Yankees roster move faces crucial test as Aaron Judge returns

Aaron Judge is set to return to the Yankees lineup.

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Aaron Judge is coming back to the Yankees, and this is a piece of big news for everyone who adores the Bronx Bombers. When the Yankees bring back the power hitter from the injured list on Tuesday, a spot will open up on the roster. This calls for a hard decision by the team over who should they replace.

But Aaron Judge’s comeback from a hip strain on Monday was delayed due to a roster technicality involving  Franchy Cordero‘s roster place, giving the Yankees an extra day to figure out who will be released in order to make room for the reigning MVP.

Yankees roster move

Manager Aaron Boone responded to questions about Aaron Judge’s impending return to the Yankees lineup with the simple phrase, “MVP’s back.”

The Yankees trounced the A’s on Monday, and after the game, they optioned lefty Nick Ramirez to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. After pitching two innings against the Athletics on Monday night, the pitcher returned to Triple-A. Since a team can have 14 batters and 12 pitchers, the Yankees may be able to add Aaron Judge without making any other roster adjustments.

The Yankees may want to replace Ramirez with another pitcher, but they are limited to a maximum of 13. The next two games are set to begin with Jhony Brito and Clarke Schmidt on the mound, and both of them have struggled with pitching deep into games.

The Yankees' dugout at Tropicana Field on May 7, 2023.

Other possible replacements for Ramirez on the bench are Cabrera, Peraza, Calhoun, Hicks, and Bauers. Since Peraza has been sidelined since he rolled his ankle on May 3, the most straightforward solution would be to make a comparable roster transfer involving him.

But Boone described Peraza as “day to day,” and the manager used him in a pinch in the last game. The Yankees have been getting solid at-bats from Calhoun recently, and they see promise in Bauers’ altered swing mechanics. It’s unlikely that any of these three players would be released very soon (especially because Hicks still has three years left on his contract). Still, the Yankees may consider the following five players to option off if they want to bring back a pitcher.

Oswald Peraza

Oswald Peraza is out with a sprained ankle as a result and has not been able to play since then. He has solid skills at shortstop, second base, and third base. But even before the injury, he wasn’t getting enough playing time. And now, the team is currently debating whether to send him to Triple-A or put him on the injured list. The team is also trying not to rush him back too soon, but will he make the cut when he’s healthy?

oswald-peraza-new-york-yankees
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“He’s moving pretty well,” Boone stated. “[Sunday] I had him [available] in a hitting situation only. He’s been day-to-day, but we also don’t want to jeopardize him at all or put him in a bad spot.”

Aaron Hicks

On Monday, Hicks got his first home run since September 23, 2022. He has gone 0 for 13 in the Bronx without getting on base due to a hit.

Hicks’s home run in the eighth inning put New York up by five runs. His first extra-base hit at Yankee Stadium came on the previous day. It was a welcome change for Hicks, who is among the worst hitters in baseball’s history. Hicks entered Monday with the second-worst wRC+ (behind only White Sox’s Lenyn Sosa) among players with at least 60 PA this season.

On May 8, 2023, at Yankee Stadium against Oakland, Aaron Hicks of the Yankees hit his first home run of the season.
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The Yankees will surely reconsider any decision to designate him as long as possible because of his seven-year, $70 million contract that goes through 2025.

“This is just the situation I’m in right now,” Hicks told. “I want to help this team win. I want a bigger role, but at the same time, I have to earn it. I have to take advantage of the opportunities I have, especially with runners in scoring position. I feel good from both sides of the plate, but it’s time to start producing.”

Oswaldo Cabrera

After blasting a home run against the Oakland Athletics on Monday, Cabrera revealed that the moment held special significance for him. Prior to joining the Yankees as an outfielder in 2018, Cabrera played on New York’s A ball affiliate team in Charleston alongside A’s starting pitcher JP Sears.

Despite his recent home run, Cabrera has struggled at the plate this season, as evidenced by his .489 OPS and 38 wRC+, which indicate he’s performing 62 percent worse than the average major league hitter. Dillon Lawson, the hitting coordinator for the Yankees, disclosed that Cabrera would meet with the coaching staff to discuss his struggles at the plate.

Oswaldo Cabrera of the Yankees is celebrating after a home run against the Athletics on May 8, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.
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Lawson explained that the team has been working with Cabrera to improve his load and launch position prior to his swing so that he is in a better position at the point of contact, thereby allowing him to generate a more accurate ball flight. Before Monday’s game, Cabrera’s ground ball rate was 50.6 percent and his fly ball rate was 38 percent, both of which were substantially below the league average.

Rookie Cabrera has some serious infield/outfield skills. But will the team keep him around for his versatility, or are they gonna cut him loose because of his lackluster hitting? 

Willie Calhoun

As of Monday, Willie Calhoun was batting .323 with two home runs and three strikeouts in his last ten games dating back to April 25. Until Giancarlo Stanton returns from his injury and takes over at DH, he may be safe with that bat.

Jake Bauers

Being able to play either corner of the outfield is a real plus for Jake Bauers. But let’s be honest; his batting average is terrible. He only got one hit in ten at-bats, but luckily it was a home run. Obviously, that’s not exactly a batting average to brag about. Even worse, he has no more opportunities to show his worth in the minors. 

Even with Judge healthy and in the lineup, the Yankees’ offense has been abysmal. However, if their best hitter returns to the lineup, they may be able to achieve more success than they did when they relied on Hicks, Cabrera, Calhoun, or Bauers.

The Yankees’ roster situation will become more interesting when Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton return from injury, and the Yankees’ front office will need to make difficult decisions. However, these decisions may not come until later than Tuesday.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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