Very little change should have been expected from the Yankees’ roster since they completed the Ichiro Suzuki trade in mid-July. Only once Brett Gardner was declared to likely miss the season did the Yankees even feel pressure to acquire an outfielder, and now that they have, there are no glaring weaknesses on the team capable of being addressed through the waiver wire.
Of course, September always brings about a rare dynamic. A 25 man roster responsible for fighting through around 135 games all of a sudden changes to a full 40 man roster.
This rule change could imply a few things:
For a team out of the playoffs, it means showcasing any young talent with potential to make the team the following year or even a couple of years from now. It never hurts to give a prized, future, rookie a taste of the big leagues with little to no pressure.
For a team fighting to make the playoffs, it means specializing the roster for those crucial games that have to be won. Multiple pinch-runners, defensive replacements, relievers for one batter and extra starting pitchers become commonplace. All of a sudden a 27 out game can be managed pitch by pitch and out by out.
For a team like the Yankees, they probably fall into a third category. Giving proper rest to the future playoff roster and rehabbing injured players without the pressure of playing everyday. Despite a blip on the radar and a measure of panic, New York has recovered to win two in a row against the hottest home team in baseball in the Tigers, and took the opener in Toronto. Baseball Prospectus gives the team a healthy 99.3% chance of making the players, so let’s make this safe assumption.
What is implied is that, at some point, Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte will take up two spots on the September roster when they return from injury. Because there are 15 extra slots, nobody will have to be called down.
What is unknown and worth exploring, is who can potentially fill the other (up to) 13 slots.
Important to keep in mind is that not every player called up is auditioning for 2012. In fact, most of them are likely here for September to take advantage of an expanded roster.
Pena, Igarashi, Thomas, Warren and Aardsma would likely just be window dressing. Pena offers speed and defense and Igarashi is an experienced reliever who can eat up unnecessary innings if the Yankees ensure a playoff spot earlier in the month (think: Scott Proctor, 2011). Thomas would only be called up because he pitched in the majors earlier this season (for the Red Sox) so his development is not at risk and he’s a lefty, adding an additional option to Boone Logan. None of these options are likely to play beyond next month since they all have inherent flaws. They either won’t have a large enough sample size to prove playoff worth or are simply blocked by players already playing in the Bronx.
Pedro Feliciano is another lefty option as a reliever and he has begun a rehab assignment after two years of injuries, possible ready by next month. Of course, with two years away from the game and probable rust, he can’t be relied upon to be seriously considered for a playoff spot.
Adam Warren had an unsuccessful, albeit brief, debut earlier this year, but as a young pitcher he will likely get another taste out of the bullpen. That leaves Aardsma, who is in the same boat as Feliciano. Both relievers have battled extended injuries and are in the midst of rehab assignments. While their presence can help cover some innings in September, neither one is needed or can be relied upon to offer high-pressure innings in October.
None of these additions will have an impact on whether or not the Yankees win a World Series but they can certainly help keep the team healthy. As a veteran club currently in first place, health can become the biggest opponent at the end of a long season.
In my next post we will explore who could make the playoff roster