The offseason is in full swing: the GM Meetings are completed, and the Winter Meetings are around the corner. Some pitchers and catchers have signed, and most recently, Rule 5 eligible players have been added to their respective 40-man rosters, creating some buzz throughout the league.
The Yankees’ addition of seven players resulted in the release of Jacoby Ellsbury, while Greg Bird and Nestor Cortes Jr. were designated for assignment. The Yankees now have a full 40-man roster, meaning if they currently wanted to sign a free agent, someone on the roster would need to be dropped. Combined with the fact that the Yankees are estimated to be about $34 million dollars away from the final luxury tax penalty, these factors will make it interesting to see how they go about the next few weeks.
The needs are simple: pitching is on top of the list, then additions of Dellin Betances and Brett Gardner could be a possibility as well. However, even if the Yankees were to designate three players for assignment—counterproductive to their recent success of maintaining exceptional above-average depth pieces—it would be impossible to sign a top market pitcher and the two Yankee veterans. Even second tier pitchers like Zack Wheeler and Madison Bumgarner who are expected to make around a $20 million annual average salary or slightly under, could make it difficult to acquire the depth the Yankees would like to have.
Brian Cashman and the Yankees’ analytical team have been known for finding diamonds in the rough like they did with Luke Voit and Gio Urshela. He has also made necessary moves in the past to create some financial flexibility like when he packaged Chase Headley’s salary with Bryan Mitchell to San Diego. Because the roster is filled and the financial working space tightened, Cashman and the organization could miss out of some opportunities to work their magic.
With the non-tender deadline approaching on December 2nd, players who have shown average performance but contain potential to improve are starting to become available. Matt Duffy, who has been productive when healthy, and Yolmer Sanchez, who just received a Gold Glove, are two of the latest examples. More non-tender candidates could appear soon.
As an organization, the Yankees can afford to sign any player they choose. However, as a fanbase, we have been taught to pay close attention to luxury penalties because of a recent reluctance to surpass certain thresholds. Looking at the Yankees’ payroll via RosterResource, the most notable annual average value becomes J.A. Happ’s. For a team that is currently prioritizing starting pitching and must pay $17 million to the veteran southpaw, he has become a topic of discussion regarding trades. Furthermore, since one option to make use of the talented roster and simultaneously transfer salary elsewhere is through trade, this could be route they decide to go.
Now that Bird and Cortes Jr. are off of the roster, a new list of potential DFA candidates will appear. Some will be names projected to be on the Scranton Shuttle and others could be infielders further down the depth chart. However the Yankees decide to make space for incoming members of the 40-man roster, the truth is that they already have a lot of talent there. Cashman has been efficiently condensing talent onto the Yankees’ roster for some time now, so if he can keep the depth strong while making improvements, the 2020 offseason could be another win for him.