There are 35 players on the Yankees’ 40-man roster right now, not counting the six players on the 60-day disabled list who will count toward the total tally once the World Series ends. Unless the Yankees plan to sit on their hands this winter (they won’t), there’s going to be quite a bit of maneuvering to do in order to squeeze new players on the roster via trade, free agency, and to protect minor leaguers from the Rule 5 draft. Today, I’ve summarized some important dates on the offseason calendar that will result in roster shuffling. In the near future, I’ll take a look at two other topics that relate to today’s post: players whose roster spots are in jeopardy and the Rule 5 draft.
The offseason begins
At 9am on the day after the World Series ends (UPDATE: November 3rd, 9am), the offseason commences. Two major roster implications of this day: eligible players become free agents and the disabled list must be emptied.
Free agents aren’t eligible to talk with the other 29 teams until five days after the World Series, but that doesn’t mean they remain on the 40-man roster until that point. Mark Teixeira and Billy Butler are the only two Yankees who will become Major League free agents the day after the World Series, and thus no longer on the roster. Of course, Teixeira is retiring, but his contract expired after this season. Butler is a traditional free agent.
Five days after the World Series (Monday, November 7th), eligible players become Minor League free agents. Kyle Higashioka, who is eligible, will be added to the 40-man roster on or before this day in order to prevent him from hitting free agency. This is one move we’ve already known to be in the cards. In Brian Cashman’s end of season press conference, he announced that he will add the 26 year-old catcher to the roster.
Monday is also the day when the disabled list must be cleared. Without it available, six players will be returned to the 40-man roster: Nathan Eovaldi, Dustin Ackley, Chad Green, Nick Rumbelow, Branden Pinder, and Conor Mullee (UPDATE: Mullee was claimed by the Cubs and is already off the 40-man).
At the end of Moday, the 40-man roster will be one player below capacity, going from 35 to 33 after the departures of Teixeira and Butler, up to 34 with the addition of Higashioka, and finally up to 39 with the return of the injured players.
Rule 5 Protection
In the middle of November (UPDATE: November 18th), the franchise will decide who of its Rule 5 draft eligible minor leaguers should be added to the 40-man roster. This deadline requires teams to add prospects to its 40-man roster who would otherwise be subject to the Rule 5 draft if excluded. In general, players eligible this offseason are international amateur free agents who signed in 2012, high school draftees from 2012, and college draftees from 2013. The Yankees got a head start on this during the season by adding players like Aaron Judge to the roster. Judge was a college selection in 2013.
In a future post, I’ll take a detailed look at who the Yankees will have to consider adding to the roster. Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar are the big names that the team will likely protect from the draft, but there are some other debatable players eligible, including: Jake Cave, Ronald Herrera, Luis Torrens, Mike Ford, Giovanny Gallegos and Tyler Webb. Again, I’ll provide more on the eligible prospects as this deadline approaches.
In order to make way for these additions to the 40-man roster, others will inevitably lose their spots. As noted in the prior section, the 40-man roster will be full at the end of the very first day of the offseason, so from then until the Rule 5 protection deadline, the front office will have some difficult decisions to make. In an upcoming post, I’ll take a look at some of the players that could get the boot.
Contract Tender Deadline
The exact date isn’t available yet (UPDATE: December 2nd), but right around when the the calendar flips to December, all teams must offer a contract to pre-arbitration and arbitration eligible players. Those not tendered a contract become free agents. This is an opportunity for the Yankees to shed some weight from the 40-man roster in order to facilitate trades and free agent signings.
I previously wrote about this deadline for the Yankees’ arbitration eligible players. In all likelihood, the Yankees will net at least two additional open spots in this process. Nathan Eovaldi, who will miss all of 2017, is 99.9% likely to be non-tendered and Dustin Ackley, who could miss a good chunk of next season, will probably be let go too. If the Yankees want to, there is no need to wait until the tender deadline to remove a player from the 40-man. The team could designate any player for assignment beforehand, something that might come in handy when clearing space for the Rule 5 draft eligible prospects. This just happens to be the last available date to decide on keeping these players going forward.
Remainder of the offseason
Unless something changes with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, there are no other deadlines affecting the 40-man roster. That doesn’t mean the squad is set, of course. Any other external additions to the team could be at the expense of an incumbent 40-man player.