Brian Cashman says the roster is pretty much set for Spring Training:
While Cashman is still making calls on free agents to assess the market, he also said he's 99.9 percent sure the Yankees are set.— Jack Curry (@JackCurryYES) January 10, 2017
Is he being honest, or does Cashman have a trick up his sleeve? Let's take a look at the 25-man roster at the moment:
Starting Infield: 1b Greg Bird, 2b Starlin Castro, SS Didi Gregorius, 3b Chase Headley, C Gary Sanchez
All set here. There are no obvious free agents, farmhands, or available players to upgrade any of these guys. Collectively, they should be an above-average group. Starlin Castro is the weak link, but his contract is also by far the hardest to move.
Starting Outfield: Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Aaron Judge, Matt Holliday (DH)
Cashman has been broadcasting his desire to trade Brett Gardner with a bullhorn all offseason. Brett Gardner is still here. My guess is no team was willing to give up any decent prospects in return. I could see Brian Cashman moving him before Spring Training, but the trade deadline seems more likely. The Yankees will have a lot more information about the major league futures of Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin, and others by then.
Bench: Aaron Hicks, Austin Romine/Kyle Higashioka, Ronald Torreyes, Tyler Austin
Looks pretty good to me. As I said on the podcast last week, I think the Yankees should consider Higashioka over Romine. He hit so well last year, and Romine has been replacement level. Austin and Hicks provide one of the better one-two punches off the bench that the Yankees have had in some time.
Starting Pitching: Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Chad Greene, Luis Severino
And now we've reached the problem. Those last two spots are completely up in the air. Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell and possibly Dietrich Enns will also get a shot at the MLB rotation in spring training.
On one hand, this group is thin. The top-3 all have recent history of serious injuries, and none of the bottom group are really close to known quantities. It's not hard to imagine a complete collapse here, where the Yankees are forced to dig deep down into their depth chart before certain prospects are ready.
On the other hand, a lot of thin starting pitching staffs did very well in 2016. The Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers all made the playoffs with horrible starting pitching last season. All made up for it with strong bullpens and good hitting. The Yankees may be able to survive with their current group, at least until the trade deadline.
That said, I think Cashman is underselling the possibility of trading for Jose Quintana. The price is high right now, but no moves have been made. The Yankees could come back in if the price is reduced, especially if they are willing to take most of David Robertson's salary.
Relief Pitching: Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren, Richard Bleier, Tommy Layne
The lefties are the obvious weak point here. I don't have a lot of faith in either Bleier or Layne, and the Yankees have been connected to Boone Logan this winter. I wouldn't be shocked to see the Yankees go out and get an upgrade there, but the Yankees could easily go into the season with the current group.
Bottom line: I think the Yankees could be done, but they sure could use another starting pitcher. I think they would be smart to go out and get someone on the low side of that market: Doug Fister, Scott Feldman, Dillon Gee, etc. These guys can eat innings, and potentially provide above-replacement production.