September looms, which means the Yankees are one step closer to playoff baseball. The Bombers hope to make the postseason for only the second time in the last five years. Should they get there, they will need the optimal roster. In order to be postseason eligible, a player must be on a team's roster by August 31st. That's why there is some urgency during the month’s final days.
For the most part, the Yankees have the pieces they need for the ideal postseason roster. That said, there's one notable exception: the speedster. Eric Young Jr. took the job last season. Rico Noel filled the position during the previous year.
The Yankees don't have someone that stands out as a designated speedster. Before the trade deadline, Jorge Mateo would have been perfect because he has blazing speed and was already on the 40-man roster. Now that the Yankees have Sonny Gray instead, it makes sense to go through the team’s remaining options.
Now that Jacoby Ellsbury has been relegated to the fourth outfielder role, some might be thinking the Yankees have a decently fast bench player. Some hope Ellsbury could pull a 1996 Tim Raines and give the team a spark every time he steps to the plate. I hate to bring it up, but all he has to do is be a stolen-base machine a la 2004 Dave Roberts
The problem with Ellsbury is that he isn't that fast anymore. Ellsbury had 21 and 20 stolen bases in 2015 and 2016, respectively. That's not too shabby, but the fact remains that he’s no longer the ultra-fast speedster he once was. This version of Ellsbury isn’t what the Yankees need.
Tyler Wade has the advantage of playing in the majors this year as well as being on the 40-man roster. When he was in the minors, he earned a speed rating of 60 on a 20-80 scale from MLB Pipeline. Despite that, there’s still a couple of problems with Wade. First, he's not super fast. Yes, he is very quick but he isn't an automatic stolen base. Second, he isn't proven at the major league level. He has strong numbers in the minor leagues, but he hasn't done it consistently in the majors yet.
There aren't many other options in the upper minors. Mason Williams and his 19 bags serves as the player with the most stolen bases in Double-A or Triple-A. He's not a better option than Wade or Ellsbury. Jeff Hendrix and Rashad Crawford are decently fast players at Double-A, but again they're not even close to as good as the incumbents. There's no solution here.
This means there’s a significant chance Brian Cashman looks outside the organization for help. The Red Sox just took an option off the market by acquiring Rajai Davis. Some others familiar names include Delino DeShields, Ben Revere, Billy Burns or a reunion with Young. There's no guarantee that these players will be available because the Royals, Angels, and Rangers are all in the Wild Card hunt. They aren't exactly integral parts of their organizations, though. I'm sure the Yankees could acquire one of them.
The most probable route is Ellsbury. That's due to the fact that he's going to be on the postseason roster anyway, so he might as well be the baserunning threat. The next best option is likely an external player. While Wade could certainly be the guy, it's unlikely he takes up a valuable postseason roster spot when there's already Ellsbury. In addition, Girardi doesn't seem to trust Wade as he opted to start Ronald Torreyes. I'm sure Cashman will explore some options, but don't be surprised if Ellsbury is pinch-running come October.