The Yankees are in an early bind thanks to a couple of pesky injuries. Aaron Hicks hurt his shoulder attempting to make a diving catch in Friday night's game. He was diagnosed with traumatic bursitis and told to rest 4-5 days. Since the Yankees had other backups available to play the outfield, they felt that they could play one man short for a few days, rather than risk losing the ability to play him while healthy at the end of a DL stint.
This plan was thrown for a loop on Sunday afternoon, when Alex Rodriguez abruptly departed the game in the sixth inning. He tweaked his oblique muscle taking batting practice between his DH at-bats, requiring Dustin Ackley to pinch-hit. Although the team was quite worried at first since oblique injuries can sometimes take 3-4 weeks of recovery, his MRI came back clean, he was listed as day-to-day, and they did not anticipate any "immediate" roster moves. A-Rod will be with the team tonight as they begin a three-game set in Texas against the Rangers.
The problem with this situation is that it basically leaves the Yankees with a 23-man roster. Joe Girardi even directly noted that it would be difficult to play with two men short. The payoff of maybe having a few healthy days from those players is not worth the risk; the Yankees tried similar strategies avoiding Teixeira's DL assignment last year and others in 2013. All that led to were days of wasted roster spots. They do have options in Triple-A Scranton to at least expand the playable bench beyond Austin Romine and Ronald Torreyes (assuming Ackley moves into the lineup tonight at DH or right field with the opportunity to avoid Carlos Beltran's defense). There is no need to further handicap an already older team when there are alternatives.
It doesn't matter who of A-Rod or Hicks (or both) moves to the disabled list. There's a fine case for each of them. Hicks needs a few days of full rest for the bursitis anyway and they could put him on the DL retroactive to Friday, allowing him to come back a little sooner once his 15-day DL stint is up. A tiny bit more rest for such a grating condition can't hurt. In A-Rod's case, he is 40 years old, and the less a team trusts a 40-year-old's body to recover in time, the better. His oblique could take just a few days to improve, but 22 years into a major league career, it's probably smarter to play it safe, particularly since he's older than Hicks and his roster spot doesn't offer defensive flexibility in the first place.
The Triple-A alternatives unfortunately do not include Greg Bird, Mason Williams, or Slade Heathcott. Bird's season-ending shoulder surgery is all the more frustrating right now since this is exactly when he could have come up from Scranton. The second half standout had no obvious spot on the MLB roster with Mark Teixeira healthy again and Ackley around to back up at first, but while he was destined to go Triple-A, it felt inevitable that one of A-Rod, Teixeira, or Beltran would get hurt, enabling his return. Alas. Outfielders Williams and Heathcott are also both on the disabled list right now, though Heathcott is only on the MiLB 7-day DL.
The Yankees can either focus on the "outfielder replacement" path or the "DH replacement" path. If the former, they can call up Ben Gamel, who is already on the 40-man roster. He was the 2015 International League Player of the Year after hitting .300/.358/.472 in Scranton, and he's off to a .300/.368/.367 start in 15 games this year. He's fine on defense and while a lefty, the Yankees theoretically wouldn't have to worry so much about handedness for someone who will mostly just be on the bench.
If the team did prefer a righty outfielder, they could turn to top outfield prospect Aaron Judge, who looks a lot better in Scranton this year than he did in his couple months there in 2015 (albeit still with some strikeouts). He's a natural right fielder who could seamlessly slot into that position, and it would give the Yankees an opportunity to preview him at the major league level. The only problem is that he's not on the 40-man roster (though they could of course make a minor move to fix this), and they might not want to start his service clock just yet for such a theoretically short-term fix.
Then there's Nick Swisher. The re-signed former fan favorite has unsurprisingly made mincemeat of Triple-A pitching since returning to the organization. He would necessitate a 40-man roster move too and he can't be trusted in the outfield anymore, but he likely offers the most immediate hitting potential. This would be the "DH replacement" route; Swisher could slot into A-Rod's role while he recovers. Knee injuries really hurt his numbers the last couple years, but it's not a terrible idea to see what he has left in, at worst, a cameo appearance. (If not now, then when?) Even if he manages to be a switch-hitting league average bat at this point, that is far from nothing for a team desperate for offense.
Regardless of who is chosen, the Yankees need to make some move. Rolling with essentially a 23-man roster just has bad news all over it.