With 4 Open Spots, Roster Decisions Are Coming

With 5 days until opening day, the Yankees are making their final Spring Training cuts, and the roster is beginning to take shape. In recent days, we’ve learned that Michael Pineda will be the fifth starter, sending Adam Warren and David Phelps to the bullpen. We’ve also learned that Francisco Cervelli will be the backup catcher over John Ryan Murphy and Austin Romine. Here’s what the current 25-man roster looks like.

1. C Brian McCann
2. 1B Mark Teixeira
3. 2B Brian Roberts
4. SS Derek Jeter
5. 3B Kelly Johnson
6. LF Brett Gardner
7. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
8. RF Carlos Beltran
9. DH Alfonso Soriano
10. OF Ichiro Suzuki
11. C Francisco Cervelli
12. IF
13. IF
14. SP1 CC Sabathia
15. SP2 Hiroki Kuroda
16. SP3 Ivan Nova
17. SP4 Masahiro Tanaka
18. SP5 Michael Pineda
19. CL David Robertson
20. RHRP Shawn Kelley
21. RHRP David Phelps
22. RHRP Adam Warren
23. LHRP Matt Thornton
24. RP
25. RP

DL: Brendan Ryan

The Yankees still have four spots to figure out before next week. Today, some major cuts limited the bullpen scenarios. With just two open spots in the bullpen, only Dellin Betances, Cesar Cabral, Shane Greene, Matt Daley, and Vidal Nuno remain as candidates.

The standout candidate in the group has been Dellin Betances, who’s allowed just one run over 11.1 innings this spring. Cesar Cabral has also pitched extremely well, allowing no runs in 8.0 innings of work, but he also surrendered 6 walks. Matt Daley may arguably be the better pitcher over Cesar Cabral, as he allowed 1 run and just 6 base runners in 8.2 innings. Daley also has a good track record of success going back to Triple-A Scranton last season.

With Vidal Nuno likely heading back to Scranton to remain stretched out as a starter, Shane Greene is the last possible candidate in camp, and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he’d jump over Triple-A to make the major league roster. Finally, there’s one dark horse candidate that’s technically not a Yankee. Tommy Kahnle, a Rule 5 pick by the Rockies, will likely be returned thanks to the deep bullpen in Colorado. This spring, he’s also allowed just 1 run, 4 hits, 2 walks, and 9 strikeouts in 9.2 innings. Though the Yankees wouldn’t have to add him to their 40-man roster, he’s showcased himself as one of their better relief options. Assuming he’s returned, there’s a slim chance he makes the team out of Spring Training, but he remains someone to look at if anyone stumbles early on this season.

Due to Brendan Ryan’s injury, the Yankees will need to fill two utility infielder spots. At this point, Dean Anna, Eduardo Nunez, Yangervis Solarte, and Zelous Wheeler are the four players to remain in the hunt. Many have speculated that Nunez will grab one of the spots due to his incumbency, but Nunez has been by far the weakest infielder this spring. Last season, Nunez was one of the worst players in baseball, despite playing just half the season. His offensive and defensive value is far below average, and the Yankees have no real need for his speed with Ichiro Suzuki sitting on the bench. Nunez has hit just .222/.239/.356 with a handful of errors this spring, and with an option still on the table, the Yankees could easily send him back down to Triple-A to keep working on being a decent ball player.

Dean Anna is the other infield option currently on the 40-man roster. Though he didn’t show an incredible glove on the field, he did show that he’s extremely versatile and far more competent than Nunez. His bat has also responded, and although he lacked power, his ability to walk was evident in his .409 OBP this month. In recent days, Anna has gotten hot, going 5 for his last 11 with a walk and a hit by pitch. In the minor leagues, Anna showed a little bit of power, hitting 10 home runs in Double-A San Antonio and 9 in Triple-A in Tucson. Despite the hitter friendly reputation of these leagues, both ballparks are tough on left-handed power, and Anna could rebound in a ballpark with such a short right field like Yankee Stadium. He’s on the 40-man roster, he had a nice spring, he’s got some left-handed potential with the bat, and he’s extremely versatile in the field. Anna is probably the best bet to open the season in one of the free spots.

When it comes to Zelous Wheeler and Yangervis Solarte, both had extremely positive pre-seasons. Wheeler is currently hitting .324/.410/.529 in 39 plate appearances, and Solarte is hitting .459/.524/.622 in 42 plate appearances. Both players offer infield versatility, they offer decent upside, but neither are on the 40-man roster. If the Yankees were to add one of them, they’d need to clear a player from the 40-man roster. It’s possible that this could happen in the form of a trade, perhaps they’ll deal one of Austin Romine or John Ryan Murphy, but what’s clear now is that this is a major negative towards adding these two infielders. Due to better stats this spring and the ability to switch-hit, most fans are rooting for Solarte to win this competition, but Wheeler has actually been the better hitter over his entire career. With Triple-A Norfolk in 2013, Wheeler hit .268/.340/.421 with 10 home runs in 359 plate appearances. Despite better numbers, Wheeler has played in much more difficult ballparks and more difficult leagues.

If the Yankees were to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Wheeler and Solarte are extremely close in the competition for that spot. But as I mentioned with the bullpen situation, there is a dark horse candidate for the final spot on the 25-man roster. With Opening Day looming, free agents that sign after the first day cannot receive qualifying offers at the end of the year. If Stephen Drew can’t find a long term deal in the next 5 days, he will undoubtedly wait until after the first game of the season to sign with a team. Teams like the Rangers and Tigers, who desperately need infielders, look to be going in other directions, and both teams still have a first round pick they’d need to give up when signing Drew. The Yankees would only have to give up a second round pick, and the ballpark and league offer Drew the best ability to pad his stats for the upcoming 2014-2015 offseason. Perhaps the Yankees are really out of money, as they’ve claimed to agent Scott Boras, but it seems quite possible that Drew could sign relatively cheaply with the Yankees in order to boost his free agent status for the upcoming season.

Mike is the co-Editor-in-Chief of It's About The Money. Outside of blogging baseball, Mike is also a musician, a runner, and a beer lover.

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