The New York Yankees have edged closer to clinching a playoff spot in recent days, though there’s still plenty of work to do to protect their AL East lead (all eyes on that final series in Toronto next week, because of course).
With a shrinking magic number, the Yanks’ theoretical postseason roster should be coming into focus — but prepare for a few surprises, especially if you stopped following the team sometime around the trade deadline, either out of protest of the Jordan Montgomery trade or because you picked sustained joy over summer suffering.
When the dust settled on the Aug. 2 trade deadline, the Yankees’ clear singular goal was to be healthy and well-prepared for a potential playoff run, even if said preparation came at the expense of victories over the course of the next ~40 games. The team clearly thought it might take a step back without Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery and an active version of trade deadline addition Harrison Bader. They never thought they’d spiral well below .500 and still lose nearly the entire lineup of key regulars to injury. Jokes on them! They did.
As October approaches, the Yankees are still in postseason position, but will have to welcome several supposed core members of the lineup and bullpen back in the coming days. If those players show enough to prove they’re back in the swing of things, they’re going to knock a few previously-established guys off the postseason roster.
And yes, there are some “returning” players who still can’t be trusted, even though they’ve been elevated back to the active roster in good standing. The last two weeks of regular-season games will matter tremendously to those folks, though their fate may already be sealed.
3 Yankees players who could surprisingly lose 2022 MLB Playoffs roster spot
3. Frankie Montas
What, you thought the injured pitcher who’s been on the mound for many of August and September’s most embarrassing moments was a lock?
Before you pencil Frankie Montas into that No. 4 rotation spot, consider just how effective both Jameson Taillon and Domingo Germán have been in recent weeks (months?), and how little discernible impact there’s likely to be on Taillon’s stuff if he’s asked to “play it up” in the bullpen.
If Montas makes the postseason roster, he’ll be slotted into the rotation and Taillon will become an emergency option (who, let’s face it, will likely be used). If Montas is left at home to rehab? Taillon, who’s allowed three runs or fewer in 23 starts this season (among the most in MLB), will get Game 4, while Germán, whose stuff definitely seems suited to two-inning bullpen stints, could cover the middle innings (as could Clarke Schmidt).
Montas hit the 15-day IL on Tuesday, retroactive to Sept. 17, and hopes to get one more start in before the season ends and the October tournament begins. When acquired, he was supposed to be a linchpin of the Yankees’ playoff pursuits. Now? His 6.35 ERA in the Bronx and second shoulder injury in three months make it almost impossible to foresee a path to trust next month.
What about Montas’ first eight Yankees starts, other than the acquisition cost, would make him a better option than Taillon? Taillon’s home run bugaboo looks like nothing compared to Montas’ sudden onset control problems and lack of command/whiffs (no doubt exacerbated by the shoulder issue). Sadly, he’ll probably have to wait ’til next year to prove the injury caused his “inability to handle da Bronx,” which is more likely than not.