Yankees sneakily release slugging Triple-A first baseman who starred in KBO

This was, uh, not a performance decision.
José Rojas #83 of the  New York Yankees  during the...
José Rojas #83 of the New York Yankees during the... / Eyepix Group/GettyImages

On Wednesday, the New York Yankees announced a reshuffling at the top levels of their minor-league system. Presumably, it was not a performance decision.

Jose Rojas, the slugging former Angels first baseman who dipped to KBO before the Yankees gave his rejuvenated bat a chance, mashed with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders prior to his June 1 opt-out date. Not coincidentally, he did not participate in game action past May 31, finishing his Yankees tenure with a stat line of 10 homers, 34 RBI and a .900 OPS even in 43 games.

Still, without defined word on Rojas' decision, it seemed plausible that he might remain in the organization beyond that line in the sand. After all, as unlikely as a big-league shot seemed for a non-40-manned first baseman, it's impossible to deny the position represents the MLB roster's biggest trouble spot as Anthony Rizzo declines. The Yankees have launched non-40-man options straight to the bigs before, though they do it begrudgingly (sorry, Estevan Florial).

Wednesday's minor-league wire update brought that fantasy to an abrupt dissolution. Rojas hit release waivers and, more than likely, such a move represented a handshake agreement between the two parties to allow him to seek work elsewhere.

Yankees release Jose Rojas from Triple-A contract (he probably opted out)

You might remember Rojas from the dog days of winter, when we were trying to draw blood from a series of stone transactions, tossing darts at potential impact players. He was coming off 19 homers in 122 games with the Doosan Bears, finally recapturing some of the pre-COVID mojo he'd initially found with the 2019 Salt Lake Bees in the Angels system.

Remember Jorge Vazquez, the oversized first baseman/DH who mashed through the Yankees system in the early 2010s and continued doing so when he reached Triple-A, but was never given a shot to beat the "Quad-A" allegations? Rojas gave off that vibe immediately, and nothing changed when he performed well-but-not-too-well ahead of his opt-out date.

Now, the Yankees will turn over the majority of their Triple-A playing time to TJ Rumfield, an exit velocity darling who's hitting .285 with a .747 OPS in 179 at-bats this season. It's worth watching, though, that in addition to letting Rojas go, the Yankees also found a trade partner for Luis Torrens this week.

Hmm. A catcher and a first baseman, neither with much chance of cracking the big-league Yankees' roster, moving on almost concurrently. Could the Yankees be making room for first baseman/catcher Ben Rice at Triple-A, moments after he caught Gerrit Cole's rehab start? Just connecting the dots here.