3 Yankees who will make the 2024 Opening Day roster but won’t last the season

The roster bubble never firms up.

Arizona Diamondbacks v New York Yankees / Adam Hunger/GettyImages

The New York Yankees have what looks like a five-man rotation, what seems like a bullpen, and what feels like a bench locked down well before Opening Day, but there are still plenty of decisions to be made by the end of March.

Decisions which must then be made again, over and over, throughout the course of the season until the roster settles in the wake of the trade deadline.

As Aaron Judge noted at Tuesday’s press conference, the one thing you can always count on from the Yankees is constant searching with an insatiable desire to tinker (except, for some reason, at 2023’s Keynan Middleton deadline).

Even prior to Opening Day, it still feels fair to expect the Yankees to keep sniffing around the game’s available pitchers; whether they land a Snell-like big fish or an Edward Cabrera-type trade asset is a different matter entirely, but they have no desire to give up the fight.

The 2024 Yankees won’t be a finished product — “pencils down,” in Brian Cashman parlance — until they’ve concocted a playoff roster. Expect these three players to head north for Opening Day, but be out of the picture by midsummer.

3 Yankees who’ll make Opening Day roster, but won’t last 2024 season

Oswald Peraza

Entering a win-now 2024 season (aren’t they all, though?), the Yankees can’t in good conscience trade Gleyber Torres and hand his second base job to Oswald Peraza.

(WARNING: UNFAIR, BUT INCREASINGLY FAIR, ASSESSMENT TO FOLLOW) Peraza has received 248 scattered plate appearances across the past two seasons, and has rarely resembled a player befitting of top-100 prospect pedigree (except with the glove, briefly, towards the end of 2022).

In 52 games in 2023, Peraza subtracted 0.7 bWAR, hitting .191 with a 49 OPS+, numbers so silently poor they were obscured by the team’s myriad other, more glaring issues. It’s possible that Peraza, with nothing left to prove at Triple-A this year, earns an Opening Day bench spot and is miscast in the role. It’s possible he requires daily reps for his development, allowing him to reach his far-off peak. But those daily reps cannot come with the first-half 2024 Yankees. Either he clicks as a bench piece and stays, clicks as a bench piece and boosts his trade value, or scuffles further and gets demoted into oblivion.

Sadly, we’re betting on either one of the latter two options. Theoretically, he could be a 2025 starter if he could hang on for the full season. But it’s tough to imagine what he could do from the bench that would make him a satisfactory portion of next year’s starting lineup for a fan base that demands excellence across the board.

Nick Ramirez

Ramirez is a warm blanket. A warm blanket who, as Mike Harkey sarcastically mentioned in Tommy Kahnle’s mic’d up segment this week, “has like 12 options” despite being the oldest arm in the bullpen mix.

When considering which players will be tasked with covering bulk bullpen innings early in the wake of the first inevitable injury wave, Ramirez feels like the safest bet to be tapped. He was surprisingly effective last season, filling Lucas Luetge’s low-leverage role with aplomb over the course of 40 2/3 innings (0.9 bWAR, 2.66 ERA).

Unfortunately, “low leverage” is all he’s meant for, and the left-hander turns 35 in August. Ramirez got better in the second half of 2023, posting a 1.93 ERA in 18 2/3 innings, which worked nicely in concert with his 3.27 mark in the first half. As the Yankees’ season dragged on, though … everything became low leverage while the team cratered. Ramirez finished the year with a 12.00 ERA in four total save situations. That’s not his fault. That’s not how he should be used.

It would be completely logical for Ramirez to be counted on to soak up first-half innings, but odds are the team will have upgraded his spot by midseason — or fallen off course en route to another 2023-esque soft landing.

Oswaldo Cabrera

Another possible Swiss Army knife, another bench spot that must be properly utilized if the 2024 Yankees are going to hit their peak.

Injuries will happen. Bench players will find the spotlight. Fourth-stringers will become inexplicably crucial for a team with a $300+ million payroll. Would you rather Oswaldo Cabrera be pressed into duty, or Adam Duvall, who’s still yet to sign a big-league contract (Twilight Zone)?

In order to hold onto their roster spots in this particular free agent climate, with so many viable, experienced big-leaguers still on the shelf (Tommy Pham?!), players like Cabrera will not only have to prove that they can cover multiple positions, but that they can do so ably.

In 2022, Cabrera was a revelation, a spark plug who helped carry the Yankees out of their August doldrums and into the postseason, where he stunted on the Cleveland Guardians (and also ran into Aaron Hicks, and also swung-and-missed a ton outside of that one home run). It’s now on Cabrera’s shoulders to prove that 2022’s second half wasn’t a fluke, after a fleet of negatives carried over from the postseason. He was mostly limp in 2023, subtracting an astonishing 1.5 bWAR from the Yankees’ pursuits.

Given how many things went catastrophically wrong for the 2023 Yankees, it really would be pretty tough for the 2024 roster to be much worse. Cabrera stands out among those with the most to prove. Does he have something special, or can a more experienced face do his job better after being signed off the scrap heap in mid-April?

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