Friday night was the deadline for the Yankees to make 40-man roster moves in anticipation for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft, and Brian Cashman definitely did not hold back. Five players were added to the major league roster, and five others were officially sent packing.
Nathan Eovaldi is gone. The big righty was designated for assignment since he was due an arbitration raise and will not be pitching at all in 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August. He was the prize of the Martin Prado deal following the 2014 season, but while he showed flashes of potential with his high-nineties fastball, he could never seem to put it all together for more than a few starts at a time.
It makes sense to take chances on guys as talented as Eovaldi (ask Jake Arrieta), even for players as useful as Prado; this just didn’t work out. It happens. Although it probably won’t happen, don’t be surprised if he returns on a two-year deal to rehab a la Jon Lieber.
Another former top prospect added from another organization was let loose as well, as the Yankees unconditionally released Dustin Ackley. There was some hope after a strong September in 2015 at second base that he could be a useful bench contributor this year. Unfortunately, he got hurt in May and missed the rest of the season, so the writing was on the wall.
In brighter news, the Yankees added top prospects Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar to the 40-man roster. These are both Top 10-caliber infielders, so it was a slam dunk that they would be protected in the Rule 5.
Pitchers Dietrich Enns and Giovanny Gallegos were also brought onto the roster, and they weren’t terribly surprising, either. The southpaw Enns will be 26 in May but had a 1.73 ERA in 135 innings at Double-A and Triple-A, so he could certainly be a rotation fill-in sometime next year. Gallegos was an under-the-radar reliever who had a 1.27 ERA in 42 games at the highest levels and will be in the Scranton Shuttle mix next year.
The Yankees also made the call to bring pitchers Ronald Herrera and Yefrey Ramirez onto the 40-man. Herrera will be 22 next May and came to the organization in the Jose Pirela deal with San Diego last offseason. He had a 3.75 ERA in 23 starts with Trenton, fanning just under a batter an inning. Those numbers are fine, but it seems like a reach that he would be selected in a Rule 5 Draft, so perhaps there’s more to him than it appears.
Likewise, Ramirez will be 23 in a little over a week and has yet to pitch above A-ball, having joined the Yankees in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft in 2015. The right-hander had 2.82 ERA in 22 combined starts between Charleston and Tampa, striking out 9.6 batters per nine while walking just 2.3 per nine. The Yankees’ internal analysts reportedly really like Ramirez, so definitely keep an eye on him next year in Trenton.
Another move was made when the Yankees traded lefty reliever James Pazos to the Mariners for 21-year-old righty Zack Littell, who will report to Tampa. It has been a weird saga for Pazos, who has a live arm (Hal Steinbrenner once oddly called him “untouchable”), but struggled with control in the high minors and was injured for most of 2016.
With more intriguing options in Scranton, the 25-year-old was expendable, so in comes Littell, who had a 2.66 ERA in 28 games (27 starts) between Low-A and High-A. Rotoworld’s Chris Crawford noted that he has “two plus pitches and throws all three for strikes.” MLB Pipeline also praised Littell’s fastball command and had him ranked 14th among the Mariners’ top 30 prospects, one spot ahead of former Baby Bomber Ben Gamel.
To finish off the Friday transaction log, the Yankees designated Nick Rumbelow and Joe Mantiply for assignment. Branden Pinder was also officially demoted to Scranton after being DFA’d for the recently acquired Mantiply on November 8th. Mantiply did not even last a fortnight on the major-league roster, but he will probably clear waivers and join Pinder in Scranton. Rumbelow and Pinder (and Pazos) were all once promising members of the Scranton Shuttle, but both Rumbelow and Pinder had Tommy John surgery in April. Oh well.