The Yankees announced a large series of roster moves ahead of Wednesday night’s Rule 5 Draft protection deadline. A lot of them are big deals! Let’s get right into it.
Let’s start with the fun one: Jacoby Ellsbury has been released. The Yankees aren’t messing around with the insurance money anymore. Ellsbury’s time as a Yankee is over. The Yanks still owe him $26M dollars that were always going to count against the payroll, but now the Yankees will personally owe Ellsbury the real dollars. Hal Steinbrenner opened up the roster spot to preserve another prospect by eating the money. That’s significant!
Even though I personally was saying for a long time I thought the Yankees would release Ellsbury ahead of 2019 and eat the final two years of the contract, when they didn’t do that I kind of thought they’d keep him for the final year. It was stupid logic and I was clearly overthinking it. For one year, eating the salary makes perfect sense.
The Yankees opened up another roster spot by designating two players for assignment off of the MLB roster: Nestor Cortes and, more notably, Greg Bird. Cortes doesn’t surprise me much. he kind of is what he is: an up-and-down lefty arm. The way that he liked to change up his delivery was fun, but beyond that, he was largely ineffective for most of the season. I could see the Yankees bringing back Cortes on a minor league deal. He may take it! I don’t think any team would be signing him to a guaranteed MLB contract, so why not stick with the Yankees? Injuries are inevitable and he could be back on the 40-man roster by April.
Bird, on the other hand, will not return, in my mind. Even with the injuries and poor play (that I think are the result of said injuries), somebody will take a chance on Bird’s lefty power potential. He’d come cheap and with the addition of the 26th roster spot (that has to be a position player) in 2020, teams can now carry an extra 1B/DH only guy that they really couldn’t under the 25-man roster/3-man bench era. The Yanks love Bird, so they likely will want him on a minor league deal, but someone would guarantee him at least a 40-man spot elsewhere. There’s no reason Bird shouldn’t take an offer from, say, the Rockies, Royals, or Tigers to get real playing time and get his career on track over returning to the Yankees just because it is familiar. I wish him the best of luck. There are not many guys that I’ve wanted to be good at baseball more than Greg Bird.
The Yankees protected many guys from the Rule 5 Draft. More than I expected! The list: Estevan Florial, Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Miguel Yajure, Brooks Kriske, and Nick Nelson. The first four are well-known if you’re a big prospect watcher. The final few are not. Some brief stats, via Dan Federico:
From what I understand, Yajure burst on the scene in 2019 and has serious upside as either a rotation or bullpen arm. Kriske, I believe, is known to be a spin rate guy. He is the biggest surprise on this list, in my opinion. Nelson is also a spin rate guy. I know virtually nothing about him, but I had heard his name before, unlike Kriske, whom I only learned of within the last few weeks.
The most notable omissions from the roster are Alex Vizcaino, Freicer Perez, and Isaiah Gilliam. Vizcaino has big velocity and a plus changeup already and is supposedly developing a slider that has an above-average spin rate right now. I would imagine he gets scooped up by somebody but is eventually returned. He’s not MLB ready. Perez is a name that has circulated in the system for a little while now. He’s battled some injuries and didn’t pitch in 2019. In the past, the Yankees have seemed to like the 23-year-old, but I think they know that nobody can put him on an MLB roster right now so there’s no need to protect him. Gilliam sticks out because he is the kind of guy that plays a lot in spring training so fans like him. Don’t think he has ever been considered a true prospect, but he is left available to be taken in the Rule 5 Draft now, so he could be gone! I doubt it’ll happen, though.
Anyway, I suppose that covers everything for now. Excited to see what’s next!