The countdown is on.
Today marks 13 days until Yankees pitchers and catchers report to Tampa for spring training and 17 days until their first full-squad workout — with those participating in the World Baseball Classic arriving even sooner.
That means position battles soon will be underway to determine which 26 players the Yankees bring north for Opening Day against the Giants on March 30 in The Bronx.
Though potential injuries in camp could throw a wrench into the Yankees’ best-laid plans — and the possibility of a trade or late free-agent signing still looms — here is our first projection of the 26-man roster before they enter spring training.
Rotation (5): Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, Luis Severino, Nestor Cortes, Domingo German
With Frankie Montas set to open the season on the IL and miss the first month of games due to right shoulder inflammation, the Yankees will have the fifth starter spot up for grabs. Most signs point to German taking it. The 30-year-old right-hander made 14 starts last year, posting a respectable 3.61 ERA. Clarke Schmidt is the Yankees’ other starting option, but the Yankees mostly used him in a bullpen role last year and, unlike German, he has a minor league option remaining, which works to his detriment in this case.
Bullpen (8): Clay Holmes, Michael King, Wandy Peralta, Jonathan Loaisiga, Tommy Kahnle, Ron Marinaccio, Lou Trivino, Albert Abreu
GM Brian Cashman said in November he felt good about Holmes being the Yankees’ closer, and did not make any moves this offseason that would change that plan. Kahnle was the only outside addition, and he joins a strong group when it is healthy. The Yankees hope to have King out of the gates after he broke his elbow last July. The valuable right-hander already is throwing off a mound.
If King remains on track to be ready for Opening Day, there figures to be only one bullpen spot available. We went with Abreu for now because he is out of minor league options, but don’t overlook Greg Weissert for that spot if the Yankees believe he makes them better. Jimmy Cordero also could be in the mix, as could Schmidt — though he likely is more valuable staying stretched out as a starter at Triple-A.
Catchers (2): Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka
The Yankees didn’t acquire Trevino until the final days of camp last year — throwing all roster projections into the trash — but now he enters this spring as the incumbent starter. He and Higashioka form a quality tandem, especially after Higashioka heated up in the second half last season at the same time that Trevino was cooling off. Ben Rortvedt will provide depth as a third catcher if injuries arise, but it would be a surprise if he showed enough in camp to make it any kind of a roster battle.
Infield (6): Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, Oswald Peraza, Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Gleyber Torres
This might be the most interesting group because of the shortstop battle, LeMahieu’s health and the possibility of a Torres trade — all of which are at least somewhat intertwined. Kiner-Falefa, Peraza and Anthony Volpe will compete against each other for the starting shortstop job. Peraza would seem to have the upper hand over Volpe going in because of his solid September cameo last season, but he will have to prove he is ready for the full-time gig, which could shift Kiner-Falefa to a bench/utility role.
Hitting coach Dillon Lawson told The Post’s Dan Martin last week that LeMahieu looks healthy after missing the end of last season due to a fractured foot. All eyes will be on his every movement in camp as the Yankees try to determine how much of a workload he can carry at second base, plus third base and first base when needed.
The Yankees have publicly supported Donaldson after he had a rough 2022 at the plate, though his contract ($27 million left) makes him tough to trade. That’s different from Torres, who will make $9.95 million in his second year of arbitration and could be on the move at some point if the Yankees feel comfortable with their infield depth without him and can find the right return.
For now, we’ll keep Torres on the roster, just because the Yankees would need a clean bill of health for the rest of their infield for Torres to become expendable. That might be wishful thinking.
Outfield (4): Aaron Judge, Harrison Bader, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton
Judge, on his new $360 million contract, and Bader are locks in right field and center field, respectively, while Stanton will be mostly a DH with occasional outfield cameos. Left field is much more uncertain, though Hicks may have to be the answer, at least for now, as the Yankees hope for a bounce-back year for him. If he doesn’t show signs of that in spring, it’s possible Oswaldo Cabrera could emerge as the starting left fielder instead, though Cabrera might be more valuable in a versatile role.
Meanwhile, this could be Estevan Florial’s last chance to stake his claim to the job. He is still only 25 and had one of the best years of his minor league career last season, but has not been able to translate that talent in limited major league appearances and he is out of minor league options. If he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he could be on the move.
Utility (1): Oswaldo Cabrera
Cabrera emerged as a valuable piece late last season after being called up from Triple-A, playing six different positions and showing some pop at the plate. That’s probably the best version of him for the Yankees, as a player whom manager Aaron Boone can move around the field on any given day to spell others.
So what might an Opening Day lineup look like with this roster? Here’s one man’s guess:
1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
2. Aaron Judge, RF
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
5. Josh Donaldson, 3B
6. Aaron Hicks, LF
7. Harrison Bader, CF
8. Jose Trevino, C
9. Oswald Peraza, SS
Who could trade for Torres?
One of the reasons why we left Torres in this roster projection is because two of the teams that seemed to be the most logical landing spots for him entering the offseason have since traded for other second basemen. The Mariners acquired Kolten Wong from the Brewers in early December, and in January, the Marlins landed Luis Arraez from the Twins.
Who does that leave as a suitor for Torres?
The White Sox still could use a second baseman. They are set to enter camp with Leury Garcia, Romy Gonzalez or Lenyn Sosa at the position. But on the surface, they’re not exactly a great trade partner for the Yankees, who could use a left fielder. The White Sox’s projected outfield is the newly signed Andrew Benintendi (whom the Yankees tried to sign, just not at the five years he got), Luis Robert and Gavin Sheets. Outfielder Oscar Colas is one of the White Sox’s top prospects, but it’s hard to see them giving him up unless the Yankees added more than Torres.
Otherwise, would the White Sox be willing to part with left-handed reliever Garrrett Crochet, who is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready to start the season?
One other possibility, which may be a long shot, would be including Torres in a trade for Pirates outfielder Bryan Reynolds. To be clear, though, it would take much more than Torres — likely adding at least two high-end prospects — to get a deal done.
Chili for brunch?
You can mark your calendar for the Yankees’ Sunday morning game this year on Peacock. At 11:35 a.m. (ET) on May 21, the Yankees will play the Reds at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, part of the “MLB Sunday Leadoff” schedule that was announced this week.