Prior to the Yankees’ Friday evening matchup against the Phillies, general manager Brian Cashman did some housekeeping to get the team one step — or perhaps four steps — closer to finalizing their Opening Day roster. First baseman Mike Ford, infielder Thairo Estrada, and relievers Albert Abreu and Brooks Kriske were all optioned to Triple-A Scranton.
The Yankees had many delightful stories of surprise contributors emerging during the injury-ravaged “Next Man Up” season of 2019, and Ford was one of the brightest among that bunch. A 26-year-old undrafted Ivy Leaguer pressed into action due to Luke Voit’s nagging problems that year, Ford crushed 12 homers in just 50 games, batting .259/.350/.559 with 1.1 rWAR and a 136 OPS+.
Unfortunately, the abbreviated 2020 was not kind to Ford, as Voit’s surge to the MLB home run crown meant that Ford saw minimal playing time, and he didn’t do much to help his cause with a dismal 37 OPS+ in 29 games. Although he ended up on the expanded playoff roster, he was still not in a good position to make the team in 2021 due to both his defensive limitations and the presence of a fellow lefty first baseman in camp: veteran Jay Bruce. Ford went 3-for-19 in 9 games this spring and will have to get himself back into form at the alternate site.
Estrada, Abreu, and Kriske were longer shots to make the team than Ford. Since Estrada and Tyler Wade’s defensive profiles are relatively similar, he probably would’ve needed Wade to get hurt to have any chance at cracking the Opening Day roster. Similarly, there were several superior relief options in camp than Abreu and Kriske. The only question with Abreu was whether or not he actually had a fourth option — as it turns out, he does.
Given the long season, we’ll probably end up seeing most of these players at one point or another in 2021, especially since they’re all on the 40-man roster.* Let’s hope that their work at the alternate site and Scranton pays off when they get their chances.
*Unless. of course, the Yankees move one of them to make room for one of the non-roster invitees, like Bruce, Derek Dietrich, or Lucas Luetge.