster spot in the next few weeks. Ichiro is a useful fifth outfielder at this point but he doesn’t really have a role with the team outside of defensive replacement and pinch-runner. The Yankees have been shopping him in recent weeks and if the opportunity emerges to shed some salary, they’ll probably jump all over it.

Flores and Marshall had disappointing 2013 seasons and that’s probably enough to put them on the chopping block. They’re okay but not great prospects, the kinda guys who could slip through waivers. Turley is a notch above those two on the prospect totem pole and since he’s both left-handed and breathing, he’d definitely get claimed off waivers. He seems like an unlikely future roster casuality but I wouldn’t rule it out completely if things get tight.

Almonte and Anna are the “next in line” depth players. If (and when, really) an outfielder gets hurt next summer, Almonte will be called up to take his place. When an infielder gets hurt, it’ll be Anna. Maybe the Yankees feel comfortable with Heathcott and Nunez in those roles, but that MLB-ready depth is never a bad thing. Considering the current roster situation, it’s not unreasonable to think one of these two could be in jeopardy come February or so.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Huff. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Front Of The Line (2): David Huff, Vernon Wells

These two guys stand out as obvious candidates to lose their spots. Huff had a nice run as a swingman late in the season but he has a) not been mentioned as part of any kind of Spring Training competition, and b) been replaced as the lefty out of the bullpen by Thorton. As a soft-tosser in a tiny ballpark in the AL East with no track record of big league success, he’s exactly the kind of guy you want to dump too early rather than too late.

Wells, meanwhile, has been relegated to sixth outfielder status by the Ellsbury and Beltran signings. He doesn’t hit lefties (89 wRC+ vs. LHP in 2013) and his power completely vanished in mid-May last season. He also doesn’t play anything more than passable defense and isn’t particularly versatile. Wells is a man without a role now that he’s stopped hitting southpaws, making him a prime roster cut candidate. The fact that he counts as zero dollars against the luxury tax (the Yankees owe him $2.4M in real dollars next season) makes walking away a little easier to swallow.

* * *

Whenever the Beltran contract is made official, it would make sense that Wells would lose his 40-man roster spot as the corresponding roster move. The Yankees would still have Ellsbury, Beltran, Soriano, Gardner, and Ichiro at the big league level with Almonte slated for Triple-A. Cutting Wells for Beltran is so obvious and makes so much sense it probably won’t happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they cut Huff instead.

Either way, both guys seem likely to lose their 40-man spots in the coming weeks given the roster crunch. After them, I would guess Marshall and Flores are most at risk of being cut. An Ichiro trade and/or an A-Rod suspension would both make life a little easier and give the team some added flexibility. Once Huff and Wells are gone, the Yankees are going to have to make some real tough decisions when it comes to fitting everyone on the roster heading into next season.

2014 Yankees ZiPS Projections
Report: Rakuten "still undecided" about posting Tanaka
  • Vinny S.

    They’ll probably cut Wells eventually, but is there a chance that they would hold onto him and see if he has anything left in the tank in the Spring, then try to flip him for a reliever or a low-level prospect? With that low salary and no luxury tax hit, even if he shows a small spark in spring training, someone might bite.

    • Tim

      No, they would have to cut a better player than he would return in a trade, he’s gone in the next 3 cuts.

  • Kosmo

    Huff, Wells, Anna, Cabral the next 4. Yanks can still trade for example Nunez, Romine or Cervelli etc.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Disagree on Cabral. I’m guessing you put him here because of Thornton, but Stairs looked awfully good in limited September duty and Girardi has said plenty of times he’d love a solid two-left bullpen. I’d say Cabral’s pretty safe.

      Cutting Anna would really affect the inevitable and already-brewing “Free Dean Anna/White Man’s Ronnie Mustelier” movement.

      • Kosmo

        “limited September duty“ is really not how you measure talent but having said that I can see holding onto Cabral thru ST.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          Gotta start somewhere.

          The large number of K’s he showed, and relative poise, come off a hell of a lot better than had he shit the bed repeatedly.

          It matters.

          • Kosmo

            pitching in blowouts is enough to make an evaluation ?

            It matters very little.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              It matters more than what you’re claiming.

              Didn’t he have a shitty outing at some point? How did he come out and do next time? How was his command? How sharp were pitches? What reads were guys getting on his pitches?

              There’s plenty you can tell from meaningless September play. September games are the first taste of the big leagues many, many players get.

        • The Great Gonzo

          Shelly Duncan and Sam Fuld damn near made a careers from their “limited September duty“. Jus Sayin

      • Wolfgang’s Fault

        Hilarious. Dean Anna hasn’t played a pitch yet, & Yankee fans are already disappointed w/his spot on the roster. Will Yankees invite him back for old-timer’s day?

    • Sean

      I doubt the Yankees will cut Cabral. He looked pretty decent in September, and is worth a second look. Wells is all but gone at this point, and Huff will probably get the Matt Daley treatment and get invited to Spring Training. It’s not a bad idea to bring Huff back as a spring training invite. Anna could be here by spring training, but if there is a roster crunch, you never know. His status to me seems 50-50.

  • Oops i Crapped My Pants

    It has occurred to me that this is really what the beltran signing being delayed is all about. Its to give Cashman some time to try and swing a trade for some of this lower talent on the 40 man roster. Maybe a 3 for 1, something like that. Nothing earth shattering but hopefully freeing up space and getting something in return, even if it is something minor.

    Then again, they just might be taking there time because they want to. Who really knows. Time will tell.

    • Wolfgang’s Fault

      4 or 5 for 1 more like it. Hey, Yanks can always sign Justin Turner who the Mets non-tendered if they need an extra utility guy. He’s a right-handed hitting infielder who can play all 4 spots in a pinch & has a little pop to boot, is only 29, & he can be had for a song (& $600-800 G’s). The scuttlebutt is the Met’s didn’t resign him ’cause he didn’t run hard to 1b (sound familiar), but he did have a hammy problem in ’13. Could easily see him in Boston at some point in his career. Solid player.

      • Sean

        The idea that Turner didn’t hustle is a bunch of garbage. Every time I saw Turner play, he always appeared to give it his all. He’s a good bench bat that could be had for cheap, and he plays all the infield spots. I wouldn’t mind having Turner on the Yankees.

  • TheEvilUmpire

    I could easily see them cutting Huff and then re-signing him to a minor-league contract. Even if they don’t, there’s probably a dozen or so lefties like him that they could pick up for a look-see in spring training.

    • Sean

      That’s a very likely scenario. Huff was decent, but if the Yankees needed to clear a 40 man spot, Huff would be pretty expendable. He’s worth bringing in to Spring Training, being that he is a lefty that can eat innings. I wouldn’t mind giving him a chance to compete for the second lefty spot in the pen.

  • JLC 776

    This article needs more Zealous Wheeler.

    • Wolfgang’s Fault

      That’s Zelous to you.

  • Dr. Grenaldine

    Vernon “Orson” Wells will certainly be cut. First out the door.

    David “Aubrey” Huff is next you say? That’s just what the doctor ordered.

    When they put DLsbury on the 60-man DL they’ll have an extra spot though.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      You shut your Dr. Whore mouth.

      • Bavarian Yankee

        I laughed :)

      • Jedile

        Someone prescribe him some Orbits!

    • Macho Man “Randy Levine”

      That’s Orson Welles, and that’s an inexcusable mistake.

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    It really would be great if they could spin off Nunez and one of the excess swingman types into a more useful piece for the team right now. It’s too bad the market royally sucks for even halfway-desirable players.

    A lot of fringe taking up 40-man spots, as well as slow MiLB climbers the team has some hope for.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Unfortunately you’re only going to get fringe back if you trade fringe. Most likely another A-ball reliever whose only benefit to the team is that he does not require a 40-man roster spot.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner


        I’d say guys like Nunez, Phelps/Warren/Nuno/Marshall, and Romine could have much more value to other teams looking to fill multiple spots on the cheap. I’m not saying we’re getting a superstar back but, no, I don’t think you’re limited to the Exicardo Cayones of this world in return.

        • TheEvilUmpire

          Agree to Disagree on Nunez. He is a below-average hitter and to be generous he is defensively impaired and valuable for nothing but a late-innings pinch runner.

          Now those other guys you mentioned do have some limited value. But we’re talking 5th outfielders, utility infielders, and fringy middle relievers in return in addition to general depth.

          However my point is, you’re looking to trade fringy guys who require a 40-man roster spot for guys who presumebly will not take up said spots. Teams know the Yanks need to clear space, they’re not going to open up the bank.

          If we’re lucky, we’ll get fringy guys back who might contribute as the 25th man on the roster by the end of the season. Most likely, it’ll just be org. depth.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            In that case, no, you keep them.

            I’d say Nunez still has a tiny bit of “squint really hard and he’s a starting SS” appeal, and all it takes is one team to believe that.

            All I’d want is an option at 2B or 3B better than what we’ve got and/or Mark Reynolds, etc. If that’s out there for some sort of package, jump. Perhaps it’s not.

            • TheEvilUmpire

              If you can trade him Mr. Steinbrenner, more power to you. I just don’t think teams will offer much for him at this point.

              • Jorge Steinbrenner

                I’ll be back when successful. You’ll see. :)

  • MD

    I’d shift Marshall and Almonte into “probably safe” then Flores into the “front of the line”.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Almonte should be safe, and there’s something to be said for a young guy with a rubber arm. Of course, the problem with Marshall seems to be that he really doesn’t even do much spectacular in AAA. It’s very possible his ceiling is long man.

      • MD

        Marshall is 23 and one bounce-back AAA season from being in the Phelps/Warren/Nuno bin. We need SP depth — esp if the current rotation hopes rest on getting a guy like Tanaka or the others on the rest of that short expensive list.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          We may have excess depth in swingman types as is already.

          What we need in someone to slot behind CC and Kuroda. Not of these PhelpsyWarrenNunoMarshall types are going to do that unless they take a rather exceptional step up.

          The solution for “No Tanaka,” unless you plan on relying WAY more on Ivan Nova than you should, lies outside this organization at the moment.

          • MD

            I know we need a 3rd — but we’re talking about keeping a player rather than dumping him. I think you keep 5th starter types around (esp a 23 yr old) when you have that mileage at the top of the rotation and the suspect performance at the bottom of the rotation. I wasn’t implying that he might be a No Tanaka solution but rather a Tanaka/Garza/etc isn’t that good — Kuroda’s arm is falling off early — CC’s hitting 89mph on the gun — and Nova regresses. I don’t put a young starter on my roster bubble with starting pitcher question marks through out the rotation.

            • Jorge Steinbrenner

              I absolutely agree.

              I just wonder whether the team could afford, even knowing what you’re saying, to trade one of these pitchers if the right opportunity arises. I think they can. You disagree.

              • MD

                No, I agree. Mike’s post — if read it correctly — was about dumping someone to make room. I’d endorse trading any of those names in a package to get someone more legit. Marshall’s just not near the top of the my list of guys to cut to just to open a spot — which is what Mike was implying.

                • Jorge Steinbrenner


  • The Great Gonzo

    Its been a long time since we’ve had this many mediocre players clogging 40 man spots that you have to REALLY sit back and think about which ones will hurt you less to lose.

    I mean, I think we know Wells is obvious. Almost too obvious…

    But if you stretch far enough (and after last years injury bug, it might not be THAT FAR of a stretch), Huff/DeanAnna/Almonte/Marshall/Flores/Turley/Greene could all technically be needed come August.

    Hate to drop the wrong one (Almonte) when everyone in the outfield gets hurt in the first month of the season… Likewise for Huff/Cabral when Thornton gets hurt.

    Just strange is all.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      A whole lot of potential reasons for that.

      They’re rather conservative with exposing guys to the Rule 5 draft.

      A lack of fast-movers make them want to hug and squint a bit with the potential of the slower-movers.

      Just weird 40-man roster decision making in general. I mean, they had three UTL types (including the infamous Reegie Corona) on the roster one year. Just unnecessary.

      I’m sure we can think of more. Know how folks throw out “well, it’s player development” like it’s some sort of magic moment? Well, it’s sort of player development. :)

    • TheEvilUmpire

      There’s probably 10-20 Huffs on the free agent market right now who will take a MiLB deal and an invite to spring training. Huff himself might even resign a MiLB deal if released.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner


      • The Great Gonzo

        I agree, I think AnnaDean & Huff are both on that plane.

  • PunkPitch

    I sense a trade for an area of need thatvalso clears roster and positional clutter. A tidying up trade as it were. Bodies could be flying any day now.

  • Joe R

    You mean Vernon Wells isnt our starting 3B?

    • Bavarian Yankee

      nah, he’ll play 2nd.

      • Jedile

        Wernon Wells to the 8th!

  • Fernando

    Wells, Huff, Anna, Marshall, Flores and Suzuki are on my list of cuts. I’d look to trade Cervelli to go with Murphy as the backup, but that may come next year. I’d hold on to Cabral and Turley since they are lefties.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      I don’t get why so many people are including Anna on their lists. The Yankees specifically acquired him from the Padres because he would have been grabbed up by any other team if he were placed on waivers.

      To me, he’s got to be ahead of Nunez on the depth chart. Sure he hasn’t proved anything in MLB, but then again has Nunez? Anna at least is a.) not a defensive liability and b.) has the potential to hit a bit more than Nunez. No brainer.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Agreed, but 26 year-old fringy infielders are expendable by default, ESPECIALLY ones you just picked up.

        Unless the Cleveland Indians get ahold of them, then they’re signed to MLB deals.

        • TheEvilUmpire

          Expendable? Yes.

          But are there guys who are more expendable than Mr. Anna? I’d have to say Yes again.

          Call me a hater, but I think Nunez’s prospect ship has sailed a long time ago. Time to release your prospect bear hug and salvage whatever bag of balls we can get for him and his roster spot.

          • Jorge Steinbrenner

            Oh, don’t get me wrong. Fuck Eduardo Nunez.

  • TheEvilUmpire

    Wells and Huff can be cut without anyone shedding a tear.

    Flores and Marshall can be slipped through waivers. If they lose them, big whoop. Turley you might think twice about, but take a shot if you need to.

    Now the catcher situation is an interesting one. Romaine proved that he can at least be a servicable back-up catcher in MLB. Murphy has potential and is MLB-ready. Sanchez is the stud. I wouldn’t be surprised if any one of those guys (preferably one of the first two) will be packaged in a trade before the start of spring training. I think its still good to hold on to at least one out of two of Murphy and Romine as your default 3rd catcher headed into the season.

    • Fernando

      Maybe they can ship some of that excess to the Mariners for Nick Franklin or Dustin Ackley. Seattle can use a backup catcher like Romine combined with another player. Maybe another infielder back like Nunez or Anna or an arm like Marshall.

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        I’d do something like that. Would they?

        I still stand by my TPS idea of Ichiro for Ackley. At least they’ll sell some tickets and distract from the $240 million man having no protection and swinging at balls still in the pitcher’s hand as result.

        • TheEvilUmpire

          Seattle’s ownership might be just crazy enough to go for that idea.

        • The Great Gonzo

          I didn’t ask for much for Xmas…. This was at the top of my list.

    • camilo

      Doesn’t j.r have a bunch of third base exp? Give him a long look this ST!?

      • Jorge Steinbrenner

        Not “a bunch,” but he’s held a glove and stood there in pro ball. How good he is at it is something someone else could speak better to. My impression was that he was a much better catcher than 3B.

  • Matt DiBari

    Maybe they’ll give us a Christmas present and dump Nunez on someone.

    • The Great Gonzo

      Nunez & Ichiro for Ackley & Montero!

      Melky & IPK for King Felix!!!!!

      LOUD NOISES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • asfjr

    if they were to just outright release Ichiro, would his entire salary count towards the luxury tax?

    • nyyankfan_7

      Yes – if not you’d see ARod being released before him.

  • OldYanksFan

    Shit Piss Cock Cunt Motherfucker Cocksucker Tits!!!!!!!
    Japanese Pitcher Tanaka Won’t Be Let Go, Reports Say

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Tell us how you really feel…

    • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?


      That’s shit piss fuck cunt cocksucker motherfucker and tits.

  • TWTR

    I would like to forget that Wells was ever a Yankee.

    Keep as many kids as possible and jettison the marginal veterans.

    • I’m a looser and a trader baby so why don’t you kill me?

      Thin roster…

  • uyf1950

    Brett Marshall is no longer “on the bubble”. His bubble just burst.

  • Fernando

    Well, Brett Marshall was designated for assignment to make room for Beltran this afternoon.

  • gman

    either cervelli or romine

  • FLYER7

    If Marshall goes unclaimed he will find his way back to SWB…think Yankees have a lot of similar arms in organization if he is lost to a claim.