You remember Stephen Ridings, right? The affable former substitute teacher who popped right out of the Kansas City Royals‘ farm system and ended up dominating for the New York Yankees at every level last season, chucking 100 MPH with poise in his MLB debut in August?
That’s not typically the type of player you anticipate losing the very next offseason, but for most of November, that unfortunate fate has seemed like a possibility.
After all, Yankee fans and scribes can’t even agree on whether or not he’s locked down, which is a bad start.
It’s tough to lose track of Ridings at 6-8, but the Yankees certainly seem to be trying.
Here’s what we know: Ridings didn’t pitch from Aug. 15 on while battling an elbow issue. We were told it was minor, and we’ve chosen to believe that, but still … we never saw him again at any level.
Now, 40-man decisions are looming, and the Yankees recently cleared space only to use five spots for injured players emerging off the 60-Day IL. That leaves them at 39 with an entire offseason ahead of them, and a whole mess of players to protect. Ridings’ place in all of this is certainly up in the air — all the more so because people can’t seem to even decide on whether he’s a minor-league free agent or not! This might not even be the Yanks’ decision to make.
Is Stephen Ridings still on the New York Yankees roster for 2022?
It certainly seems like he’s still in the system, but the information sure is conflicting!
Typically, Mike Axisa is as good as it gets on points of contention like this one, but in the case of Ridings, it seems something strange was executed last offseason that might just fall into the “something else going on that I don’t know about” category.
According to minor league insider Eli Fishman, Ridings remains on a minor-league deal for 2022. Perhaps it was a secret two-year pact after all?
OK. Got it. So … seeing as Axisa left some wiggle room and admitted there might be something he was unaware of, we’ll take Fishman’s diagnosis as fact.
Ridings is still in the system, but … maybe not for long. That 40-man protection still looms, and Ridings has enough minor-league seasons under his belt that he’s eligible to get swiped by another franchise, a la Garrett Whitlock.
The 25-year-old seems to be a surer thing than Whitlock was last year, too, considering we’ve all very recently seen him stick on an MLB roster during a pennant race. If another team claims him and is able to keep him with the big-league club for the entire resulting season, they’ll maintain his rights. Otherwise, they’d have to offer him back to New York.
Hmm, maybe the less we write about Ridings the better, then? Chaim Bloom, uh, don’t read this.
Of course, the elephant in the room still remains. If the Yankees don’t protect Ridings, odds are the elbow injury he suffered at the tail end of 2021 is worse than we were publicly told, and he’s unlikely to survive a full season on an MLB roster in 2022, lest he be returned right back to the Yanks.
Garrett Whitlock was a valued contributor from Day 1 and was a no-brainer to last all year long, but an injured Ridings simply wouldn’t be.
No matter how it happens, we hope he clatters back to the Yanks and emerges once more as a valued back-end contributor down the stretch.