3 Opening Day roster decisions Yankees will quickly regret

Milwaukee Brewers v New York Yankees
Milwaukee Brewers v New York Yankees / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

As the hits keep coming, the New York Yankees are running out of time to be fully prepared for Opening Day on March 28 against the Houston Astros. Injuries continue to plague key players and that's left the team scrambling a bit, leaving fans to look back on past decisions that got them here.

In summation, the Yankees built a top-heavy roster with limited depth. It is what it is. But again, with this team, the plan cannot be "if one or two guys go down, we're absolutely f--ked." Somehow, that's been the case for four years running now.

It's unclear what made the Yankees think they'd escape this year's spring training unscathed, because they never escape spring training unscathed, but now injuries to Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Scott Effross, Tommy Kahnle, Oswald Peraza and Anthony Rizzo have thrown things into flux.

It might sound a bit pessimistic, but this is a do-or-die roster. There's no going back and there are no guarantees once November arrives. So forgive us if we think some of the past decisions that have influenced these problematic future decisions might end up having the Yankees full of regret after just a month or two of action.

3 Opening Day roster choices Yankees will quickly regret

Giving Jonathan Loaisiga a high-leverage bullpen role

Jonathan Loaisiga has been thrusted into Michael King's old bullpen role -- a relief option called upon in high-leverage situations to erase multiple innings. Only problem? Outside of 2021, Loaisiga's never proven to be a reliable multi-inning or high-leverage relief option.

And though King only showed he was capable in that role for about 3/4 of a season, he felt like a far superior option before his departure in the Juan Soto trade.

The fact of the matter is that there was belief Loaisiga would be non-tendered this offseason because of his incessant injury woes, which popped up yet again in 2023 -- he started and finished the season injured, only appearing in 17 games.

But the Yankees instead paid him $3 million for 2024 and will now project him into an all-important role despite there being little evidence he can actually handle it. The bullpen is banged up yet again and is welcoming a number of new faces. The Yankees needed semblance of stability here and they don't have it.

We're not faulting them for trading King at all. We're faulting them for not upgrading over Loaisiga, who's barely available anyway and isn't having a good spring.

Not Finding Better Depth Than Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera

Annnnd look where that's gotten us. Injuries have once again depleted the Yankees prior to the start of the season. Oswald Peraza, who felt like the last guy on the bench anyway, will miss at least the first two months of the season. Down went DJ LeMahieu a couple of weeks later, and his status for Opening Day is in question. And then on Friday, Anthony Rizzo was experiencing a sore lat, which had him scratched from the lineup.

That means we can probably expect Oswaldo Cabrera to get everyday reps at the onset of the campaign. And if Peraza was healthy, it'd be him getting those reps. And guess what? Neither option is suitable! Both players have had varying degrees of chances to prove themselves at the big-league level and very much havent.

In 2022 and 2023, the Yankees treated their bench as if it meant nothing, which is bold for a team that always finds itself getting 100 games of backup reps at multiple positions. In 2023, Peraza dealt with injuries and took a step back, while Oswaldo Cabrera wasn't a major-league player, logging a 58 OPS+ as his defense in the outfield cratered.

The Yankees solved their outfield problem (sort of) by importing Soto and Trent Grisham. Their other bench spot is occupied by a catcher (which is mandatory). The other two spots were ostensibly reserved for Peraza and Cabrera, both of whom are (unfortunately) largely incapable. One is injured and the other will be thrust into everyday action from the jump.

Yankees fans weren't asking for a bench of All-Stars, but again, not trading Peraza after putting him in the worst position possible as the team declared Anthony Volpe the 2023 Opening Day starter will remain a mistake that looms large.

Not Adding Another Big-Name Starter (Jordan Montgomery)

Gerrit Cole's injury was just the straw that broken the camel's back. Otherwise, the Yankees built a rotation on stilts, with Carlos Rodón, Nestor Cortes, Marcus Stroman and Clarke Schmidt behind him. As you can see, Cole is the only commodity without questions surrounding him -- when healthy.

So when he went down, the rotation looked as unreliable as ever. It's not bad, though! We're not saying it's bad! It's just only going to be good if all of these guys maximize their powers, and that's an incredibly tall ask when you look at everyone's history. We're just wondering how it got to this point.

How did the Yankees end up spending so much money on an imperfect roster that they're now being taxed 110% on for every expenditure that follows for the 2024 season? How are they the only team with this problem?

The Yankees have, for a very long time, evaded signing the right pitchers, which has greatly hampered their championship window. Though the offense has always been the consistent problem, the pitching was never championship-caliber. And now it's come to this: either pay double the price for Monty (or Snell before he signed with the Giants) or risk going into the season with a Jenga tower of a rotation before conducting potential damage control at the trade deadline.

New York should've signed a more steadfast option before settling on Stroman because he's the one who put the payroll in the luxury tax danger zone. Obviously, that's easier said than done because Scott Boras has effectively ruined this offseason for everyone by holding his clients hostage, but it's either risk falling apart in the first half or spending extra money to aid your World Series-or-bust roster.

Something tells us the Yankees will regret not signing someone like Monty, but we're really hoping everything can stay patched up until the end of July.