They've done it again. On the day the Yankees set their roster in time for the Rule 5 Draft next month, the team that decided to give Slade Heathcott and Jose Campos precious space on the 40-man roster last year did the same thing this year when they protected Mason Williams. They took four players total, but the others–Tyler Austin, Branden Pinder, and Danny Burawa–were at least understandable. Williams, on the other hand, looks to be a mistake from the beginning.
There are plenty of reasons to protect a 23-year-old with elite-level defense, but when factoring in what this team went through last year–injuries, dead roster weight–it would have been nice to see them act smarter this time around. As theoretically useful as Mason might sound, he still can't hit Double-A pitching, and there's just no way he'll see time in the majors in 2015. He's more likely to be demoted thanwear pinstripes, even in the next two seasons, and if you add him to the list that includes Slade, Campos, Gary Sanchez, and even Manny Banuelos, the 40-man roster could end up looking more like a 35-man roster in terms of actual useful players for the 2015 season.
Making decisions like this takes away from their ability to add depth at positions of greater need. The Yankees currently have nine outfielders on the 40-man roster, and while Heathcott is likely a lost cause at this point, the team still has Austin, Ramon Flores, and even Eury Perez on the depth chart ahead of him. This seems incredibly excessive, especially when the Yankees still don't have a fully formed infield and could end up losing two catchers in one offseason between Francisco Cervelli and Austin Romine.
While Mason was a mistake for adding him to the roster, the Yankees might have also made a mistake by deciding to not add someone; namely, Mark Montgomery. The prospective relief ace's value has gone down in the last two seasons due to a shoulder injury, but he still has the talent that could make him a useful member of the major league bullpen. Sure there's question marks surrounding him, but there were uncertainties around Tommy Kahnle last year and he had a pretty good season after being taken by the Rockies. Even if Montgomery's shoulder is an actual medical issue, which would be surprising considering he pitched all year, a team that takes him can easily store him on the disabled list all year and still keep him. If Montgomery is taken and then rebounds it'll be a huge loss for the Yankees, who once envisioned him as a future big league closer.
Luckily, the Yankees didn't have much else in the way of must-keep talent, but it's pretty clear that they lack the ability to fully evaluate a prospect in terms of current and future value while also weighing the value of a roster spot. Slade Heathcott will probably go back on the 60-day DL or could even be designated for assignment, and maybe ManBan gets back to his former self and is seen as a legitimate major league option, but that's a lot of ifs and if the Yankees have to play a season with something closer to a 35-man roster next year, chances are it will end up hurting them at some point like it did this year with only three useless spots. They might be banking on a better and healthier year in 2015, but when has that ever worked out? And when are they ever going to learn their lesson?