Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Non-Tender Deadline Moves Won't Be The End Of The 40-Man Shuffle

(Listen to the bell, Vernon.  It tolls for thee.  Courtesy of Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

The non-tender deadline was yesterday and the Yankees continued their onslaught of offseason activity with a flurry of moves.  They traded Chris Stewart to the Pirates for a PTBNL in the morning, reuniting him with his 2012 catching partner and clearing some of their new logjam at the catcher spot caused by the Brian McCann signing.  In the afternoon, they officially non-tendered Jayson Nix, Matt Daley, and David Adams, freeing up 3 40-man roster spots in the process.

Stewart's spot makes 4 but that will go to McCann when his signing is made official later this week.  With so many free agent feelers out right now and the Rule 5 Draft coming up next week, those 3 remaining spots will really come in handy.  You have to think the Yankees are unofficially reserving 1 for Robinson Cano, or whoever they sign to replace him in the unlikely event he signs elsewhere.  Another will be held for Hiroki Kuroda, to whom the Yankees have reportedly made another 1-year contract offer.  And based on the Yankees' recent history, it's high likely they will select a player - another unheralded bullpen arm is my guess - in the Rule 5, bringing them back to a full 40-man roster.

But their needs don't stop there.  They're still the leading contender for Masahiro Tanaka and will get much more involved in the MLB pitching market if his posting becomes delayed too much longer.  They still need to find a suitable starting third base option for A-Rod, unless you're a big fan of an Anna/Nunez platoon.  They're also heavily involved in the free agent outfield market (wish it was Choo over Beltran), they could use a backup for Teix at first, and they would love to find another powerful lefty bench bat.  Even after yesterday's series of moves, the baseball holes on the roster greatly outnumber the available roster spots.

So who's the next to go?  There are a few easy options that stand out in one quick glance of the current 40-man, first and foremost Vernon Wells.  At no cost to the team this season and of little use based on his 2013 production, he's a prime candidate to receive his outright release.  David Huff is another possibility, although he might not make it through waivers if the Yankees tried to move him to Triple-A.  If somehow their search for more offense leads to the addition of multiple outfielders, they could get really bold and dump Ichiro, though paying him $6.5 million this season only to release him would be almost as dumb as paying him $13 million for 2 years in the first place.

The most fun possibility could be pursuing another trade involving one of the team's young catchers.  They'll have 5 on the 40-man roster once McCann is added and they really only need 4 to fill the available spots at the top 3 levels of their system.  I can't see Austin Romine or J.R. Murphy beating out Cervelli for the Major League backup job so they would be the most likely targets.  Murphy has shown a lot both at and behind the plate the past few years, to the point that he's probably considered a higher ceiling prospect than Romine.  If the Yankees want to dangle somebody, I'd start with Romine.  But his value can't be very high based on his 2013 performance, and at 25 years old he's not the type of player you just give away for nothing like the Yanks did with Stewart.

In the end, we probably won't see any of the young catchers moved.  Not while there are easier options ahead of them to clear more roster space.  And honestly, if we're talking about getting rid of prospects to clear space, I think Ramon Flores would be picked to get the axe over trading Romine.  Whatever happens, don't expect the roster shuffling to stop anytime soon.  The Yankees have a bunch of new cards they're trying to add to next year's deck and there are still some old ones they'll have to get rid of to make that happen.

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