Yankees trade Rumbelow to Mariners for two minor leaguers

Sears. (Post and Courier)
Sears. (Post and Courier)

The 40-man roster cleanse has begun. This afternoon the Yankees announced they have traded Nick Rumbelow to the Mariners for minor league pitching prospects J.P. Sears and Juan Then. Sears is a lefty. Then is a righty. The trade opens up a 40-man roster spot.

Rumbelow, 26, returned from Tommy John surgery earlier this year to throw 40.1 innings with a 1.12 ERA (1.89 FIP) for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. He allowed eight runs in 15.2 big league innings as an up-and-down arm in 2015. The Yankees added Rumbelow to the 40-man roster a few weeks ago to prevent him from becoming a minor league free agent.

The 21-year-old Sears is the better of the two prospects coming to New York. The Mariners selected him with their 11th round pick in this year’s draft, and he threw 27.2 relief innings with a 0.65 ERA (1.45 FIP) and 46.4% strikeouts in his pro debut. MLB.com ranked Sears as the 21st best prospect in Seattle’s system before the trade. Here’s a piece of their scouting report:

Sears attacks hitters with a fastball that sits 87-90 mph but plays above its velocity due to the deception created by his low-three-quarters slot, and because he knows how to effectively change hitters’ eye levels while pitching to both sides of the plate … Neither his slider nor his changeup are particularly advanced, with scouts pegging them as average offerings … Sears earns plaudits for his competitiveness on the mound, and his track record as a strike-thrower in college speaks for itself.

The 17-year-old Then is a recent international signee who made his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League this year. He threw 61.1 innings with a 2.64 ERA (2.90 FIP). I can’t find anything about the kid at all. He wasn’t a high profile signing and it’s tough to find info on kids this far down the minor league ladder. Then is very much a low level minor league lottery ticket.

The Yankees are very deep in right-handed relievers and they figured to unload one (or more) prior to Monday’s deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft, which is why Rumbelow was moved. Rather than let him go for nothing as a minor league free agent, the Yankees were able to flip him for two prospects. Neat.

Update (10:22pm ET): Baseball America posted their trade analysis. Here’s their scouting report on Then:

The Yankees added yet another high-upside righthander to their stable of similar pitchers. Then signed out of the Dominican Republic in July 2016 for $77,000 and was one of the most impressive pitchers in the DSL this summer, going 2-2, 2.64 with 56 strikeouts in 61.1 innings. Scouts who saw Then this year saw a pitcher with smooth, clean delivery that produced 90-94 mph fastballs as well as two offspeed pitches—a changeup and a curveball—that project as above-average offerings in the future.

Well then. Or should I say well Then? Kyle Glaser says Then was “maybe the highest upside pitcher” in Seattle’s system before the trade. Even though he is 17 and a mile away from the big leagues, Then is a pretty nice get as the second piece for a guy like Rumbelow.

Yankees add Jake Cave and Nick Rumbelow to 40-man roster

Rumblin' Rumbelow. (Rob Foldy/Getty)
Rumblin’ Rumbelow. (Rob Foldy/Getty)

The Yankees have added outfielder Jake Cave and right-hander Nick Rumbelow to the 40-man roster, the team announced earlier today. Both players were due to become minor league free agents this offseason. The Yankees now have two open spots on the 40-man roster.

Cave, 25 next month, broke out this season, hitting .305/.351/.542 (145 wRC+) with a career high 20 homers — his previous career high was eight homers set last season — in 103 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. Cave attributed his breakout to some mechanical changes designed to get the ball airborne more often, and, well:

  • 2015: 55.3% grounders
  • 2016: 44.0% grounders
  • 2017: 42.0% grounders

This is the second time Cave has been on a 40-man roster. The Reds grabbed him in the 2015 Rule 5 Draft, gave him a look in Spring Training 2016, then returned him to the Yankees. He replaces Mason Williams as the up-and-down spare center fielder next season. This also gives the Yankees a chance to see whether Cave’s breakout this year is for real.

The 26-year-old Rumbelow has some big league time under his belt, allowing eight runs (seven earned) in 15.2 innings with the Yankees in 2015. He blew out his elbow in his very first appearance of the 2016 season and needed Tommy John surgery. Rumbelow returned with his new elbow ligament this summer and posted a stellar 1.12 ERA (1.89 FIP) with 29.4% strikeouts and 7.2% walks in 40.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

It was reported a few weeks ago Cave would be added to the 40-man roster, though the Rumbelow decision is a bit of a surprise, at least to me. The Yankees must’ve really liked what they saw in his 40.1 innings back from Tommy John surgery this year. The deadline to add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft is coming up. The Yankees have a large class of eligibles and will have to open some spots between now and then.

DotF: Bird reaches base three times in first rehab game

Got some notes to pass along:

  • According to Randy Miller, the Yankees are grooming SS Gleyber Torres to take over at third base later this season. That isn’t a surprise. The writing has been on the wall since he started played third base and was quickly bumped up to Triple-A Scranton.
  • Welcome back, RHP Nick Rumbelow. He was activated off the Triple-A disabled list and sent down to Double-A Trenton, the team announced. Rumbelow had Tommy John surgery last April.
  • According to Matt Eddy, the Yankees have signed SS Luis Santos, who I assume is an international free agent and part of the 2016-17 signing class. Also, they’ve released RHP Kolton Mahoney.
  • Voting is open for the Triple-A International League All-Stars. Here’s the ballot. Lehigh Valley fans are voting like crazy. Their players are the leading vote-getters at six of the nine positions. Here’s the latest voting update.

Triple-A Scranton (6-3 loss to Columbus)

  • SS Tyler Wade: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB
  • CF Dustin Fowler: 1-5, 1 2B, 2 K — 14-for-35 (.400) with five doubles and two homers in his last eight games
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 3-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — first home run of his rehab assignment … here’s video of the homer
  • LF Clint Frazier: 1-2, 2 BB — 12.1% walk rate and 20.6% walk rate … had a 6.5% walk rate and a 27.8% strikeout rate during his 25 games with the RailRiders last year
  • RF Mason Williams: 0-4
  • LHP Caleb Smith: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 63 of 104 pitches were strikes (61%)
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 2 IP, 0 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 4/2 GB/FB — 20 of 39 pitches were strikes (51%) … Triple-A debut for the fourth piece in the Andrew Miller trade

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DotF: Rutherford reaches base three times in Opening Day loss

At long last, the 2017 minor league regular season has arrived. The Yankees have a loaded farm system and this should be a pretty fun year. Even after RHP James Kaprielian complained about pain in his elbow that will send him into various MRI tubes. Blah. Baseball can be such a jerk sometimes. Here are some notes before we get to the Opening Day games:

  • High-A Tampa finally released their roster earlier today. RHP Dillon Tate is not listed on any of the four full season affiliate rosters and I’m not sure why. There’s been no word about an injury, so the Yankees probably held him back in Extended Spring Training. They’ve been working with Tate on all sorts of mechanical stuff since the trade last year, trying to get him back to his fourth overall pick form. We’ll see when he pops back up.
  • OF Jake Cave (knee), 1B Chris Gittens (unknown), LHP Chaz Hebert (elbow), RHP Brody Koerner (unknown), RHP Branden Pinder (elbow), LHP James Reeves (elbow), RHP Nick Rumbelow (elbow), and LHP Stephen Tarpley (unknown) will all start the year on the DL, according to Donnie Collins and Nick Flammia. Hebert, Pinder, and Rumbelow are rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
  • LHP Miguel Sulbaran, who came over from the Twins in the Eduardo Nunez trade, has been suspended 25 games for violating the minor league drug program, MLB announced. The 25-game ban indicates he tested positive for a drug of abuse (in most cases the kid gets caught smoking pot), not a performance-enhancer. Sulbaran did not pitch last year due to injury.
  • The Yankees have released 3B Drew Bridges, RHP Sean Carley, RHP Kyle Halbohn, RHP Cody Hamlin, RHP Tim Holmes, 1B Kane Sweeney, 2B Josh Gardiner, and OF Nathan Mikolas, according to Matt Eddy. There’s always a ton of cuts after Spring Training. The Yankees have also signed C Sharif Othman. Othman, 28, was with the Marlins from 2011-16. He hit .156/.208/.221 (23 wRC+) in 40 games between High-A and Double-A last season.
  • MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo posted a feature on Yankees’ minor league camp as well an interview with OF Blake Rutherford, so make sure you check those out. Also, don’t miss Anthony Castrovince’s feature on LHP Justus Sheffield, who doesn’t get as much attention as he deserves for being a top pitching prospect.
  • And finally, check out 20-80 Baseball’s massive Yankees organizational review. “They may not have the pitching to compete with a juggernaut Red Sox or a strong Toronto ball club in 2017, but don’t think that the rest of the American League doesn’t notice the stirring giant in the Bronx,” said the write-up.

Triple-A Scranton‘s game was rained out. They’ve already postponed tomorrow’s game too. One of the games will be made up as part of a doubleheader Sunday. They haven’t announced a makeup date for the other game yet. RHP Johnny Barbato will start the season opener Saturday, according to Shane Hennigan. LHP Dietrich Enns will start the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader and RHP Luis Cessa will start the home opener Monday. The starter for the second game of the doubleheader is TBA. Might be a bullpen game.

Double-A Trenton was also rained out. I’ll get the Prospect Watch up tomorrow since SS Gleyber Torres didn’t play tonight. This game will be made up as part of a doubleheader Sunday. Prior to the rainout, the rotation to start the season was going to be, in order, RHP Chance Adams, LHP Justin Sheffield, RHP Yefrey Ramirez, RHP Domingo German, and LHP Daniel Camarena, according to Matt Kardos. Not sure what the postponement and doubleheader do to the pitching plans.

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Torres, Frazier, Kaprielian, and other prospects headline 2017 Spring Training invitees

Soon. (Presswire)
Soon. (Presswire)

Two weeks from today the Yankees will open Spring Training when pitchers and catchers report to Tampa. And earlier today, the Yankees officially announced this year’s list of non-roster invitees. The 23 non-roster players include several of the team’s best prospects. Here’s the list:

Pitchers (11)
RHP Chance Adams
LHP Daniel Camarena
RHP J.P. Feyereisen
LHP Jason Gurka
RHP James Kaprielian
RHP Brady Lail
LHP Joe Mantiply
RHP Jordan Montgomery
RHP Nick Rumbelow
LHP Evan Rutckyj
LHP Justus Sheffield

Catchers (4)
Wilkin Castillo
Kellin Deglan
Francisco Diaz
Jorge Saez

Infielders (6)
Ji-Man Choi
Pete Kozma
Donovan Solano
Ruben Tejada
Gleyber Torres
Tyler Wade

Outfielders (2)
Dustin Fowler
Clint Frazier

As a reminder, all players on the 40-man roster will be in big league camp automatically. That includes prospects like Miguel Andujar, Dietrich Enns, Domingo German, Ronald Herrera, Kyle Higashioka, Jorge Mateo, and Yefrey Ramirez. Those guys have yet to make their MLB debuts, but they’ll be in Spring Training since they’re on the 40-man roster.

As for the list of non-roster players, first things first: the Yankees have apparently re-signed Kozma. He spent all of last season with Triple-A Scranton, where he hit .209/.268/.265 (52 wRC+) in 488 plate appearances before becoming a minor league free agent. The Yankees obviously then re-signed him as a depth player at some point. Welcome back, Pete.

Secondly, good gravy is that a lot of top prospects. Torres, the crown jewel of last year’s Aroldis Chapman trade, is one of the very best prospects in all of baseball, and we’ll get to see him in a Yankees uniform for the first time this spring. Frazier, Kaprielian, and Sheffield are consensus top 100 prospects as well. They’re all going to be in camp.

Adams and Montgomery are not on the 40-man roster and chances are we won’t see either of them on a top 100 prospects list this spring, but they’re two of New York’s best pitching prospects, and both will begin 2017 at Triple-A. Bringing them to big league camp as non-roster players is a no-brainer.

The one top prospect who will not be in camp is Blake Rutherford, last year’s first round pick. That’s not surprising though. The kid is only 19 and he’s yet to play a full season of pro ball. Prior to Kaprielian last year, the Yankees hadn’t brought a first round pick to big league camp for his first Spring Training in at least a decade. Not even Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain got invites their first year.

It’s worth pointing out this list is not necessarily final. The Yankees can still add players as non-roster invitees and they very well may do so. (Mark Montgomery was a late add last year, for example.) This is a World Baseball Classic year, and the Yankees will have some playing time to fill while Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius are away from the team.

Two weeks ago I put together a non-roster preview and came up with 24 possible names. Twenty of the 24 received non-roster invites this year, so hooray for that. Go me.

Previewing the Yankees’ potential Spring Training invitees

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Four weeks from yesterday, pitchers and catchers will report to Tampa and the Yankees will open Spring Training. It’s the best non-news day of the year. Nothing really happens that day, but hey, it’s the start of Spring Training, and that’s exciting. The offseason is boring. This one especially so.

At some point in these next three weeks and six days the Yankees will announce their Spring Training non-roster invitees. There are usually 20-something of them. The number varies year to year. The 20-something non-roster players plus the 40-man roster means 60-something players in big league camp. This is a World Baseball Classic year though, so the Yankees might bring a few extra bodies to camp to cover for the guys who leave to play for their country.

Non-roster players take on all shapes and sizes. Some are veteran journeymen trying to hang on. Others are top prospects. Heck, some are middling prospects. Very few of them actually have a chance to win an Opening Day roster spot. Most non-roster players are hoping to open eyes in camp and earn an early-season call-up whenever reinforcements are inevitably needed. That’s what Preston Claiborne did a few years back. He pitched well in camp and made himself a name to remember.

This spring should be extra exciting because the Yankees have such a robust farm system, and so many of their top prospects are close to the big leagues. Spring Training is a great time of year for prospect watchers. The Yankees will surely bring a bunch of their top youngsters to camp, even if only for a few weeks, just to expose them to big league life. So, with all of that in mind, let’s preview this year’s crop of potential non-roster players. Let’s call this … educated speculation.

Catchers

The Yankees, like every other team, invite a ton of non-roster catchers to Spring Training. Why? Well, who else is supposed to catch all those bullpen sessions? That’s really all it is. Teams need lots of catchers in camp because there are lots of pitchers in camp, and someone has to behind the plate for those guys. Last year the Yankees brought six non-roster catchers to camp. The year before it was five.

New York is pretty devoid of catching prospects at the moment, now that Luis Torrens is (temporarily?) a member of the Padres. Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine, and Kyle Higashioka are all on the 40-man roster, so they’ll be in camp. Donny Sands and Miguel Flames, the team’s two best catching prospects, are rookie ball kids still transitioning behind the plate, so they won’t be in big league Spring Training. Too soon. Their time will come. That means an unexciting crop of minor league signees and journeyman roster fillers behind the plate.

Mike’s Prediction: Wilkin Castillo, Kellin Deglan, Francisco Diaz, Jorge Saez, plus one or two others yet to be signed. Diaz was in camp as a non-roster player last year and re-signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent earlier this offseason. Castillo and Deglan signed as minor league free agents over the winter. Saez, 26, was a minor league Rule 5 Draft pick from the Blue Jays. The Yankees brought Santiago Nessy to camp last spring after picking him in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. I’m guessing Saez gets the same treatment.

Infielders

Gleyber. (Presswire)
Gleyber. (Presswire)

Alright, now we’re talking. Gleyber Torres, the best prospect in the system and one of the best prospects in all of baseball, is a lock to be invited to big league camp, I believe. The Yankees have historically brought their tippy top prospects to camp — Jorge Mateo was there last year, remember — and Gleyber is the best they have to offer. Torres could hang around until mid-to-late March too, depending on how much playing time is available.

Among the other prospects, Tyler Wade is the other non-roster lock in my opinion. He’s not a Torres-caliber prospect, but he’s pretty darn good himself, and he’s slated to open the 2017 season in Triple-A. The Yankees had Wade play some outfield in the Arizona Fall League last year, so they’re starting to groom him for a big league utility job. Getting him in camp so he can work with the big league instructors is the next logical step.

The Yankees have a small army of infield prospects in the low minors, guys who are better served going to minor league camp. Wilkerman Garcia, Hoy Jun Park, Kyle Holder, and Thairo Estrada fit into this group. I thought maybe the Yankees would bring Mike Ford to camp as an extra first baseman, but the recent Ji-Man Choi signing takes care of that. Choi will “compete” with Greg Bird and Tyler Austin (and Rob Refsnyder?) for the first base job.

Mike’s Prediction: Choi, Torres, Wade, Cito Culver, Donovan Solano, and Ruben Tejada. Solano and Tejada are big league veterans on minor league deals, so yeah, they’ll be in camp. Culver gets the call because both Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro could end up playing in the WBC, meaning the Yankees will need infielders. Cito re-signed with New York as a minor league free agent a few weeks ago, and it wouldn’t surprise me if an invite to Spring Training was part of the deal. Keep in mind Mateo and Miguel Andujar are on the 40-man roster and will be in Spring Training automatically.

Outfielders

Remember last spring, when the Yankees had both Mateo and Aaron Judge in camp as non-roster players? That was so fun. They even hit home runs in the same game (against the Red Sox!). To the very necessary action footage:

Ah yes, that’s the good stuff. Anyway, I bring this up because Torres and Clint Frazier and going to be this year’s Mateo and Judge. The top prospect infielder-outfielder tandem we all tune in to see every Spring Training broadcast. Frazier is one of the Yankees’ best prospects and he’s already played in Triple-A, making a non-roster invitation to Spring Training is a no-brainer.

One top outfield prospect I don’t expect to see in big league camp is Blake Rutherford. The Yankees bought James Kaprielian to camp last year and that was a rarity — Kaprielian was the first first round pick the Yankees brought to Spring Training as a non-roster player one year after the draft in at least a decade. Not even Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain got non-roster invites in 2007. Rutherford is fresh out of high school. Big league camp isn’t the appropriate place for him. Lame, but it is what it is.

Mike’s Prediction: Frazier, Dustin Fowler, Mark Payton, and Jake Cave. I’m going to go against the grain and say Payton over the more heralded Billy McKinney. Payton is not a top prospect by any stretch, but he can do a little of everything and is a performer. He’s going to carve out a career as a fourth outfielder, and I think the Yankees will want to get him in camp at least once before he becomes Rule 5 Draft eligible next winter. Cave is a Triple-A vet, hence the non-roster invite. Fowler is one of the team’s top prospects and he’ll be in Triple-A this year, so I expect to see him too. Mason Williams (and Judge) is already on the 40-man.

Right-handers

Kaprielian. (Presswire)
Kaprielian. (Presswire)

We’re going to see some nice prospects arms in camp this year, me thinks. Kaprielian, Chance Adams, and Dillon Tate are the three big names. Kaprielian was in Spring Training last season, and since he was healthy enough to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, I don’t think the Yankees will hesitate to bring him to camp this year. Adams broke out last year and is going to start the season in Triple-A. Prime non-roster fodder.

Tate is the interesting one and I don’t think a non-roster invite is a lock, but I do think it’s likely. He regained velocity after the trade last year and threw well in the AzFL. Tate is going back to starting this season and I think the Yankees will look to move him quickly. And you know what? I think the Yankees want to show him off too. Tate was the fourth overall pick in the draft two years ago and one of the big name prospects they acquired at the deadline last summer. They’ll strut him out there and let him air it out for a few Grapefruit League innings because hey, why not?

Other big name prospects, like Domingo Acevedo and Albert Abreu, seem unlikely to get an invite to big league Spring Training this year. There are only so many innings to go around, and the Yankees will need them to a) decide the fourth and fifth starter race, and b) sort through a bunch of candidates for the remaining bullpen spots. This might be a year ahead of schedule for Acevedo and Abreu. I’m open to being wrong. We’ll see.

Mike’s Prediction: Adams, Kaprielian, Tate, J.P. Feyereisen, Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow, plus two or three others yet to be signed. At some point soon the Yankees will sign some pitchers to minor league deals for depth and Triple-A roster filler. The Anthony Swarzaks of the world we all love to hate. Feyereisen is a reliever with a chance to pitch in the show next year, hence the invite. Pinder and Rumbelow are still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, so they won’t actually pitch this spring, but they have big league service time and the non-roster invite is basically a courtesy. They’ll get big league meal money and lodging. It’s better than rehabbing in minor league camp.

Left-handers

As with the righties, I think we’ll see some good left-handed pitching prospects in Spring Training, most notably Jordan Montgomery and Justus Sheffield. Montgomery pitched very well at Double-A and Triple-A last summer, and the odds are strongly in favor of him making his MLB debut at some point in 2017. Spring Training is a chance for Joe Girardi and Larry Rothschild to get their eyes on him. Giving Montgomery a non-roster invite makes all the sense in the world.

Montgomery. (Jason Farmer/Scranton Times-Tribune)
Montgomery. (Jason Farmer/Scranton Times-Tribune)

As for Sheffield, I do think he’ll get the invite to big league camp even though the odds of him pitching in the show this year are extremely small. Sheffield is a top prospect who reached Double-A last year, and he’s going to spend much of 2017 there as well, which could be enough to make him a non-roster candidate. And like Tate, I think the Yankees are going to want to show him off a bit. Sheffield could be one of those guys who makes one Grapefruit League appearance before being sent to minor league camp.

Mike’s Prediction: Montgomery, Sheffield, Jason Gurka, Joe Mantiply, plus one yet to be signed. Gurka signed a minor league deal a few weeks ago and has big league time with the Rockies, so he’ll get the non-roster invite. Mantiply is in a similar situation. Other southpaw prospects like Ian Clarkin, Nestor Cortes, Stephen Tarpley, and Josh Rogers will have to settle for minor league camp and a possible one-day call-up for a split squad game or something.

* * *

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the chances of me being wrong (very wrong) here are quite high. This is all nothing more than guesswork based on the farm system and New York’s recent non-roster tendencies. Okay, so after all of that, I came up with 30 possible non-roster invitees:

  • Catchers (6): Castillo, Deglan, Diaz, Saez, plus up to two others yet to be signed.
  • Infielders (6): Choi, Culver, Solano, Tejada, Torres, and Wade.
  • Outfielders (4): Cave, Fowler, Frazier, and Payton.
  • Pitchers (14): Adams, Feyereisen, Gurka, Kaprielian, Mantiply, Montgomery, Pinder, Rumbelow, Sheffield, Tate, plus as many as four yet to be signed.

Last year the Yankees brought 25 non-roster players to camp. The year before it was 26 and the year before that it was also 26, so my total of 30 is in ballpark when you consider each team will probably bring a few more players to camp to help cover for the WBC. If anything, 30 might be a little light since Pinder and Rumbelow won’t actually pitch. (The Yankees brought 44 players to camp in 2013, the last WBC year, which was insane.)

The Yankees announced their non-roster invitees on February 5th each of the last two years. Three years ago it was January 29th. They tend to do it very late in the offseason, so we still have a few weeks to go before things are made official. Either way, this promises to be a very prospect filled Spring Training. Guys like Torres, Frazier, Kaprielian, Montgomery, Fowler, and Wade will all be in camp, plus all the 40-man guys like Mateo, Andujar, Judge, and Bird. Should be fun.

2017 Rule 5 Draft status suggests the Yankees will have to trade some prospects this year

Gleyber will be protected, because duh. (Presswire)
Gleyber will be protected, because duh. (Presswire)

The busiest day for the Yankees this offseason — and most teams, for that matter — was November 18th, the day clubs had to finalize their 40-man roster for the Rule 5 Draft. The Yankees made 12 transactions involving 13 players that day. The team’s deep farm system meant six players were added to the 40-man roster. Even then, the Yankees still lost four players in the MLB phase of the Rule 5 Draft.

The Rule 5 Draft and 40-man roster crunch was pretty significant this offseason. The Yankees lost several potentially useful players, most notably Jacob Lindgren and Nick Goody, simply because there was no room for them. Having a great farm system comes with a cost. The Rule 5 Draft crunch is poised to be even more severe next offseason too. Check out the (partial) list of prospects who will have to be added to the 40-man after the 2017 season:

Catchers: None
Infielders: Abi Avelino, Thairo Estrada, Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade
Outfielders: Rashad Crawford, Dustin Fowler, Clint Frazier, Billy McKinney, Leonardo Molina, Tito Polo
Pitchers: Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo, Ian Clarkin, Nestor Cortes, J.P. Feyereisen, Zack Littell, Jordan Montgomery, Eric Swanson, Stephen Tarpley

That list doesn’t include outfielder Jake Cave, righty Nick Rumbelow, and lefties Daniel Camarena and Chaz Hebert, all of whom will become minor league free agents after the 2017 season. I know those guys are easy to overlook, but who knows what’ll happen this summer. Who would have guessed Kyle Higashioka would play his way on to the 40-man last year?

Also, that “none” under catchers may only be temporary. If Luis Torrens doesn’t stick with the Padres as a Rule 5 Draft pick, he’ll come back to the Yankees and have to be added to the 40-man roster after the season. That’s a must. If Torrens is picked in the Rule 5 Draft again in December, he’ll be able to elect free agency rather than come back to New York. Can’t let that happen. If Torrens does come back, he’ll land on the 40-man in November.

Okay, so anyway, that’s an awful lot of quality prospects, huh? Torres and Frazier are in a league of their own as top 100 prospects, but many of the other guys figure to be worth protecting too. Wade and Fowler are slated to spend 2017 with Triple-A Scranton. A successful season there means they’re a lock to be picked in the Rule 5 Draft. Others like Abreu and Acevedo have considerable upside, and those guys are always worth protecting.

The Yankees had to make compromises in November because 40-man roster spots are a finite resource. Would they have liked to protect, say, Torrens and Tyler Webb, and keep Lindgren? Yeah, probably, but there’s only so much space to go around. The Yankees will run into a similar problem next offseason, only to a much greater degree. They not only have more prospects eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, they have more high-end prospects eligible for the Rule 5 draft.

Wade. (Presswire)
Wade. (Presswire)

The solution is simple though, isn’t it? Just trade some of them. It’s basically impossible to protect them all, so rather than lose them for nothing in the Rule 5 Draft, just trade them. Package three or four together for one player, preferably a young starting pitcher with several years of control. Boom, problem solved. Two problems solved, really. The Yankees clear up the Rule 5 Draft logjam and add the young pitcher they’ve seemingly been craving for months. It’s perfect!

Except it’s not that easy. It never is. For starters, you have to find another team with the available 40-man roster space to make such a trade. No team is going to trade for these prospects only to expose them to the Rule 5 Draft. The other team’s 40-man situation is an obstacle. Prospects are like kids, teams always love their own more than they love everyone else’s. Not many clubs may be willing to cut one or two of their own players to make room for your players in a hypothetical four-for-one trade. There’s a reason trades like this are rare.

More realistically, we may see the Yankees make a series of smaller moves. One-for-one, two-for-one trades. Trades that swap a Rule 5 Draft eligible prospect for a non-Rule 5 Draft eligible prospect. That’s similar to the James Pazos-for-Zack Littell trade. The Yankees needed the 40-man space, so they sent Pazos to the Mariners for Littell, who is a year away from Rule 5 Draft eligibility. It bought them some time, basically. Not the sexiest move, but necessary.

There’s eleven months between now and the deadline to set the 40-man roster for the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, so this is hardly a pressing issue. It is something the Yankees have to plan for, obviously, and you can be sure it’ll affect their decision-making over the summer. In fact, Brian Cashman even admitted Rule 5 Draft status was a consideration when making trades last summer. How could it not be?

The Yankees did some great work rebuilding their farm system over the last few months and it’s set them up for sustainable success in the near future. Baseball doesn’t allow teams to keep prospects forever though, and rightfully so. There comes a time when you have to ether commit to the player (add him to the 40-man) or give him a chance to reach MLB with another organization (Rule 5 Draft). The Yankees will reach that point with several of their best prospects next winter, and since they can’t protect everyone, they figure to move a few in trades to clear the logjam.