For all 75 New York Yankee players at spring training, cuts are coming as the team whittles down to just 26 roster players. As many as 75 of them have one thing in common they hope to make the club, but the reality is that most of them won’t and face an uncertain future. Some clubs have starting cutting players already; the Yankees have not. Manager Aaron Boone said he wasn’t sure how cuts would work, although the club runs a parallel spring camp with some pitchers off-site at the player development complex.
The dreaded cut has changed over the years; back in the day, a player would return to his locker and find a red tag on it. That was the unceremonial way they found out; they cleaned out their locker and left. Today the cut method is far less harsh. You might get a tap on the shoulder and be escorted into the manager’s office. There would likely be a coach or two present. Besides being cut, they are often instructed what skills to continue to develop. But the result is the same, here one day and gone the next. That’s almost 50 closed-door meetings, 50 reassuring conversations, 50 sets of marching orders, often with the feel of an old Alfred Hitchcock movie.
If it’s a Major Leaguer that is being cut, it’s a bit more complicated. GM Brian Cashman or assistant GM Jean Afterman would also be in on the meeting to answer questions and take abuse from the exiting player. Aside from wanting to make the team, players also want to delay being cut as long as possible. While in spring training, as long as they stay in major-league camp, they receive major-league meal allowances. For 2021, a New York Yankee player who doesn’t make his year-round home in the Tampa metroplex is entitled to a weekly allowance of $345.50, a supplemental weekly allowance of $61.50, a daily room allowance of $40, and a daily meal and tip allowance of $98. These may not be the exact amounts but are representative as each team is a bit different.
One oddity of the cut season is that players often can’t be found; they may be hiding, in the parking lot, or just not around. But they will be found. Some may be elusive on Mondays because that’s when many cuts are made to avoid another week’s stipend. For some players reassigned, there will be no place to go. Minor-league camps won’t open until April 1, after the major-league club departs to open the season.
Some players that are cut will be assigned to alternate sites; some will be cut with nowhere to go or will join the unemployment line. But there will be valid reasons for teams to reassign or option players in the coming days. One example: Players who are optioned on or before March 16 can continue to participate in exhibition games until the end of the spring. But if they haven’t been optioned by that date and sustain a disabling injury in an exhibition, teams would be forced to place them on the major-league injured list; and pay them a major-league salary.
As difficult as this is for managers, there is a flipside. They also get to hand out the good news to players, getting to tell a Double or Triple-A player that his dream has come true, and he would be able to stand on that chalk line on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium.