Yankees Promotion Decisions Looming as September Approaches

J.R. Murphy could have the biggest impact of all potential September call-ups (Photo: Trenton Thunder/Facebook.com)

With major league rosters set to expand to 40 players on Sunday and the Triple-A baseball season ending on Monday, one can expect to see some new (and some old) faces in the New York Yankees clubhouse by the conclusion of Labor Day weekend. Every year, teams add a couple of extra arms for their bullpen, a third catcher, and maybe a utility player. In order to simply reach that goal, the Yankees will have to open one additional spot on their 40-man roster – and could potentially need to open as many as three in order to fit those onto the roster they would like. Sounds like a challenge, right? Not as much as one would think.

Clearing some room
The Yankees currently have a full house on the 40-man roster, so adding players such as J.R. Murphy or Ronnier Mustelier would require making a few moves. The most clear-cut move would be transferring Jayson Nix to the 60-day disabled list. He won’t be back this season, likely even if the Yankees were to make the postseason, so there’s no harm in that move. Travis Hafner could also be a casualty. Currently on the 15-day DL, he’s just starting “tee-and-toss” now, so he’s at least a couple weeks away. Hafner could be transferred to the 60-day disabled list or designated for assignment – it’s not like he was an irreplaceable piece before getting hurt, and he wouldn’t have much of a role should he return this season. The Yankees could also elect to transfer Zoilo Almonte to the 60-day disabled list, but I get the sense they’d like to avoid that if possible. So, with that in mind, let’s look at “who’s in, who’s out” for the month of September.

Third catcher
On the 40: None
Other options: J.R. Murphy, Bobby Wilson

A third catcher will be added – that is a near virtual certainty. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre isn’t heading to the playoffs, so promoting a youngster like Murphy will not take away any everyday playing time that he would have received. Joe Girardi may prefer the veteran option of Bobby Wilson, but he is really a poor man’s version of Chris Stewart. Murphy has improved significantly on defense this season and may already have a better bat than either Stewart or Austin Romine. He’ll likely compete for a big league job in 2014, and he will need to be added to the 40-man in order for the Yankees to protect him from the Rule V draft, so there is not much harm in adding him a few months early. If promoted and given an opportunity to play, Murphy could relegate Chris Stewart to the third catcher’s role within just a couple weeks.

Infielders
On the 40: David Adams
Other options: Brent Lillibridge, Alberto Gonzalez, Addison Maruszak

Adams is a lock to be recalled, and his ability to play three infield positions makes him a valuable piece off the bench in September. That versatility is also seen in Brent Lillibridge and Alberto Gonzalez, though neither player offers much at the plate. A third option is Addison Maruszak, a younger player with no big league experience. I made the case for Maruszak to be added to the 40-man last year to protect him from the Rule V draft. He projects as a Joe McEwing-type of player, offering enough versatility to play any position on the field effectively, and he might offer more at the plate than Lillibridge or Gonzalez. I think adding Maruszak is a long shot, but any of the three players mentioned could get a shot if the Yankees transfer Jayson Nix to the 60-day DL.

Outfielders
On the 40: Melky Mesa, Ramon Flores
Other options: Ronnier Mustelier, Adonis Garcia

Neither option on the 40-man roster is a great one right now. Melky Mesa has been dealing with a hamstring problem with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Flores is still down in Trenton, where they are likely headed for the playoffs. He’d be better served getting regular at-bats there even if the Yankees believed he were anywhere near ready, which they don’t. Should Mesa be able to go, they may give him a chance to serve as depth in the outfield. If not Mesa, Adonis Garcia could get a chance, though I doubt it. His numbers have been underwhelming in Scranton, and the Yankees don’t need another left-handed hitting outfielder. The wildcard here is Ronnier Mustelier. A strong right-handed bat, “Musty” can play adequate defense at third base and the outfield corners, and has seen time at second base before. He is one of the few players that could provide a serious impact if given a chance. But at 29 years old, I’m unsure the Yankees want to burn a 40-man spot on him solely for a September call-up.

Long Relief
On the 40: Brett Marshall, Nik Turley, Jose Ramirez, Michael Pineda
Other options: Chase Whitley, Chris Bootcheck

I don’t like the term “mopup.” If you’re adding a player to your team in September, it’s because you believe they have enough talent to contribute something down the stretch, or because you want to get some form of evaluation done on them. Brett Marshall struggled during his first season at Triple-A, but with Andy Pettitte likely gone next year and Hiroki Kuroda possibly leaving as well, the Yankees should look to see if Marshall is anywhere near ready to compete for a rotation spot. Of the four on the 40-man, I think he is the only one likely to be promoted, since Ramirez and Pineda are on the disabled list, and Turley is still down in Double-A. Chris Bootcheck and Chase Whitley present a pair of intriguing long relief options. Bootcheck has pitched phenomenal for Scranton this season, and could be an effective piece, but is not likely to be back next season. Whitley is a prospect who needs to be added to the 40-man during the winter anyways. I’ve always been high on him, and would really like to see him get a chance.

Extra relievers
On the 40: Preston Claiborne, Dellin Betances
Other options: David Herndon, Matt Daley, Cesar Cabral, Sam Demel, Jim Miller, Fransisco Rondon

Betances and Claiborne are both virtual locks to return to the big leagues in September as they prepare to step into more significant roles for the 2014 season. Because of this, coupled with the possible addition of a long reliever such as Marshall or Whitley, it remains to be seen how many “on the bubble” guys get a chance to get to the Bronx. The Yankees could add someone like Herndon in an effort to keep him past this season. Additionally, the Yankees could opt to add another left-hander, opening the door for either Cabral or Rondon, who began the season on the 40-man roster before being designated for assignment. If the Yankees elect to add anyone from this group to the 40-man roster, it appears likely that they do not see more than a couple of innings of work in the season’s final month.

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Dan Pfeiffer

A former University of Scranton student and Ramapo College of New Jersey graduate, Dan majored in Political Science before joining BronxPinstripes. A northern New Jersey native, Dan has followed not only the Yankees, but their Scranton and Trenton affiliates extensively. You can follow Dan on Twitter at @danpfeiffer74.