Yankees: Predicting the 2019 Opening Day 25-man active roster

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 2: The Opening Day logo adorns bases prior to the start of a game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees on April 2, 2017 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 2: The Opening Day logo adorns bases prior to the start of a game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees on April 2, 2017 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) /

With the 2018 season winding down and attention turning to the MLB playoffs and World Series, we can begin speculating about what the 2019 Yankees will look like come Opening Day.

The earliest Opening Day in history, excluding international openers, will take place on March 28, 2019. All 30 MLB teams will take the field that day. The Yankees (by then the 2018 World Series champions) will be playing the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. The first-ever MLB games in Europe will be held on June 29-30 in London — and will feature the Yanks against the Boston Red Sox. That should be interesting.

So what will the 25-man active roster for the Yanks look like on Opening Day 2019?

Clearly, among other things, we must consider players’ performance and potential, salary and return on investment, level of need, and age in considering who probably will remain with the club and who might not. Also, we can speculate as to players that might be added during the offseason.

With these factors in mind, I predict that the following current players will be wearing pinstripes on Opening Day: Austin Romine, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Didi Gregorius, Miguel Andujar, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Neil Walker, Clint Frazier, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Zach Britton, Chad Green, David Robertson, Jonathan Holder, A.J. Cole, and Chance Adams.

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I also predict that the following current players will not be on the active roster come Opening Day: Brett Gardner, Gary Sanchez, Andrew McCutchen, Jacoby Ellsbury, Sonny Gray, C.C. Sabathia, Lance Lynn, Tommy Kahnle, Greg Bird, Tyler Wade, and Adeiny Hechavarria. Some of these players (Sanchez, Gray, Kahnle, Wade, and Bird) could be used in trades to fill holes, such as for a new catcher like J.T. Realmuto (Miami Marlins) or one or two additional starting pitchers.

Unfortunately, Jordan Montgomery had Tommy John surgery this past June this year, and rehabilitation from this operation usually takes about a year. In some cases, it may take up to two full seasons for a pitcher to return to his previous level of performance. Even then, one cannot predict how good a pitcher someone will be following surgery and rehabilitation.

However, there is a good possibility that one of the current pitching prospects, such as Jonathan Loaisiga, Justus Sheffield, Domingo German or someone else will emerge as a solid starting pitcher.

Rationale for eliminating Sanchez and McCutchen

Most fans are likely to agree with at least some of the players identified on each of the two lists. There may be disagreement, however, over jettisoning Gary Sanchez and Andrew McCutchen from the 2019 Yanks roster.

Every great Yankees team that has dominated baseball has always had a superb catcher behind the plate. Unfortunately, Sanchez costs the team substantially in passed balls, suspect pitch selections, and this season’s disappointing performance in the batter’s box.

This offseason would be an excellent time to trade him and get something of value in return, perhaps a young solid fourth or fifth starting pitcher. Otherwise, Sanchez’s value could significantly decrease following another dismal year (in 2019). Don’t be surprised if general manager Brian Cashman ships Sanchez off somewhere during the offseason while his value is still relatively high.

Andrew McCutchen has indeed helped the Yanks since coming over from the San Francisco Giants. He still has good power, runs the bases well, and is an efficient fielder.

However, he earned $14.75 million in 2018 and is likely to ask for around the same amount (or somewhat less, at best) for 2019. His bat speed has declined, and that would be too much to pay for someone who has hit a combined .252 in 2018 (and only .216 with the Yanks).

Clint Frazier has more potential and is a much better value than McCutchen (and Gardner for that matter) at this point in their respective careers.

Should the Yanks sign Manny Machado or Bryce Harper — or both?

Since the infield is young, in good shape, and doesn’t cost the Yanks a whole lot of money at this point, the team will likely not pursue Manny Machado. The extraordinary amount of cash the Yankees would need to lay out to land Machado would be much better spent on two front-line starting pitchers in free agency, such as Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, or Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Charlie Morton would also be worth pursuing if the Yanks can sign him for a reasonable amount — but no more than three or four years, given his age next year (35). Alternatively, the Yanks could use the money saved by not signing Machado to pursue free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal and one front-line starting pitcher.

Instead of Machado, the Yanks should aggressively pursue Bryce Harper so the club could field an outfield of Harper (or Hicks in center field), Stanton, and Judge. When Hicks plays, Aaron Boone could slot Harper (or Stanton or Judge) in the designated hitter slot in the lineup.

If the team does obtain Harper, it will have the best outfield in the major leagues. It would be wise for the club to make a strong effort to retain Aaron Hicks during the offseason arbitration process given his value and still (expected) modest salary.

Yankees 2019 Opening Day lineup

  1. CF: Aaron Hicks
  2. RF: Aaron Judge
  3. 3B: Miguel Andujar
  4. DH: Giancarlo Stanton
  5. LF: Bryce Harper
  6. SS: Didi Gregorius
  7. 2B: Gleyber Torres
  8. 1B: Luke Voit
  9. C: Yasmani Grandal or J.T. Realmuto

The Yankees are already a terrific, young ball club with an outstanding future. However, the team should never stop trying to improve. By eliminating particular players and making three or four vital additions, a new opening day active roster will give the Boston Red Sox a run for its money in 2019.