The Yankees have exactly seven outfielders on their 40-man roster. The injury to Aaron Judge means only three of those players are healthy.
Heading into the 2019 season, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman would have believed seven outfielders would be more than enough to survive one season. As it turns out, that may not be enough outfielders to get his team through the month of April.
The oblique injury suffered by Aaron Judge during Saturday’s game against the Royals leaves the organization with just three healthy outfielders. Not one of the healthy trio was expected to be a starter when the season began.
Manager Aaron Boone will be forced to start Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier for the foreseeable future. Gardner and Tauchman both made the Opening Day roster, but only Gardner was projected to be an everyday starter when the regular season began. Ironically, he soundly defeated Frazier in Spring Training to win what the organization thought would be the starting job in left field.
Of course, the Spring Training injury to Aaron Hicks changed those plans immediately. He and Judge make up two of the four injured outfielders on the club’s 40-man roster. Giancarlo Stanton is arguably the injured outfielder who should return to the field first, but he continues to experience mild discomfort in his injured bicep. Despite that news, the team still hold out some hope that he’ll return during the upcoming road trip.
The last of the seven natural outfielders on the 40-man roster is Jacoby Ellsbury. At this point, it would be a surprise if he ever plays meaningful baseball for the Yankees again. He missed all of the 2018 campaign with a variety of injuries and he’s currently on the 60-day Injured List.
Add it all up and it’s a big headache for Cashman and his front office. The only other player currently on the big league roster capable of playing in the outfield is Tyler Wade. The team left him in AAA to start the year because they were unsure about his ability to handle a full-time outfield role. Wade has the athleticism to play any of the three spots, but Boone also needs him frequently in his infield rotation at the moment. Counting on him to be the team’s fourth outfielder for anything more than a week would be a major issue for the team.
That means an adjustment to the 40-man roster is likely and advisable. While Yankees fans on social media would love to see the team dump Ellsbury, that’s unlikely given all of the guaranteed money that’s left on his contract. The player cut to add an extra outfielder to the 40-man roster would almost certainly be a pitcher.
There are only two legitimate options to be designated for assignment. The obvious choice would be Jake Barrett. He was claimed off of waivers from the Pirates which required him to be immediately added to the 40-man roster. The fact that he’s relatively old (27) and still in the minors means he’s a strong candidate to be released.
There’s also an off-chance that Chance Adams could be let go. He was a bright prospect for the Yankees two seasons ago, but he’s struggling in AAA this season. The organization might decide a change of scenery is best for everyone involved.
Even if one of those pitchers is cut loose, don’t expect the Yankees to make a big trade for another outfielder. The most likely move would be to add Trey Amburgey to 40-man and big league roster at the same time. He’s currently hitting .296 in AAA and has the athleticism to play any of the three outfield spots. Amburgey isn’t going to come in and replace Judge, but he’s capable of giving Boone quality depth to work with.
It’s possible the Yankees could try to swing a minor trade for a player they like outside the organization, but finding another Tauchmanesque player would be a major strain on Cashman’s scouting department.
There are no good ramifications of the Judge injury, and the strain it will put on the Yankees front office is simply one of the negative effects the star’s oblique issue could have on the team.