Yankees Thoughts: Opening Day Roster Competitions Over?

Yankees know who will be on 26-man roster, barring more injuries

Two weeks. That’s it. Two weeks until Opening Day.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. We are past the point of spring training baseball being exciting because it’s baseball. It’s time for the regular season to start. Two more weeks of games for the Yankees to potentially suffer more injuries isn’t ideal. I would be astonished if the Yankees went the rest of March without an injury. That’s just what I have come to expect for the third straight season marred by injuries.

2. There were three “competitions” coming into spring training. They were the fifth spot in the rotation, the last bench spot and the last bullpen spot. The Yankees have wanted Domingo German to win the fifth spot in the rotation, they have wanted Mike Tauchman to be the last man on the bench and they have wanted to give the last bullpen spot to either Michael King or Nick Nelson. With two weeks to go, there’s now some good clarity on the three roster battles.

3. The Yankees have gotten what they wanted entering spring training and that’s scumbag German pitching well, so they have a built-in excuse for sending Deivi Garcia down to begin the season. The Yankees were always going to put German in the rotation to start the season. They didn’t keep him around after his actions and they didn’t sit through his suspension and deal with the public criticism and backlash to not pitch him at the major league level. He has pitched very well in spring training, but I don’t know how anyone could be rooting for him to succeed. I want him to fail and fail miserably. I want him to give up six earned runs in the first inning of his starts and have the offense overcome it, so the team doesn’t lose. I don’t how anyone could think differently.

4. There might not only be one bench spot now. The Yankees played Gio Urshela at shortstop this week, and that means maybe they are thinking of not carrying Tyler Wade on the Opening Day roster. I’m all for this. Once upon a time I was a big Wade believer (2017-18) because the Yankees made him out to be their version of Ben Zobrist. The only difference being that Zobrist actually hit major league pitching. A great glove can only go so far, and when you have a career .575 OPS, that glove better be the best glove in the history of gloves. There has always been the idea Wade would hit with consistent playing time, but in his limited playing time, he hasn’t done nearly enough (since he hasn’t really done anything) to earn extended playing time. He’s been as close to an automatic out in the lineup as one can be in the majors and continue to be in the majors. He’s basically been the Yankees’ version of not having enough players for a co-ed softball game in Central Park in which the last spot in the order is then an automatic out.

5. The Yankees’ willingness to play Urshela at short is very bad news for Wade. The one thing Wade had going for him was that he was the team’s only option to play shortstop in the event of a Gleyber Torres day off or Torres injury (knocking on wood). If Urshela can play short than Wade has no business being on the team. No business at all. Give that roster spot to someone who can actually do something other than roll over a ground ball to the right side.

6. All along it’s been sort of a given that Wade would be on the bench with Kyle Higashioka and Brett Gardner. If the Yankees are seriously considering not carrying Wade, that means there are two bench spots available. To me, Mike Tauchman shouldn’t be one of those spots. He’s not good enough (he’s not good at all, outside of a six-week run in his entire career), and he’s a left-handed hitter who plays good defense. That sounds like Gardner (minus the ability to get the occasional big hit). Why have two Gardners on the team? It wouldn’t make sense to. Miguel Andujar is injured, so he’s out. Thairo Estrada could be a possibility, but he hasn’t done anything this spring to stand out. That leaves Derek Dietrich and Jay Bruce, and I think the Yankees are thinking about keeping them both.

7. Dietrich can play the outfield and the infield, while Bruce can play the outfield and first base. LeMahieu can play first, second and third. Torres can play short and second. Urshela can play third, second and short. Dietrich can play first, second, third and the corner outfields. Bruce can play the corner outfields and first. The Yankees are more than covered in the event of an emergency or injury. Dietrich and Bruce give the team legitimate major league bats when regulars get days off, and Aaron Boone will probably start giving days off in the third game of the season. (That wasn’t a joke. The third game will be the team’s first back-to-back and the second game of five game in five days.) No one wants to see Wade playing whenever Torres or LeMahieu need days off.

8. The Zack Britton injury opened an additional bullpen spot. The Yankees are going to have 13 position players and 13 pitchers. Five spots go to the rotation, leaving eight relievers. Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Darren O’Day and Justin Wilson are obvious, leaving four spots. Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa will get two of those spots, leaving two more. The final two spots come down to Michael King, Nick Nelson, Albert Abreu and Lucas Luetge. Whether or not Abreu has an option remaining will determine his roster fate. If he does, he goes to the alternate site for Opening Day. If he doesn’t, I think he makes the team. The Yankees paid Brian McCann $5.5 million to play for the Astros and beat them in Game 6 of the 2017 ALCS, and received Abreu in return. It would be nice if Abreu amounted to something.

9. I don’t want King on the Opening Day. He was awful last season in every role he appeared in and he should have to earn his way up in 2021. Nelson was also bad in 2020, outside of his first career appearance, but I liked him and his stuff much more than King. I want Luetge on the team. A 33-year-old, left-handed journeyman who last appeared in the majors in 2015 (he pitched in one game that season for Oakland) and who has struck out 13 in 6 1/3 scoreless innings this spring? Give me that guy.

10. This is the 26-man roster I would go into Opening Day with:

Gary Sanchez
Luke Voit
DJ LeMahieu
Gio Urshela
Gleyber Torres
Clint Frazier
Aaron Hicks
Aaron Judge
Giancarlo Stanton
Kyle Higashioka
Brett Gardner
Jay Bruce
Derek Dietrich
Gerrit Cole
Corey Kluber
Jameson Taillon
Jordan Montgomery
Deivi Garcia
Aroldis Chapman
Chad Green
Darren O’Day
Justin Wilson
Jonathan Loaisiga
Luis Cessa
Lucas Luetge
Nick Nelson

That’s the roster I would go with. In reality, you can remove Garcia for German, and if Abreu doesn’t have an option remaining, you can probably remove Nelson or Luetge for him. It still seems like the Yankees will take Wade and Tauchman over Dietrich and Bruce, and I won’t believe they aren’t going to until they don’t, but it would be a mistake to pick the two clearly lesser talented players.

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