Every year right after the World Series, the various major league teams need to update their 40 man roster. Sometime in November new names are added and many players are designated for assignment and released. The new 40 man roster attendees are usually young players (unless your the Mets, then you need to be over 40) who have impressed and moved up the ranks.
Most are in AA and AAA, but a few needing protecting could be in A ball, especially if the player has just come back from injury. In fact, the Yankees do have one pitcher who fits that description.
If a player not on a 40-man roster has spent four years with a minor league contract originally signed when 19 or older or five years when signed before the age of 19, he is eligible to be chosen by any team in the rule 5 draft during the offseason.
Usually when college players are drafted and they spend three seasons within organization, they are eligible for the Rule 5 draft. High school players (or underage free agents) need to spend four seasons before needing 40 man protection.
The 40 man roster was devised to keep deep teams from hoarding talent within their system.
The Yankees are very fond of keeping young pitchers on the 40 man, exposing injured players and generally have been pretty good about keeping their good talent within. No, I won't get into the Damaso Marte/Xavier Nady deal for Ross Ohlendorf and Daniel McCutchen. By the way, Ohlendorf now is 11-8 with a 4.15 ERA (sorry no FIP numbers available) for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
But the Yankees will need to make significant changes to their 40 man roster this off season. There are good things and bad things about having a tremendous draft (like the Yankees did in 2006*) is that all the great college players they took in that draft need to be on the 40 man roster this November. Or, if left unprotected, they could be drafted elsewhere.
*I have mentioned countless times in print and on varius radio shows that the 2006 New York Yankees draft will be known as the best single team pitching draft of all time. It could rival the 1968 Los Angeles Dodgers draft as the best ever. At that time, the draft was held in several phases, and this is what the Dodgers got in that June secondary phase. They also selected in the January secondary phase.
So that Dodger 1968 draft ended up producing Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Ron Cey (75% of their 10 year infield) and Joe Ferguson, not to mention Bill Buckner, Doyle Alexander (194 wins) and Geoff Zahn (a 111 game winner).
Also, all the high school talent taken prior to 2006 need to be added, too. This group includes future Yankee fan whipping boy Austin Jackson, taken in the 8th round in 2005.
I have identified 11 Yankee farmhands who need to be protected this off season, some household names to those who follow the Yankees, and some which are not.
Those I would ABSOLUTELY protect at Triple A include Jackson, UT Kevin Russo, LHP Zach Kroenke (who will likely be called up anyway in September) and RHP Ivan Nova. Interestingly, both Kroenke and Nova were left unprotected last season, were selected by the Marlins and Padres, respectively, then offered back to the Yankees.
I was shocked both of those guys did not stick with the drafting teams.
Russo is a former college hitting star who can multiple positions including third, second and short. Similar to Ramiro Pena, but with more pop, but less of a glove. He will stick with another team if taken, but his history of injuries might scare off teams.
At Double A Trenton, I would ABSOLUTELY keep RHP Kanekoa Texeira, SS Eduardo Nunez and RHP Lance Pendleton. Little Tex was obtained from the White Sox in the Nick Swisher deal, and Nunez surprised many people in spring training with his hitting exploits (which have carried over into this season). Pendleton is interesting because while he is 26, he finally has been healthy.
Also starting the season at High A Tampa was RHP Tim Norton, a 26 year old taken out of college in that great 2006 draft. I would protect him, too, unless his recent 7 day DL is related to his shoulder surgery he had over a year ago. He is a beast on the mound, with a little bit of a mean streak which would serve him well in the bullpen.
That is eight guys, but there are a few tweeners, too. Guys like OF Colin Curtis and George Kontos at AAA plus RHP Jason Stephens, who has bounced around the entire minor league system and is currently at High A Tampa.
Curtis likely won't stick with another team if taken, but he is a sparkplug type of guy. A little pop, good defense, some speed. Kontos had Tommy John surgery on July 7th and should be out May/June of next season, so he might slip through. But he was performing extremely well before the surgery and I might not take on chance on him. The Yankees are very high on him, and if he didn't not hurt his arm, he would likely be the #5 starter right now.
Jason Stephens is still only 24 and has been in the Yankee system since age 18, when he was a third round pick out of high school. He has appeared in High A, AA and AAA this season. He had really good success in the early part of his career before elbow surgery, and has pitched effectively this year despite the bouncing around, both with the levels and as a starter and reliever.
I feel if the Yankees left Stephens alone as a starter at Double A this season, he would have better numbers all around. I would protect Stephens because a lesser team could just stick him away as the last guy in the bullpen, and at age 24, he still has loads of potential.
Of the maybe tweeners, I would keep both Kontos and Stephens, but let Curtis dangle. Yankees might feel otherwise as Curtis is destined for the Arizona Fall League. Maybe an audition for Colin to make the 40 this year? Kevin Russo did the same last year. He was a surprise pick for th AFL, but really blossomed out west and worked his way into the Yankees plans. And that is probably what the Yankees will do, too, as they love to hold young pitching.
Good deal for Curtis, who is a very likable guy, cancer survivor and all. He also played his college baseball at Arizona State. I remember last year after the Trenton Thunder won the Eastern League title, I asked Curtis if that title was bigger than starring in the College World Series his junior season. He smiled, took a few seconds, and said "the College World Series was awesome."
But since we are adding 10 guys to the 40 man roster, there needs to be some people released off the current 40.
On the current Yankees 40 man roster are marginal players not likely to have an impact on the Yankees major league team such as Jonathan Albaladejo, Wilkin De La Rosa, Christian Garcia (he’s hurt AGAIN!), Edwar Ramirez, Kevin Cash, Shelley Duncan and Xavier Nady.
That’s seven guys right there – gone, released, see ya’. No way they ever get a shot with the parent club, and many could be re-signed after the release. Yankees just need to clear room for the new blood.
Everyone expects Francisco Cervelli to become the full time backup next season, so that eliminates Jose Molina. Hideki Matsui, as I have written previously, will not be retained. And that is even more true now that he recently had his knee drained, the second time this season he has had that procedure.
And now the big decisions. Despite how they pitch this season, I can’t see Chad Gaudin and Sergio Mitre being part of the team for next season, but the Yankees could keep one (if not both) on the roster for depth. Even more so if what I believe should happen, will happen.
That gets us down to the last two possibilities.
Chien-Ming Wang had surgery on his shoulder in July and no one knows how that capsule tear will respond to the stress of throwing. If the Yankees release Wang, will another team claim him? If the Yankees offer Wang arbitration (they have tow more years left on Wang control), he will definitely get no less than $4 million. MLB limits salary reduction at 20%.
The Yankees likely will no-tender Wang, and try to sign him to a minor league deal where he can rehab at his own pace. But if another team signs him to a major league deal, Wang will get major league money, and that it is a possibility of Wang pitching in late 2010 or even 2011 with say…the Dodgers.
The other possibility is Andrew Brackman. Is there anybody out there in Yankee land who thinks this guy is ever going to make it to the big leagues, let alone any higher than Double A? He can’t even throw the ball into the strike zone – at Low A Charleston! Imagine him trying to throw into the miniscule strike zones of major league umpires?
The most important aspect in pitching is control, more important than velocity of “stuff.” Very few pitchers succeed with velocity and stuff but no control, but many succeed with great control and normal velocity.
But no way the Yankees (ie: Brian Cashman) releases Brackman off the 40 man roster, at least not until he gets another year under his belt.
If it comes down to making a decision on one more player to be released to fill out the 40 man roster, I would probably release Wang, try and sign him to a minor league deal then hope for the best that he doesn’t still feel too perturbed about being taken to arbitration a few years ago, losing, and having the Yankees brag about it to the press.
The Yankees would then likely need both Gaudin and Mitre on the roster if Wang goes somewhere else on a major league deal.
Brian Cashman has some big decisions ahead with regards to how the 2010 team will be comprised, but that’s what I would do with the 40 man roster this off season.
Ten men in, ten men out.