If MLB brings back the regular season with a shortened spring training, it could mean expanding rosters big-time — at least for the first, say, month of the season — to prevent injuries, especially to pitchers.
In 2020, teams were set to start the year with 26 players, one more than in previous seasons. The number could push upward of 30, if the league wants to be extra careful.
That would mean several Yankees who were on the bubble would have much better chances at making the team. And, yes, we’re aware of Thursday night’s roster moves: righty Deivi Garcia was sent to Double-A Trenton while righties Ben Heller and Michael King and utility man Thairo Estrada were sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. They could still get called up.
Here are eight players who would benefit from expanded rosters:
Mike Ford, 1B
The Yankees didn’t necessarily need a backup first baseman. Not with DJ LeMahieu capable of filling in behind starter Luke Voit and Miguel Andujar perhaps being able to fill in occasionally. But adding Ford gives manager Aaron Boone an experienced option and a lefty bat off the bench — two big pluses.
Clint Frazier, OF
At this rate, it looks like Aaron Judge (cracked rib) and Giancarlo Stanton (right calf strain) will probably have enough time to heal before Opening Day. With both of them set to start the season on the injured list (if Opening Day wasn’t moved from March 26), Frazier was slated to be the starting right fielder. With expanded rosters, Frazier could stick around as a reserve outfielder with Mike Tauchman. (Tauchman might very well be the everyday left fielder, by the way, if Stanton can’t play the field regularly.)
Thairo Estrada, UTL
Tyler Wade seemed the lock for the utility job. Estrada is almost as versatile as Wade and could be a pinch running option.
Jonathan Loaisiga, RHP
Loaisiga probably had the fifth starter’s job locked up — he’d pitched that well in spring training. But say starting pitcher James Paxton (lower back surgery) can be healthy for when the season restarts. What would that mean for Loaisiga? Probably a bullpen role. He’d definitely get one with expanded rosters.
Ben Heller, RHP
Heller was probably among the relievers on the cusp of making the big-league roster, but likely destined for Triple-A. As long as he’s healthy, he’d be worth an extra bullpen spot.
Michael King, RHP
The Yankees likely wouldn’t hate having an extra long man/emergency starter option around. King could soak up innings. He made his big-league debut last year and was in the mix for the fifth starter’s job this spring. Helps that he’s on the 40-man roster, like Heller and Loaisiga.
Tyler Lyons, LHP
Veteran, left-handed and pitched well at points for the Yankees last year. Let’s emphasize that he’s left-handed.
Brooks Kriskie, RHP
Another arm on the 40-man roster at a time when pitching depth would be important, following an (almost definitely) abridged spring training.