Yankees max out 40-man roster space with intriguing pitcher, speed demon

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins
Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins / Megan Briggs/GettyImages

Technically, the New York Yankees have spent their first free agent dollars of the winter. Unfortunately, instead of splashing cash on a Jordan Montgomery reunion, they used their money Cooper Criswell-style.

On Thursday, the Yanks agreed to a split deal with former Marlins righty Cody Poteet, who'll earn $750,000 if he makes the majors and $200,000 if he remains in the minors. Technically, because of the nature of the contract, this may or may not count as an official, bonafide signing to break the big, fat "zero" on the Yankees' board, but we're going to go ahead and head nod at it anyway.

Joining Poteet on the 40-man roster on Thursday was fellow new arrival Bubba Thompson, a former first-rounder who was claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds. If nothing else, the pair of maneuvers gave Jack Curry and Michael Kay something to discuss on Thursday's episode of YES Hot Stove, following a 10-minute, cold water-throwing session regarding the Yankees' potential Jordan Montgomery reunion and Blake Snell signing.

Take everything Kay says with a whole avalanche of salt, but he did hint on the airwaves Thursday night that he'd been hearing some exciting things from "people in the know" about Poteet's potential. On the surface, he appears to possess a demonic changeup, though it's unclear how far he'll be stretched in his first season back from Tommy John.

Yankees 40-Man Roster: Who's at risk after Cody Poteet, Bubba Thompson signings?

Poteet, somewhat humorously, became a Yankee in large part because of the Royals' desire to swipe righty Matt Sauer from New York's farm system. He was supposed to rehab from Tommy John in KC's system in 2023 and be productive in 2024, but had an out clause that said he could depart if he wasn't protected on the 40-man after the Rule 5 Draft. Sauer was selected; he was left to drift. Therefore, the Yankees earned the chance to experiment with a pitcher who had a 108 ERA+ in 12 outings (two starts) in 2022, his second year in the bigs, before the elbow snapped.

Thompson's calling card is obvious; he has 100th-percentile sprint speed and swiped 49 bags at Triple-A Round Rock in 2022. Just as impressively, he also hit .303 with an .829 OPS at the level -- and, oh yeah, he did it all in 80 games played.

Odds are Poteet will be safe on the 40-man for quite a while, given the Yankees' big-league commitment. Thompson could be the last one on, first one off, but he also provides a tangible skill the Yanks don't exactly possess in droves. Odds are much higher that Jeter Downs, a total flyer (and potential troll), is the most at-risk name on the 40-man, followed by pitchers Nick Ramirez and Matt Krook, as well as catcher Carlos Narvaez.

Of course, it's quite possible the Yankees' next big move is a trade rather than a signing, which should clear out a few 40-man spots a little more naturally.