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The Yankees could move Rule 5-eligible prospects in trades

The Yankees often begin addressing their offseason roster at the deadline. Which prospects are in line to move this year?

New York Yankees Spring Training Photo by New York Yankees/Getty Images

As presently constituted, it is abundantly clear that the Yankees are not a playoff team, or at least a team likely to advance in the playoffs. Maybe teams pitch to Aaron Judge and he returns to MVP form, but otherwise the best chance the Yankees have to improve is through trades.

The organization often tries to accomplish more than just the improvement of the major league team at the deadline; it’s also where they begin to work on the shape of the 40-man roster for the offseason. When possible, the Yankees prioritize moving players who will need protection from the Rule 5 draft in December, especially those who are on the fringes or occupy a position of depth.

Losing a player in the Rule 5 draft does not mean he is necessarily gone forever, and there is a chance he is not selected at all, but there is a risk in having another club take your guy for nothing in return, which is not ideal. It is better to trade that player if he is not in the long-term plans of the club before he becomes a member of another organization. With the trade deadline fast approaching, let’s look at which Yankees’ prospects will either need to be selected to the 40-man roster in November or exposed to the Rule 5 draft in December, since they may be the ones the pushed to the front of the line in trade talks.

The no-brainers

OF Jasson Domínguez, C Austin Wells, RHP Clayton Beeter

These three are going to be placed on the 40-man roster after this season as long as they are still in the organization. The Yankees also won’t be pushing to trade them, especially Domínguez and Wells, but none of them are untouchable. If Shohei Ohtani or Juan Soto were available, these players would not stand in the way of a trade, but without that being the case it is relatively safe to assume the only one of these three who has a chance of going is Beeter. It’s not that Beeter has no future with the Yankees, but they’ve been more inclined to move pitching prospects in recent years, and he is one who could be attractive to a team with a player of significance.

Lower-level prospects gaining steam

C Agustin Ramirez, 2B Jared Serna, LHP Edgar Barclay

Of this group, Barclay is the one most likely to be taken in the Rule 5 if he’s not protected. He’s at Somerset now, and the Yankees are using him in extended relief appearances once a week. He’s thrown four innings in each of his last four outings, which is curious usage for a relief prospect. He’s not a headliner in a trade, but he may be of interest to a building team moving a veteran. In a world where the Yankees had an abundance of open roster spots, Barclay would be likely to get one, but he has to be considered a tough call at this point.

It is difficult to ignore the seasons Ramirez and Serna are having, but they are both 21 and only Ramirez has reached High-A. They have each received recognition for their prospect status, but there is some discrepancy in their public evaluations. FanGraphs has Ramirez ranked as the 12th-best prospect in the Yankees’ system, but doesn’t recognize Serna at all. Baseball America has Serna in the Yankees’ top 15 prospects, well ahead of Ramirez. This makes it unclear how the industry views these players or how desirable they would be in trades. Regardless, they both are likely players the Yankees would prefer to keep, but it may be that neither of them belong on the 40-man just yet. After Wells is added, the Yankees will have four catchers on the roster, and that is more than they usually carry in an offseason. Ramirez would make five, but if he keeps hitting the way he has, he may force the Yankees into breaking from past practice.

Not sure what we have here, but maybe someone else knows

OF Elijah Dunham, OF Christopher Familia

The Yankees like Dunham, as they started him off in Triple-A this year. He looks like he could be at least a fourth outfielder in the big leagues, but he had trouble making the jump to the highest level of the minors and was sent back to Double-A at age 25. Does that take him out of the running for a roster spot? Would the Yankees then look to include the lefty-hitting corner outfielder in a trade?

Familia has been on a heater since he was activated later into this season, tearing up Tampa and now continuing to pound the ball in Hudson Valley. He’s 23, and if what we are seeing is real, he is building a case for the 40-man roster, but he would also be making himself a trade piece with his left-handed power and contact ability.

Passed over once, but other teams may see an opportunity now

1B/3B Andrés Chaparro, C Carlos Narvaez, C Antonio Gomez, OF Brandon Lockridge, RHP Mitch Spence, RHP Matt Sauer

Each of these players could have been taken in the Rule 5 last year, and none of them were selected. The timing of acquiring players matters, however, and roster space can be tight in the winter. Right now, a team can trade for these players and they don’t need to be considered for the 40-man until after the season.

The most intriguing of the group is Chaparro. He’s having a good year in his first attempt at Triple-A, and he has the kind of power that can play at the next level. There’s a real chance he can be a capable major league hitter, but it isn’t clear whether the Yankees will give him that opportunity. He would be an interesting trade piece for a team that can give him some at-bats in the near future.

Narvaez profiles as a major league backup, Gomez is only 21 and has the tools to do the same, Lockridge can run and play strong defense in center, Spence could provide starting depth or be converted to the bullpen to take advantage of his slider, and Sauer continues to rack up strikeouts when he’s healthy. None of them are likely to be protected by the Yankees this offseason, but each could find himself as part of a deal to a club that sees a path for him.

Too far away to protect, but intriguing talent

RHP Juan Carela, RHP Tyrone Yulie, C/1B/3B Jesus Rodriguez, C/1B Omar Martinez, SS Alexander Vargas

Teams seem to be doing a better job of scouting the lower minors, including the rookie leagues, and finding gems that haven’t entered the public consciousness, and trading for younger players with high ceilings comes with the added bonus of pushing off roster protection. These four players don’t offer that bonus, as they will all be Rule 5 eligible come December, but they also might have the type of talent that can continue to develop. A team could value one of Carela or Yulie as a reliever in a term shorter than the Yankees are developing them, or they could look to improve the catching depth in their system with Martinez or Rodriguez, who both appear to offer something with the bat. Vargas was considered one of the Yankees’ best prospects a couple of years ago, but his performance has not matched his athletic promise. The Yankees are highly unlikely to protect any of these players, and it is unclear if the rest of the industry would feel similarly.