The New York Yankees have been abnormally precious with their 40-man roster spots over the past year and a half or so.
Of course, once a player they’re intrigued by is “protected,” that’s still a temporary solution to a roster crunch.
If you “like” but don’t love too many of your own players, you’ve shut off a clear path towards bettering your roster, an issue that becomes even more glaring for Brian Cashman when he holds tight to his prospects at consecutive deadlines instead of making maneuvers.
A few 40-man fringers in Miguel Yajure and Roansy Contreras went to the Pirates in the Jameson Taillon trade, which was a start … though clearly not enough, considering the Yankees’ outfield depth was legitimately close to zero this weekend.
Sans-Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton, the Bombers had just one option on the 40-man roster to potentially promote in Estevan Florial, and used Ryan LaMarre instead for the very last available spot.
There will be another time soon when an emergency move is needed, either for injury purposes or an injection of offense.
When you realize Chris Gittens and Derek Dietrich have zero path to MLB time, no matter how well they hit, blame Brooks Kriske, a reliever who hasn’t performed at any level in a year and a half, but who the Yankees can’t quit.
Why do the Yankees insist on carrying Brooks Kriske?
The Kriske Problem (aka the overloaded 40-man roster issue) arose again on Monday when Giancarlo Stanton hit the IL. Naturally, if possible, you’d like to replace Stanton with a powerful bat to reside on the team’s unbearably thin bench.
Nope! Up came Albert Abreu, a reliever who was supposed to be a very impactful arm, but who’s instead become 40-man chum, endlessly promoted and demoted as many times as possible simply because he holds a spot. That’s not how a pitcher gains confidence, traction, or really anything. He’ll go down when Rougned Odor is activated in the coming days.
At some point, having a slugger like Gittens, who is 27 years old, OBP’ing .523 at Triple-A and is hitting with Stantonian exit velocities, seems more valuable than carrying a bullpen arm who’s barely trusted and may or may not enter in the middle of a blowout. The slugger may choose a different path for himself this offseason, though, if the Yankees refuse to use him as an offensive tweak. He could hop organizations or take big money in Japan. He wouldn’t be wrong to do so.
Of course, all this talk of overcrowding is moot if Kriske had become the Chad Green-style weapon the Yankees reportedly believed they had in the fold, according to the above January article. But after an excellent 2019 season (80 Ks in 60.2 innings, 2.08 ERA across two levels), Kriske has backslid since being protected, posting a 12.27 Triple-A ERA this season and a 14.73 mark in the bigs last year.
We hate to say it, but in 2021, with offense down across the board, if you uncover a potential diamond-in-the-rough like Gittens amid a protracted slump, you have to find him a path to the bigs.
And if you have two roster spots being occupied by fungible relief arms the organization can’t find a use for, that’s another issue entirely.
Clearly, the organization has no issue letting talent walk; Garrett Whitlock exited stage right and went to Boston earlier this offseason, and no one said a peep. If they believe Kriske to have the higher upside, fine. We haven’t seen tangible improvement since 2019, though, and the team seems reticent to promote or use him.