Another week means another setback for the 2014 New York Yankees. Mark Teixeira left Saturday’s game with a sore wrist, and will be on the shelf for at least two games. The very same day, Michael Pineda’s rehab efforts were halted. An MRI revealed that Pineda is suffering inflammation in the same location as his previous injury. What does this all mean moving forward in the Bronx?
The Yankees’ are currently 29-25 and second in the AL East. They have some clutch pieces in place and have the talent to stay competitive, but to move back into first place and make a push to get back to the playoffs, they are going to need to make some roster moves. Now, I can speculate on signing Kendrys Morales or trading for Jeff Samardzija like every other Yankees’ beat writer has lately, but the truth is, the Yankees actually have some in-house talent on the farm that can help immediately.
I recently wrote a piece on the top ten unheralded stars of the 1990s Yankees’ Dynasty. The RailRiders currently have a few players on their roster that have been patiently waiting to possibly fill that role of unsung hero. Let’s take a look at three players that need to be off the Yankees roster and their in-house options that could serve as their replacement.
1. Vidal Nuno (1-2, 5.48 ERA), starter/bullpen. I have never been on board with Nuno. He is a junk-baller who can get through a line-up once but then can be easily figured out the second time through. When he was in the conversation for the fifth starter spot this spring, I couldn’t piece together why. This past Friday it wasn’t that Nuno got lit up for four runs by the hapless Minnesota Twins, it was that he got punished by three long balls in the process. He and Alfredo Aceves are essentially the same players, and I’d rather have neither on the Yankees’ roster. But if I had to chose, I take Aceves and send Nuno on his way.
Replacement: Danny Burawa, relief pitcher. There is already concern that Girardi is wearing down both Adam Warren and Dellin Betances. Burawa has closer-esque stuff with pretty nice control (a 1.11 WHIP), and blows batters away (20 K/ 8 BB in 15.1 innings). Burawa can give Warren and Betances rest so they are ready for the playoff stretch.
2. Kelly Johnson (.217, 4 HRs), infield. Johnson has played admirably, but at 32 years of age, he’s past whatever prime he had. Yangervis Solarte has clearly won his spot in the line-up, and while Johnson has the ability to play several positions, I simply think we have seen all that we are going to see out of Johnson. There are cheaper, and possibly more talented, options down in Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre.
Replacement: Scott Sizemore, infielder. Kyle Roller is almost there, I think that by July, Roller will be ready for big league ball, but that doesn’t mean he will make the jump. Sizemore once had a lot of potential and has been working his way back from two lost seasons due to injuries. Add in that he has been seeing reps at first base for the RailRiders AND that he is on the right side of 30, I feel he can bring a little more to the Yankees than Johnson does at a lower price.
3. Preston Claiborne, relief pitcher. Claiborne is another guy who I have never understood why the Yankees kept around. Maybe it is his rubber arm? Same with Shawn Kelley. Maybe they see a Jeff Nelson type pitcher in them, but I don’t. Claiborne’s numbers do not stand out right now (3.71 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 14 K/8 BB over 17 innings) so maybe it is time to give someone else a chance.
Replacement: The Yankees actually have two choices to go with at SWB. The hard-throwing veteran Jim Miller is quietly coming alive at the back of the RailRiders’ bullpen. He has been lights-out in his last 8 appearances, going 3-0, allowing no earned runs and just five hits, all while striking out 12, and walking three over a span of 12.1 innings. There is also 23-year-old Mark Montgomery to consider. He has long been highly-touted as a fixture for the Yankees’ bullpen, so maybe it’s time he gets to show his potential. His only downside is his erratic control, having walked 16 batters in just 23 innings pitched this season.
If the Pineda news comes back worse than expected, the Yankees’ are going to have to make a move for a starter as there are little starting pitching options that are major league ready in their farm system. Until then, they will have to roll with David Phelps, Aceves, and Whitley. Those three starters are going to need bullpen help to get through games. Throw in the fragile Teixeira, and the Yankees’ definitely have some work ahead of them. It is encouraging to know that there is help waiting in the wings when they are ready to make that move.