The 40-Man Chopping Block

Cashman has a roster crunch on his hands.

As some of the Yankees’ walking wounded inch closer to the active roster, Brian Cashman will be busy creating space for those returning. Considering how many injuries the Yankees have been dealt, there’s going to be a pretty high 40-man turnover over the next couple of months. Who might go, and when? Let’s take a look at who needs to be added, and then who is likely to go.

There are currently six players on the 60-day (Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Francisco Cervelli, Michael Pineda, and Cesar Cabral) Assuming all six return (a big assumption), six guys will have to be taken off the 40-man roster. There are complications, however. For instance,¬†Cabral was a Rule V pick a couple of years ago, and must spend 90 days on the 25-man roster this season to satisfy the draft rules. If the Yankees don’t like what they see from his rehab, perhaps they just let him go before they have to make a 40-man move. Moreover, of the other guys on the 60-day, some of them may have setbacks and never even return in 2013. There are other additions that will force the Yankees to reduce the expanded roster headcount as well: David Adams is expected to be added Wednesday, and Clay Rapada could return as well. Let’s delve into some names who could be gone:

Ben Francisco: He’s been terrible, but with Brennan Boesch¬†optioned today, it appears he’ll live on a bit longer. I’d prefer him to be the first 40-man casualty when Adams is promoted Wednesday, but I expect one of the following two names to go first.

Chris Nelson: The Yankees don’t have much invested in him after acquiring him from Colorado for virtually nothing, so I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to designate him for assignment. If the Yankees want to keep five outfielders, I’d bet Nelson is DFA’d to make room for Adams.

Melky Mesa: He’s striking out 41% of the time in Triple-A, and at age 26, there probably isn’t much upside here. The glove and power are his primary tools, but he’s struggled far too much to merit keeping him around much longer.

Alberto Gonzalez: Acquiring Gonzalez was simply a depth move with Eduardo Nunez going down, so don’t expect him to stick around very long. No trimming from the 40-man will be necessary when Nunez returns, but there’s no real need for Gonzalez on the roster when Nunez and Jayson Nix are eventually healthy.

Lyle Overbay: This is a bit further in the distance, but I suspect Lyle will be cut loose when Teixeira returns. The two of them can only play first base, and with Travis Hafner strictly a DH, keeping Overbay would hinder roster flexibility. Kudos to Lyle on the job he’s done, but his days are numbered. Even if Teixeira eventually requires season-ending surgery, it’s safe to say that Cashman would seek an upgrade.

Francisco Rondon: His addition to the 40-man this past offseason didn’t make much sense in the first place, but Rondon was relatively impressive in Spring Training. The organization tried him out as a starter in Double-A, but he recently was returned to the bullpen after struggling. He’s a LOOGY type and when push comes to shove, there isn’t any reason to stash that type of player on your 40 especially when he’s not contributing at the big league level.

Dellin Betances: After failing as a starter, Betances was recently shifted to the bullpen. Once a big time prospect and part of the Killer B’s trifecta, Betances is running out of time. This is his last option year, so he’ll have to stick on the 25-man in 2014. However, if he doesn’t show anything out of the bullpen in Triple-A soon, it might simply be time for the Yankees to cut their losses.

I’ve only given seven guys who may be cut, although I mentioned eight players who could be added in the coming months. A lot of things could change by then, and in reality, chances are all eight of those guys aren’t added. I’m personally not a fan of having two LOOGYs in a bullpen, so I don’t really see a need for Rapada or Cabral unless Logan goes down. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee that Teixeira, A-Rod, or Jeter make it back this season.

The good news is that nobody on the chopping block is likely to be missed. All seven listed are fringy players, who most likely will never make significant big league contributions going forward. Hopefully, things go well for all players on rehab and the Yankees are forced to let go of everyone listed, but a lot can change from now until then. These guys are simply the most obvious choices to be cut, should everything go as planned.

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