Gio0 Urshela, B-Bombers Leader 2019 (Photo: Newsday.com)

Yankees Roster: The MLB Poster Child For Expanded 25-Man Rosters

Soon, the Yankees 25-man roster balloon will burst from the weight of talent in their farm system. Steinbrenner must lobby to increase roster size…

The Yankees and most of Major League Baseball knows it is a foregone conclusion that the size of the 25-man roster is going to increase soon, or at the very latest when the player’s union contract is negotiated and subsequently renewed in 2021. A modest increase from 25 to 26 is already in the works for 2020.

But that will hardly ease the pain of teams like the Yankees who have worked and spent accordingly to have an abundance of talent in their minor league systems with players who have nowhere to go.

The B-Bombers, as Brian Cashman has aptly termed them, are currently feeling the brunt of the Yankee’s roster crunch as each of the Yankees regulars return from their stint on the Injured List (IL). Tyler Wade and Mike Ford have already been sent down to Triple-A Scranton, and decisions will soon need to be made on players like Mike Tauchman, Thairo Estrada, and possibly even Clint Frazier and Gio Urshela, all of whom are making significant contributions to the Yankees run for first place in the AL East.

In Capsule Form, The Issue Of Roster Size

As with most political issues, this one quickly morphs into a conflict about economics. From the owners perspective, for every player on the team’s 25-man roster, it means paying one more major league salary, travel expenses, per diem allowance (cut to $35 per day but now includes a post-game spread provided by the team), and retirement benefits.

The player’s union (MLBPA), argues, on the other hand, that teams can afford these extra costs based on overall profits which have increased by more than twenty percent in the last five years, and for the ones who can’t make ends meet, that’s what revenue sharing is supposed to provide for. Plus, the players ask – are not baseball fans entitled to see the very best of all available talent a team has when attending a game?

In return for any expansion of a team’s active roster, the owners will demand a reduction of the (ridiculous and interfering in pennant races) increase to a 40-man active roster on September 1st. So be it.

Yankees Cutting Through The Economics

As the Principal Owner of the New York Yankees, Hal Steinbrenner is one of several teams who can – and therefore should – publicly cut through the arguments against increasing the 25-man roster size, by lobbying his “haves vs the have-nots” in making sense of the current roster restrictions.

Consider this, for example. Hal Steinbrenner and the Yankees are currently paying these players the major league minimum, whether they are on the team’s 25-man roster or not:

Selected Yankees Salaries (Source: Spotrac)
Selected Yankees Salaries (Source: Spotrac)

Plus, there are the following players the Yankees are paying at least the major league minimum who are not currently contributing to the team that plays at Yankees Stadium.

Selected Yankees Salaries (Source: Spotrac)
Selected Yankees Salaries (Source: Spotrac)

And so, from where Hal Steinbrenner, and teams like the Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants, Phillies, Nationals, and perhaps one or two others sit, what’s the difference between a 25-man and a 28-man roster? They’re paying these players anyway, so why shouldn’t they be performing on a major league field at Yankee Stadium and elsewhere?

The Yankees And Back To Reality

From the future, we return to the present and the awkward state of the Yankees 25-man active roster. I’m ignoring pitchers with the understanding they can be juggled almost endlessly between the B-Bombers and the Triple-A Roster. Jonathan Loaisiga, Nester Cortes Jr., Chad Green, et. al. remain available for spot starts and relief episodes as needed by the big club.

Clint Frazier, New York Yankees Outfielder (Photo: SI.com)
Clint Frazier, New York Yankees Outfielder (Photo: SI.com)

But the real crunch will play out even as it is now with the Brian Cashman having to choose between Gio Urshela and Miguel Andujar for the regular role at third base and Mike Tauchman or Clint Frazier versus Aaron Hicks when he returns from the IL as soon as this week, in the outfield.

Andujar has been not so quietly hidden in the DH spot since his return from the IL, allowing Urshela free reign at third base where he is not only the superior fielder but the main B-Bomber contributing to the Yankees offense with one timely hit after another.

When the “real” bombers like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Didi Gregorius return, the DH spot in the lineup becomes even more of an issue for Aaron Boone to deal with on a nightly basis, without even factoring in the need for Gary Sanchez, Brett Gardner, Gleyber Torres, and Luke Voit to get a breather in that role.

Yankees And The Bursting Balloon

The 25 or 26-man active roster (if and when it comes about) will not solve the Yankee’s organization problem. Obviously, it’s a problem many other teams would die for, but for the B-Bombers, it’s an issue that affects from a personal and family standpoint.

Tyler Wade, Tauchman, Ford, Urshela, Frazier – they’ve all proven themselves to be bonafide major league players who have recently passed “the test”, so to speak. In turn, this could put Brian Cashman in the driver’s seat once again when the July trading deadline rolls around.

Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees Photo Credit: New York Post
Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees Photo Credit: New York Post

Imagine, for instance, the market Miguel Andujar can command based solely on his hitting abilities with a team willing to dismiss his defensive woes or the reverse, Urshela’s skyrocketing value as an offensive and defensive force. 

To be sure, Brian Cashman will be using this advantage before the end of July when rosters are pretty much frozen. For some players, as yet listed as TBD, the consequences are bound to be severe, at least in terms of being separated from the team they have known and grown up with for X number of years.

In the meantime though, Hal Steinbrenner has a job to do as well. And that’s to push forward the expansion of active rosters as quickly and forcefully as he can…

Written by Steve Contursi, Editor, Reflections On Baseball
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