The Pittsburgh Pirates removed Tyler Yates from the 40-man roster today, with Yates electing free agency rather than being designated for assignment. Yates had Tommy John surgery in July, and will likely miss most of the 2010 season due to the recovery process. Yates was on the 60-day DL, do he didn’t count towards the 40-man roster, which currently has 38 members.
The Pirates plan to offer Yates a minor league contract in 2010, according to Dejan Kovacevic
. That’s pretty much what Yates will be limited to, as he won’t be able to play until July 2010 at the earliest, and probably won’t be able to make it back to the majors until late August or early September.
While the Pirates have two open spots on the 40-man roster, Evan Meek and Jose Ascanio are both on the 60-day DL, and don’t count towards the 40-man roster. This means the Pirates need to remove more players if they want to protect people like Brad Lincoln and Gorkys Hernandez from the Rule 5 draft in December. The deadline to set the 40-man roster is November 20th.
UPDATE: Just in case anyone is wondering why the Pirates would bring back Yates:
If Yates were signed as a minor league free agent, he wouldn’t take up a roster spot. Since he’s no longer on the 40-man roster, the Pirates could keep him in the minors, and place him on the minor league disabled list until he’s ready to return. A pitcher on the major league DL must return no later than 30 days after his rehab assignment begins. If Yates were on the 40-man, he would have to return 30-days after being cleared to pitch. As a minor league free agent, he could stay in the minors and rehab longer.
So the only roster spot that would be taken up would be a spot at AAA between the time Yates signs, and the start of the season when the Pirates place him on the DL. This means the Pirates would have to wait to sign a Bobby Livingston type reliever to fill in at AAA.
As for the future, you may ask “why can’t they just sign him in 2011″? Yates will probably miss the entire 2010 season. Tim Hudson had Tommy John surgery in early August 2008 and returned to the majors in September 2009, although it would be optimistic to expect that from Yates. It’s likely that he will be able to return to the majors by September 2010.
If the Pirates signed him to a minor league deal, they could bring him up to the majors as a September call-up, thus purchasing his contract, similar to what they did with Chris Bootcheck this year. Since Yates would spend the majority of the season off of the 40-man roster, he wouldn’t accumulate any major league service time, leaving him close to five years. That would give the Pirates control of Yates for his final year of arbitration going in to the 2011 season. If they waited until the 2010 off-season to sign him, another team would have the option of doing what I just described. Signing Yates gives the Pirates the option incase he returns and has success.
As for the cost, it would probably be minimal for Yates in 2010, since he likely won’t play until August rolls around. A player in arbitration can’t receive less than 80% of his previous year’s salary, or 70% of his salary from two seasons ago, which means Yates can’t receive less than $910,000 in 2011 if offered arbitration (his $1.3 M 2009 salary x 70%).
In short, if the Pirates signed Yates as a minor league free agent, they would be getting the option to check him out in the final months of the season, and the chance at controlling his final arbitration year, which would be as low as $910,000, and most likely would be a pay-cut from the $1.3 M he received in 2009.