Not An Indictment

The Yankess non-tendered right-handed pitcher Jose Campos and outfielder Slade Heathcott on Tuesday, thus removing them from the 40-man roster. Critics of the Yankee farm system will use the transactions as some sort of indictment on their player development program when nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Right Move

Teams non-tendering players because of injury risks is commonplace in the game and both Jose Campos [still recovering from Tommy John surgery] and Slade Heathcott [recovering from his fifth surgery since his first round selection back in 2009] certainly fall into that category. Neither player had any realistic chance of helping the big league club in 2015 as their respective estimated timetables to return to game action were [and are] still yet to be determined, and both players spent the past calendar year on the 40-man roster.

With 40-man roster spots at a premium these days, having either player spend a second full season on the roster with no hope of contribution made little sense. Releasing them now also allows the team to bring either [or both] back as minor league free agents with the opportunity of potentially placing them back on the 40-man roster next year if the production warrants such a move in sort of a 'pay for play' mode as opposed to continuing to keep them on the 40-man roster and then having to designate either of them for assignment mid-season when the opportunity to bring them back decreases exponentially.

Bad Timing [for the players]

Like most things in life, from finding that perfect job or significant other, it comes down to timing. This especially rings true for both Campos and Heathcott, two former Top Ten Yankee prospects. Their respective non-tenderings were not questioning their talent, it was about the fact that their top-shelf talent had not yet materialized from lack of development time due to injury. Placing both of them on the 40-man roster a year ago given their unique skillsets were no-brainers as was non-tendering them on Tuesday because of their unknown immediate futures while recovering from surgery.

Roster Construction

Nobody can question their respective talent. Campos [with three above average to plus pitches with command] and Heathcott [whose physical tools range from above average to plus across the board as well] were [and still are] clearly among the top talents in the farm system. However, when including the big league active roster too, both players, even when completely healthy and firing on all cylinders, are a bit redundant in the bigger picture at the current time.

Heathcott, a left-handed batter whose plus speed-plus defensive game makes him an ideal centerfield option, lags behind the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner right now on the centerfield depth chart, both of whom are also left-handed batters. Considering the Yankees already have those two established centerfield options and even a third in the recently added Mason Williams to the 40-man roster, one who has similar traits, Heathcott has become somewhat expendable in the short-term in roster management discussions.

While there is a lot of truth to the adage that 'you can never have enough pitching', Campos, a right-handed pitcher, also brings some subtle redundancy in the grand scheme of things too. The successful ascension of right-handed pitcher Shane Greene to the big leagues last year and fellow flame-throwing righty Bryan Mitchell at season's end gives the Yankees two young, power right-handers ready to step in grab some innings if need be. While Campos would fit the bill as a third option with [again] similar traits, the need for a full season back after Tommy John surgery made that scenario nearly impossible for 2015.

Byproduct of Depth

In past years when the farm system wasn't as deep it probably would have been easier to stash two high-ceiling players like Campos and Heathcott on the 40-man roster, even for a second year, but as the higher end talent begins to filter up towards the big leagues it makes that proposition a tough one.

The Yankees had to spend 40-man roster spots on the likes of Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, Danny Burawa, and Branden Pinder this offseason already, and with the likes of relievers Jacob Lindgren, Nick Rumbelow, and Tyler Webb closing in on being big league ready at some point this coming season, and other high-end position prospects like Greg Bird, Aaron Judge, and Eric Jagielo set for at least Double-A in 2015, and that's not even counting positions that still have to filled on the big league roster for next season, it was just a matter of time before the inevitable happened had Campos and Heathcott remained on the 40-man during what essentially would be rehab seasons -- an eventual DFA during the season.

This might be the first time in a long time the Yankees have had to non-tender two high-end prospects like Campos and Heathcott but with the increasing minor league talent beginning to pile up at the higher minor league levels for the Yankees it might not be the last time. The lesson from Tuesday's moves is simple: those following Campos and Heathcott in the ensuing years better be healthy when their 40-man roster time comes.


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