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Why the Yankees should prioritize adding free agents to the taxi squad

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Veteran free-agent depth will be worth its weight in gold in 2020.

Divisional Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Washington Nationals - Game Three Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

With the start of spring training 2.0, aka “summer camp,” looming right around the corner, there has been a lot of discussion about which players should be included on the 60-man roster, and in particular the 30-man taxi squad. Much of this discussion has focused on the status of prospects within the system, and whether teams should prioritize adding high-ceiling prospects, even those at the lower levels of the minors, or lower-ceiling ones from the upper levels.

I propose, however, that the Yankees should not be focused on adding their prospects to the taxi squad — although they definitely should bring their upper-minors depth along — but rather on acquiring and stockpiling the largest contingent of veteran depth as possible, even if it means paying players more than they might otherwise receive in a typical minor league deal.

The short season will make season-ending injuries a much more common trend than in your average year, as there’s simply little to no time to recover before the playoffs. Additionally, the impact of all injuries will be increased, as even a short, two-week stint on the IL will account for roughly one full quarter of the season. More so than ever before, the “Next Man Up” mentality will be important for any team with playoff aspirations. Having quality depth that can be penciled right into the lineup will likely be the difference between contenders and pretenders in 2020.

Of course, you can make the case that the Yankees already have plenty of this depth, as demonstrated by the 2019 Yankees. Even with the losses of Didi Gregorius, Cameron Maybin, and Edwin Encarnacion to free agency, one can make the case that the Yankees have at least two players who are at worst league average at every position, except perhaps shortstop (Thairo Estrada and Tyler Wade have yet to really prove themselves over long stretches) and behind the plate (Kyle Higashioka is still relatively untested for the long haul).

The 2019 Yankees also show, however, that you can never truly have enough depth. This is where the Yankees can take advantage of their deep pockets and the rumor that numerous teams will be trying to shed salary this season. Multiple veteran free agents still remain unsigned, such as Russell Martin, Danny Salazar, and Scooter Gennett, and many more may find themselves on the open market in the coming weeks. Brian Cashman should look to add as many of the best available players to the taxi squad as soon as possible.

In the worst-case scenario, these players represent high-floor veterans who are safer bets than your average minor-league prospect to fill in for injured players, in part due to the fact that these players likely have had access to better facilities during quarantine due to their veteran status. Should the Yankees not need them, furthermore, they will likely represent significant trade chips for teams that may not have anticipated contending in 2020 but who got out to a hot start, which could be used to either fill holes on the 2020 roster (because let’s be honest, this is the Yankees, they will probably be actively looking for rotation help at the August 31 trade deadline) or build for 2021 and beyond.