When the Yankees made the acquisition of Marcus Stroman official, they designated Oscar Gonzalez for assignment to clear space off of their 40-man roster. The 25-year-old outfielder was claimed by the Yankees earlier in the winter from the Cleveland Guardians, however when he was placed on waivers by the Yankees, no team chose to give him a spot on their 40-man roster. He’ll remain in the organization, going to Scranton with the Triple-A team, but he’s not the only recently DFA’d player who the Yankees had clear through waivers.
Jeter Downs, an infielder who spent last season with the Washington Nationals organization, was designated for assignment when the team made a roster claim on former prospect Diego Castillo and has also cleared waivers according to the team.
Yankees Maintain Position Player Depth in Triple-A
The Yankees were able to keep both prospects they placed on waivers, which is important given the myriad of injuries they’ve suffered over the past few seasons. Jeter Downs was involved in the blockbuster deal between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox which saw future Hall of Fame outfielder Mookie Betts head over to the West Coast. He hasn’t found much success at the Major League level, sporting a career 46 wRC+ across 20 games in the big leagues.
He played six games for the Washington Nationals in the Majors this past season but spent most of the season in Triple-A, where he didn’t succeed at the dish. Downs slashed .236/.358/.379 for a 91 wRC+ across 51 games, hitting three home runs and even playing some centerfield for the first time in his career. It’s unclear whether he’ll continue to play the outfield, with the Yankees, but he has plenty of experience in the infield at second base, shortstop, and third base.
Once a playoff hero for the Cleveland Guardians, Oscar Gonzalez struggled mightily at the plate in 2023, as he struck out just 25.6% of the time and posted an ugly -1.5 fWAR. He was brilliant in 2022 when he put up a 125 wRC+ and hit 11 home runs in 91 games, but he’s seemingly lost his groove at the plate. The 26-year-old outfielder doesn’t present much defensive value, which is likely why he didn’t get claimed by a team since his value relies heavily on his ability to hit.
It’s still a flier worth taking for the Yankees, especially since now he isn’t taking up a spot on the 40-man roster, and he can get an extended stretch in Scranton where the team can see if they can work out his struggles at the plate. The power tool is enticing and he’s got strong sprint speed numbers that would suggest he can hold his own on the basepaths. Swing decisions will be a big point of emphasis if he were to improve, as he’s extremely aggressive at the plate.
Bubba Thompson, who the Yankees claimed and eventually DFA’d this winter, was picked up by the Minnesota Twins, as he once again finds himself with a new organization. The speedy outfielder ranked in the 100th Percentile in sprint speed, as he’s got incredible athletic tools that have allowed him to be a strong defensive outfielder as well. His lack of a bat has made it hard for teams to consistently roster him, as even in Triple-A he put up just an 82 wRC+.
The roster movement isn’t an indicator of any moves on the horizon, but their rumored interest in a reunion with either Keynan Middleton or Wandy Peralta could indicate that they may have to make another move on their 40-man soon.