Cleaning up the 40-man roster: Part II

Once the World Series ends, either tonight or tomorrow, the offseason begins the following morning. Within the first five days after the last out, eligible players become free agents and the disabled list is eliminated, meaning significant changes in many teams 40-man roster composition. There are other key deadlines this winter that will force the front office to make further changes to the 40-man roster, as I highlighted last week.

Today, I take a look at some players who are in jeopardy of losing their spot on the roster, starting with the most likely to go and ending with least likely to go (in my amateur opinion). This list includes players that I believe the front office will considering removing from the 40-man roster in order to make way for new talent. Without further ado:

1. Nathan Eovaldi: This isn’t a matter of if, but rather, when Eovaldi will be taken off the 40-man roster. There’s no reason to hold a 40-man spot for Eovaldi in 2017 because (a) he’s going to miss the entire season recovering from Tommy John surgery, (b) his forecasted $7.5M salary would be money flushed down the drain, and (c) he’s a free agent after next year. Could he be back on an alternate arrangement off the 40-man? Sure. But there isn’t a good reason to use a valuable spot on him right now.

2. Dustin Ackley: 2016 ended in late May for Ackley, with his shoulder being the culprit. Surgery kept him out for the rest of the season, and rehab will likely carry into the first few months of the 2017 campaign. Considering his projected $3.2M salary through arbitration, it doesn’t make sense to carry Ackley on the 40-man given that he’s likely to miss a good chunk of next season. Perhaps the Yankees and Ackley can reach an accord on a minor league deal with a midseason opt-out if not promoted when healthy.

3. Conor Mullee: After undergoing an elbow surgery in August that I’ve never heard of, the 28 year-old righty reliever is out indefinitely. Given his age, lack of track record, health, and abundance of other similar bullpen arms, outrighting him off the 40-man would be prudent.

4. James Pazos: In what’s going to be a common theme of this list, Pazos is an expendable reliever. Pazos has a good fastball from the left side, but not much else. He’s been on the 40-man roster since 2015, and to this point, he hasn’t contributed much of anything to the big league club. There’s a good chance he doesn’t survive the offseason as a 40-man rostered player.

5. Richard Bleier: Although Bleier succeeded as a lefty specialist in 23 Major League innings this season (.188 wOBA vs. LHH), the Yankees shouldn’t think twice about holding a precious roster spot for a soon-to-be 30 year-old LOOGY.

6. Johnny Barbato: After making the big league roster out of camp and being an effective bullpen arm for much of April, it’s mildly surprising to be at a point where Barbato’s roster status is questionable. After not being called up during expanded rosters in September, it was clear that Barbato had fallen out of favor even after posting respectable numbers in Triple-A. The organization already has a dime a dozen of relievers like Barbato, so he could be one of the losers in a game of musical chairs.

7. Nick Goody: Oh look, another fringy reliever. Goody’s performance has been lackluster thanks to his propensity to allow the long ball, and with so many relievers of his kind, Goody could find himself designated for assignment sooner or later. Although Goody only pitched once in September, he was kept on the big league roster throughout the month and thus is probably in better favor than Barbato, even if by a hair.

8. Branden Pinder: Good elbow health simply wasn’t in the cards for many of the Yankees’ Scranton shuttle relievers, and Pinder was no exception. He had Tommy John surgery in April, and although he could become a bullpen option by mid-2017, the Yankees might be able to slip him off the 40-man while keeping him in the organization. It’s not as if he’d be a significant loss if another team claimed him, anyway.

9. Jacob Lindgren: The team’s top pick in 2014 raced through the minors and debuted with the Yankees in 2015, but has fallen apart since then. Lindgren pitched in only six games in 2016 and underwent Tommy John surgery in August. With him set to miss all of 2017, the Yankees could try to outright him off the 40-man roster while still retaining his rights in the minors. The big risk is whether or not one of the other 29 organizations would be willing to use a roster spot on him this offseason and subsequently place him on the 60-day disabled list when it becomes available again. The odds of that are unclear, but it might be worthwhile for a bottom feeding team hoping to cash in on Lindgren’s talent in 2018. That’s why he’s so much further down the list than an inferior injured reliever like Mullee.

10. Nick Rumbelow: Like Pinder, Rumbelow had his UCL repaired at the beginning the of 2016 regular season. He’ll be back at some point in 2017, and could become a big league option in the pen. Though his situation is similar to Pinder’s, I’d bet on Rumbelow lasting longer because his upside is better. I had a hard time deciding if Rumbelow should be ahead of Lindgren, and decided that the breaking point was that Rumbelow is expected to return sooner despite Lindgren’s greater ability.

11. Chasen Shreve: What happened to the April through August of 2015 Shreve? Since then, he’s been downright awful.  If it wasn’t for some semblance of success at the big league level, I’d rank Shreve near the top of this list. I’m guessing that the organization is still holding out hope for a return to form.

12. Tommy Layne: The Yankees grabbed him from the scrap heap this summer, and the southpaw rewarded them for it. Layne’s utility is much like Bleier’s, albeit with more experience. Joe Girardi had a good amount of trust in Layne by the end of the season, which might help Layne’s case to stay put. Considering Girardi’s faith in him and the other left-handed relievers in the organization, Layne is probably the best bet to keep his spot. If there’s anything that would make Layne more likely to go than another reliever, particularly another lefty, it’s his projected salary of $1.2M through arbitration for 2017. The Yankees could save a few hundred thousand dollars if they chose Bleier or Shreve as a (healthy) lefty to stash in the organization.

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