Yankees’ 3 burning roster questions: Trade likely as Opening Day nears


MEXICO CITY — Aaron Boone reclined in an office chair in the visiting clubhouse. He was noticeably tired. A lot had been going on, even for the manager of the New York Yankees.

The night before, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim attended a team party at its swanky hotel, intended to keep players there so they didn’t risk their safety roaming the neighborhood. There was a mariachi band and loads of tacos. In just a few hours, the Yankees would face the Diablos Rojos in the final game of its series at Estadio Alfredo Harp Helú, where the altitude had been leaving some players and coaches short of breath. In three days, they will open their season against the Astros in Houston.

On top of it all, Boone had to coordinate with general manager Brian Cashman and the rest of the club’s braintrust back in Tampa. Roster moves were coming. What’s next was anybody’s guess.

”The final iteration isn’t done,” Boone said, referring to his roster. “We’ll see.”

Here are the three biggest questions:

Is a trade coming?

With DJ LeMahieu (right foot bone bruise) beginning the season on the injured list, Oswaldo Cabrera is slated to be the team’s starting third baseman, Boone said. But the manager said the club could make a move to change that. While the Yankees like Cabrera, they appreciate his ability to play multiple positions and his energy. Last season, Cabrera was given the starting job in left field and he hit just .211 with five homers and 29 RBIs and a 58 OPS+ — or production 42 percent lower than league average.

”We’ll see what the days will bring,” Boone said.

It’s unclear whom they could bring in externally at this point. Teams across the league are also in the process of finalizing their Opening Day rosters. Perhaps the Yankees could target ex-Yankee Gio Urshela, who signed in the offseason with the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees had interest in Urshela before he joined Detroit, and before LeMahieu and infielder Oswald Peraza (shoulder strain) were injured. Two-time All-Star Josh Harrison opted out of his deal with the Cincinnati Reds in mid-March, but he hasn’t hit well in years. It’s likely that the Yankees would aim for a third-base holdover with the ability to play elsewhere until LeMahieu returns rather than looking to make a splash at the position.

Three catchers? Really?

Jose Trevino and Austin Wells will both be on the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. Boone said that there’s a chance the club could try to keep catcher Ben Rortvedt, too. Rortvedt, a light-hitting defensive specialist, is out of minor-league options, and the Yankees could try to sneak him through waivers the day after the season opener — a move they pulled successfully with outfielder Estevan Florian last year.

More likely, they’re listening to a trade for Rortvedt, who caught often in the majors the final two months of the season in 2023 with Trevino on the injured list. He became Gerrit Cole’s primary catcher en route to the ace capturing his first American League Cy Young Award. The Yankees also have five catchers on their 40-man roster. The Yankees might be able to bring in capable third base help in exchange for Rortvedt and push Cabrera to a bench utility role.

Who else is on the bench, anyway?

Currently, the Yankees’ bench projects to consist of outfielder Trent Grisham and whoever isn’t playing that day out of Trevino and Wells. Boone said second baseman/left fielder Jahmai Jones is still in the mix for a spot.

On Monday, the Yankees demoted shortstop Kevin Smith, outfielders Oscar Gonzalez and Greg Allen, utility man Jose Rojas and reliever Dennis Santana.

As it stands, Jones and Rortvedt could in theory be the final pieces of the Yankees’ four-man bench. But it would be difficult to believe they would go into the season without a backup infielder and with a trio of catchers.

The Yankees are no stranger to late-spring deals. Last year, late in camp, they signed outfielder Franchy Cordero and acquired reliever Colton Brewer from the Tampa Bay Rays.

It’s likely the Yankees aren’t done with their roster yet.

(Photo of Cabrera fielding in a spring training game: Charlie Neibergall / Associated Press)

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