Yankees Select Contracts of Seven Players to 40-Man Roster

The Yankees took it down to the wire with the 8 PM Wednesday deadline to add players to the 40-man roster in order to protect them from December’s Rule 5 Draft. When the dust settled, the Yankees added seven players from their minor-league ranks.




There’s a lot to unpack here, especially within the subtractions made from the roster in order to fit all seven players.

What’s really highlighted here is that the Yankees have a ton of raw pitching prospects who they hope will take big steps next year. Six of their seven additions are pitchers, and most have been taking steps towards the upper minors.

Each of the six pitchers pitched at or above High-A Tampa in 2019, with Nelson spending most of his season in Double-A Trenton and García making it as high as Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

It’s also worth remembering that the Yankees protected another eligible right-handed pitcher, Mike King, whose 40-man roster spot opened when Domingo Germán was placed on administrative leave under the MLB-MLBPA Joint Domestic Violence Policy in late September.

It’s striking to see the Yankees, who still need to add in free agency, just eat $26 million by releasing Jacoby Ellsbury to open a roster spot. It was the last remedy possible for the Yankees, since the 36-year-old has not taken the field since the 2017 playoffs due to hip surgery, plantar fasciitis and other ailments. Seven years and $153 million later, the Yankees got .264/.330/.386 (96 wRC+) production and 102 stolen bases – in 520 games. If you count the entirety of the 2020 season, Ellsbury will have missed 614 of a possible 1,134 games (54%) in the guaranteed portion of his contract.

Reporting from the New York Post indicated that the Yankees did not have insurance on the final year of Ellsbury’s contract, making his presence on the roster pointless. He will count over $26 million towards the competitive balance tax calculation.

For what it’s worth, Ellsbury will try to play in 2020. “He’s finishing up his rehab [in Arizona] with a focus on Spring Training,” said a source close to the outfielder to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. “I’m sure he will [try to play in 2020].”

Any team signing Ellsbury would only have to pay him the $563.5K minimum for 2020.

Greg Bird’s Yankees career never progressed as it should have because of a wide range of injuries. After a 46-game cameo with a 137 wRC+ in 2015, the Yankees felt like they had their first baseman of the future. A patient left-handed hitter with power obviously fits well at Yankee Stadium.

He missed all of 2016 after requiring surgery on a torn labrum in his right shoulder. A horribly misdiagnosed ankle injury that started as a bruise and ended up requiring surgery limited him to 130 games between 2017 and 2018. He made the 2019 Opening Day roster, and started at first base. However, he lasted just 10 games before going down with a planter fascia tear in his left foot that required season-ending surgery.

After that 137 wRC+ introduction, Bird quickly became the target of much ire from fans due to missed games and poor performance when healthy. A .194/.287/.388 (82 wRC+) line since the beginning of 2017 And the emergence of Mike Ford and Luke Voit at first base pushed the Yankees to move on from Bird. He has enough service time to elect free agency if the Yankees try to send him to the minor leagues if/when he clears waivers.

Néstor Cortés Jr. proved to be a somewhat useful arm for the Yankees, appearing mostly as a “bulk” man behind opener Chad Green. He also pitched in long-relief and made one traditional start. All together, he pitched 66⅔ innings in 33 games to a 5.67 ERA/5.57 FIP. Cortés Jr. does not have sufficient service time or a previous outright assignment, so he can be sent to the minor leagues without his consent by the Yankees should he clear waivers.

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