Part One: Who to Trade, Release or Non-Tender?
Update: After the Yankees traded Ronald Herrera to the Texas Rangers and Nick Rumbelow to the Seattle Mariners they now have four open roster spots on their 40-man roster. It is possible the Yankees can make one or two more trades before the deadline so they can protect as many prospects as possible.
After the Yankees added outfielder Jake Cave and right-handed pitcher Nick Rumbelow to their roster in early November, they only have two spots open on their 40-man roster. If they want to protect more than two players, they will need to open more space. With that said there are several players currently on the Yankees 40-Man roster who could find themselves traded, released or non-tendered.
They managed to open up one space when they traded Nick Rumbelow to the Mariners in exchange for two minor leaguers. But that still leaves only three open roster spots for them to protect players and with many more talented players that need to be protected from the Rule 5 draft they need to make more space on the roster.
Which players could find themselves traded in the meantime?
There have been rumors of outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury to the Seattle Mariners trade and even Starlin Castro to the San Francisco Giants trade. Both of those are interesting options. Trading Ellsbury to the Mariners would open an outfield roster spot and moving Castro would make it easier for when Torres is ready for the majors.
Coincidently there are other players whose time with the Yankees might be nearing the end. Pitchers like Bryan Mitchell and Ronald Herrera, while they were excellent prospects and solid contributors the last year, they do not have a spot on the current Yankees team.
Mitchell is a compelling case. Many thought he would quickly fill the role that Adam Warren left when he was traded. But injuries have limited his playing time the last few years. At 26-years old he is still relatively young and has proven to be a solid starting pitcher in the minors with a 30-43 record in 137 minor league games, 131 starts and struck out 584 batters in 635 1/3 innings pitched. In total, he has thrown just 48 major league games, with 20 of them coming in 2017.
Herrera, 22, only made his MLB this past season but the right-handed pitcher out of Venezuela has been impressive in the minors. He has a career 41-33 minor league record in 120 games, 112 starts, and 484 strikeouts in 627 2/3 innings pitched.
The other pitchers could find their time with the Yankees to be up. Among those that are possible to be traded, released or non-tendered are Luis Cessa, Giovanny Gallegos, Ben Heller, Chasen Shreve, and Caleb Smith.
On the other side of the game, it is possible the Yankees would cut ties with Garrett Cooper. The 26-year old first baseman they picked up mid-season from the Milwaukee Brewers while Tyler Austin was on the disabled list. Cooper made his major league debut on July 14, 2017, and hit .326/.33/.488 in 13 major league games.
Tyler Austin himself is another player who might be removed from the 40-man roster. Austin, like Cooper, is now 26-years old. His injury history keeps catching up with him. Between the last two seasons, he has played 51 games in the majors, hitting .236/.294/.447. Though unlike Cooper, Austin provides additional versatility by being able to play both outfield corners plus first base. In a pinch he might be able to play third base, a position he only has three games at in the last three seasons.
The annual General Manager meetings begin on Monday and it is highly likely that the Yankees will be active, working to trade away some of their depth before the deadline to add players to the 40-man roster.
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