Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
It hasn't been easy to find ways to write about the Yankees lately, at least without looking ridiculous. There's only so many holes an analyst can poke in a 30-13 team. Yeah, they need rotation help, but we've said that already.
What's left to write? "The Yankees continue to be awesome" is hardly news. So we were pleased to find, following the team's weekend romp in Kansas City, an actual problem. Are you ready for it? The Yankees have … way too many good players. They are facing a roster crunch that almost never happens in baseball.
This is not an issue relatable to the Mets, who somehow scratched out a win Sunday with a lineup that felt more appropriate for a spring training road game. And while the Yankees are pleased that their problems are of the first-world variety, they face difficult decisions on talented players.
On Sunday, the team optioned outfielder Clint Frazier to Triple-A Scranton. Frazier's status as a top prospect is debatable, but he is ready to at least serve as a fourth outfielder or more on many big league teams. And later this week, if first baseman Greg Bird makes his expected return from the disabled list, the Yanks will have to option Tyler Austin.
Austin hit two two-run homers in the Yankees' 10-1 win in Kansas City Sunday, and leads American League rookies with eight home runs. He has also asserted his strong personality into the character of the club, most notably in charging the mound during a game in Boston last month.
But if you look at the roster, there is simply no room for him. Neil Walker has found himself again, and offers positional versatility. He isn't going anywhere. We could debate third base -- Miguel Andujar vs. Brandon Drury vs. Walker (Drury is another Yankees big leaguer marooned in Scranton) --- but none of that helps Austin. Nor does it argue for the team to subtract a reliever to keep him around. Roster-wise, a healthy Bird renders the league's hottest rookie superfluous.
Where this could all get interesting is if everyday players don't perform. With roster spots at a nearly unprecedented premium, what happens if Bird slumps upon his return? What if Didi Gregorius continues to struggle? Or if Andujar can't push his on-base percentage to .300? Or if Frazier dominates the International League and Aaron Hicks or Brett Gardner struggles?
It's not necessarily productive for an established ballplayer to look over his shoulder while slumping, but the Yanks owe it to themselves to constantly evaluate every position. And they face tricky decisions over which players to trade if they pursue a starter this summer.
These are good problems to have. But for Brian Cashman, they're not necessarily easy ones.