As the Yankees begin to make the trip from Tampa to the Bronx, the front office has one decision left to make. First, it was reported that both reserve outfielders Estevan Florial and Rafael Ortega had made the big league roster while relievers Greg Weissert and Ian Hamilton were sent down to Triple-A. However, a follow-up tweet from Marly Rivera led to further confusion.
Rafael Ortega is also headed up to New York with the team. I spoke to both Ortega and Florial and, while they’re both headed up north with the Yankees, neither has been informed of a final decision. https://t.co/lIq6A3krac
Finally, a third tweet indicated that Ortega requested and was granted his release leaving the Yankees roster at 39.
The Final Outfield Spot
The first part of the final decision will come down to who will hold the final outfield spot. This spring, a three person race emerged following the injury to expected starting center-fielder Harrison Bader. As a result, the final three were Florial, Ortega and veteran Willie Calhoun. Despite having the most big league at-bats, Calhoun as optioned to Scranton.
The next critical piece of the puzzle is the lack of options for Florial. Despite being a former top prospect, Florial’s big league struggles continued this spring. With no additional options, the Yankees are unable to send Florial directly to the minors. Instead, the team has to designate him for assignment, which adds the player to waivers. If another team were to claim Florial, the Yankees could lose him for nothing.
With the news of Ortega’s release, it appears that Florial has a spot, for now.
When Bader Returns
If Florial made the Yankees roster, it’s hard to imagine how long he would stay in New York. With Harrison Bader quickly progressing from his oblique injury, Florial likely will be cut to make room on the Yankees roster. However, with the Yankees lack of luck when it comes to staying healthy, the team might see no other option then carrying an extra outfielder.
If the team isn’t confident in IKF’s ability to transition to the outfield and if they don’t plan on using Stanton, the team might be budgeting for additional outfield support. After signing his new contract, the Yankees have to be very focused on keeping Aaron Judge healthy. Having Florial on the team gives them an additional outfield option.
A Potential Trade
Once Bader returns, the Yankees will likely be over the 26 man roster. With Florial needing to be sent to waivers, the Yankees could be looking at a potential trade scenario.
While Florial has struggled in the Bronx, he has at times flashed the traits that made him an intriguing prospect. Last year, he hit 15 home runs while batting in the .280s. Combined with good defense and advanced speed, another team, perhaps one in a rebuild, would be willing to take a chance on Florial. Meanwhile, another team might find themselves in a similar situation with a reliever out of options.
With the 2023 Yankees season nearly upon us, the roster is almost set. Will the team keep an extra outfielder? Will they add another arm to the bullpen? Is this the end of Estevan Florial’s Yankees tenure once Bader returns? With under two days to go until the first pitch of the regular season, Yankees fans should expect answers very soon.