On the day before the rule 5 draft protection deadline, the Yankees added four players to their 40-man roster: Danny Burawa, Branden Pinder, Tyler Austin, and Mason Williams. Each of these additions make some sense. Burawa and Pinder are relief pitchers in the high minors, whose stuff implies that they're just about ready to contribute at the big league level. Austin and Williams, meanwhile, are outfield prospects who have fallen on hard times these last couple of years, but still retain a decent amount of their prospect shine.
Austin and Williams join Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ramon Flores, Brett Gardner, Eury Perez, and Chris Young to give the Yankees eight outfielders on their 40-man roster, and that's not even counting Martin Prado, who's played 161 games in the outfield over the last three seasons. In Austin, Flores and Williams, three of those spots are filled with outfielders who have yet to play a game in the majors, and Eury Perez has all of 23 big league plate appearances to his name. Frankly, that's a lot of roster space tied up in outfielders who are buried on the depth chart and aren't quite ready to contribute at the major league level.
None of these guys are likely to play a significant role with the 2015 Yankees -- at least not in the season's first half; but each is toolsy enough to remain on the prospect radar, and may only be a stretch of good health or a mechanical adjustment away from putting it all together. That being said, carrying all four of them creates quite a bit of dead roster space, and sooner or later, the Yankees will need to make some moves -- either a trade, a DFA, or both -- to clear up this log jam.
This may result in the Yankees losing Eury Perez on waivers -- just months after claiming him from the Washington Nationals -- but this certainly wouldn't be the end of the world. Perez's speed and minor league numbers make him intriguing, but it's doubtful that he's destined to be anything more than a fourth or fifth outfielder, and the Yankees already have a plethora of similarly fringy outfield prospects in the upper levels of their system: Taylor Dugas, Adonis Garcia, Jake Cave, and Ben Gamel have all put up respectable numbers in the higher levels of the minor leagues. Sure, none of these guys offer very much in terms of upside, but any one of them could take a step forward and make a serviceable bench outfielder in the next year or two.
As it stands, the Yankees have four openings on their 40-man roster, but more than four openings in their infield, bullpen, and starting rotation. Even after cutting ties with Slade Heathcott (Yet another fringy outfield prospect!) and pitchers Jose Campos and David Huff, the Yankees will still need to clear some 40-man space at some point. And their small army of Triple-A quality outfielders seems like the logical place to start.