Friday, November 21, 2014

Yankees protect Mason Williams; further roster decisions loom

The New York Yankees added Tyler Austin, Danny Burawa, Branden Pinder and Mason Williams to their 40-man roster Thursday eliminating the chance of them being selected in the Rule 5 draft to be held at the upcoming Winter Meetings.

Austin seemed to have the best chance of being protected in his first season eligible for the Rule 5 draft, and the selection of power arms in Burawa and Pinder was not entirely surprising. It seemed like the Yankees had a decision to wrestle with in Williams which I discussed earlier this week.

Williams, 23, has underperformed across two straight seasons after being thought of as a top prospect in the organization and across baseball prior to the 2013 season. He had a DUI arrest in 2013, and then showed up to spring training last season out of shape.

The Yankees obviously feel that due to his age, and natural talents, he has the ability to turn things around. The other possibility is that he’s been brought up in discussions with other teams in trade talks, or it’s a combination of the two.

Williams seems to understand the magnitude of the Yankees’ decision tweeting this morning that he feels fortunate to be protected from the Rule 5 draft.

The Yankees now have nine outfielders on the 40-man roster and 39 players in total. The Yankees will have their fair share of decisions along the way as they will add at least a shortstop, a third baseman, a closer (or high-end reliever) and potentially two starting pitchers before spring training.

In my view the likelihood of Williams surviving all of that is minimal unless the Yankees move another outfielder currently on the 40-man roster. Of the nine outfielders, it would seem to me that Williams ranks last among them though it could be argued that Slade Heathcott might occupy that spot.

The Yankees have several pitchers currently on the roster who might be removed before they have to worry about cutting outfielders. In my view those players include David Huff and Esmil Rogers who could be non-tendered, as well as Preston Claiborne who could be designated for assignment depending on how the negotiations go with David Robertson, and the possible addition of any other relievers from the free agent or trade market.

No matter which way you cut it there will be plenty of additional changes to the roster before players arrive in Tampa mid-February.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.