Yankees out with old, in with new as 7 prospects added to 40-man roster
Jacoby Ellsbury, Greg Bird and Nestor Cortes had their shot at succeeding with the Yankees. Yet because of injuries and sub-par performances, they failed to stick with the organization. Now, seven recently added prospects to the 40-man roster that get their opportunity to leave a mark.
You never want to eat $26 million just to cut ties with a player. But that’s precisely what the Yankees needed to do with Jacoby Ellsbury, who is set to earn $21 million in 2020 and another $5M through a club buyout the following season.
It was a move two years in the making — which is the last time we saw Ellsbury play in a major league game. The Yanks also decided to cut bait with oft-injured first baseman Greg Bird.
After amassing a bit of cult following, following his 2017 ALDS home run off of Andrew Miller — the intrigue and possibility that Bird displayed from time-to-time wasn’t enough to keep him around for another season. Since breaking into the bigs in 2015, Bird has only suited up in 186 games.
Not only did Bird miss all of 2016, but he took the field just 10 times in 2019 — and the running joke of Ellsbury and Bird on the injured list became more of an annoyance than anything.
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I was a bit surprised to see left-handed reliever Nestor Cortes DFA’ed, considering he pitched 66.2 innings (33) games. However, despite a 5-1 record, his 5.67 ERA, 1.545 WHIP and 10.1 H/9 weren’t worth sacrificing a talented, albeit unproven minor league prospect to the Rule 5 Draft.
And so, general manager Brian Cashman finished opening the seven necessary 40-man roster spots to add right-handed pitchers Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, Brooks Kriske, Luis Medina, Nick Nelson, Miguel Yajure and outfielder Estevan Florial.
Throughout the 2019 season, we covered some of these newly protected farmhands, including No. 1 overall prospect Deivi Garcia and his rise through three separate classes of minor league ball.
Yajure caught my attention back in August, as the 21-year-old with a four-pitch arsenal — still pitching in High-A Tampa, looks to be one of the organization’s brightest young prospects, regardless of his current destination.
As for Gil, he is the Yankees No. 2 pitching prospect, striking out 123 batters in only 20 starts in ’19. Medina recently struggled at High-A with his 5.47 ERA, but regularly reached triple digits on his fastball and at 20, has plenty of time to move up as the Yanks’ 20th best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
Protecting Kriske came as a bit of a surprise, considering he missed parts of 2017 and ’18 following Tommy John surgery. However, the 25-year-old stuck out 65 batters while allowing just 30 hits across 48.2 innings at Double-A Trenton this past season.
Nelson, 23, is a hard-throwing potential big-league reliever that gave up 72 hits in 89 innings while striking out 114 at Triple-A Scranton.
And then there is Florial, who continues to slide down the pecking order of baseball’s top prospects. The 21-year-old outfielder no longer finds himself on Baseball America’s top-100 or the Yankees top-10. Dare I say, Florial has a bit of the Ellsbury bug in him — playing in 84 games in 2018 and just 74 in ’19.
Sure, the kid has the speed for days, but his outfield work is far from perfect — and in the box, he’s failed to take the next step, slashing .237/.297/.383 with seven homers and 38 RBIs.
No longer the Yanks’ top outfield prospect, that honor goes to 16-year-old Jasson Dominguez — Florial needs to have an injury-free 2020 in order to rebuild his stock. Otherwise, he may eventually become a throw-in piece of a broader trade.
While someone will be quick to remind me that just because Bird and Cortes were designated for assignment, doesn’t mean the Yankees can’t re-sign either should they pass through waivers, is that really what you want for the Yanks in 2020? Because I don’t.
Why re-tread players that aren’t cut out to wear the pinstripes? I’d instead take my chances with the unknown that are talented prospects, ready, willing, and able to potentially step up big next season and beyond. The others had their chance.