Inbox: Sanchez to be on Yanks' roster in '16?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers Yankees fans' questions

Inbox: Sanchez to be on Yanks' roster in '16?

With Gary Sanchez having success in the Arizona Fall League, do you think the Yankees might consider him to be the backup catcher for next season?
-- Michael D., Madawaska, Maine

The Yankees are going to enjoy a nice problem with Sanchez, the club's No. 5 prospect, next spring, as this performance out in the desert seems to have him banging on the big league door pretty loudly. The 22-year-old got a taste of The Show in September, notching a couple of at-bats, and Sanchez even appeared on Joe Girardi's roster as the third catcher for the American League Wild Card Game against the Astros.

That's where Sanchez slots on the depth chart as the Yanks head into the offseason. Brian McCann's starting job is secure, with three years remaining on an $85 million deal, while John Ryan Murphy proved to be a capable defensive backup who can show a little pop at the plate.

The Yankees often speak about how they would rather have their prospects playing every day in the Minors instead of riding the bench in the Majors, and Sanchez seems to fall into that category. He has played just 35 games at Triple-A and, while scouts believe his all-around game is improving, there is still development work that can be done.

2017 seems more likely for a big league impact, but Sanchez's powerful bat could force the Yanks to shoehorn him into the lineup sooner at first base or DH. The strong AFL showing will garner interest as a trade asset, but after investing so much money and time into Sanchez, they may be best served to keep his promise for themselves.

What free agents do you see the Yankees interested in this offseason?
-- Robert I., Englewood, N.J.

It's a broad question, but we'll take a crack. There are pieces out there that should interest them. As we've detailed before, this doesn't promise to be one of those free-spending Yankees offseason like 2008-09 or 2013-14 -- those typically line up with years when major commitments come off the books, which they'll have next year with Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, as well as in 2017 with Alex Rodriguez and probably CC Sabathia. The Yanks' Opening Day payroll last year was $217 million, and managing general partner and co-chairperson Hal Steinbrenner has often stated that it shouldn't have to be that high to field a championship-caliber club.

That said, where should the Yankees go? Unless a trade opens a lineup spot, they seem locked in everywhere except second base, where Cashman will be looking to improve over the tandem of Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder. It's doubtful they'll re-sign Stephen Drew; Ben Zobrist is a much more appealing option, and the Yanks did talk to the A's about Zobrist in July before Oakland dealt the veteran to the Royals. Former Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy and former Dodgers second baseman Howie Kendrick also are solid ideas to explore.

On the starting-pitching front, the Yankees have seven pitchers under control for next season, but it shouldn't surprise anyone to see them dabble in the market. If the Yanks wanted to spend big, former Blue Jays lefty David Price and former Royals righty Johnny Cueto would at least come without Draft-pick compensation attached, since they were both traded midseason in 2015. Former Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen and former White Sox righty Jeff Samardzija are more reasonable expenditures and have been connected to the Yankees by various reports, but either hurler would cost a Draft pick due to being given a qualifying offer by their 2015 clubs.

If the Yankees choose to add offense by flipping Brett Gardner or Beltran to another club, former Cardinals outfielder Jason Heyward or former Padres outfielder Justin Upton would be sexy additions. More likely, bolstering the bullpen and bench will be areas they look into; of the Yanks' three free agents, lefty-mashing outfielder Chris Young is the only player they are likely to show interest in retaining.

What do you think of the Yankees adding Jordan Zimmermann to the rotation? He is only 29 years old, pitches a decent amount of innings, and has above-average statistics. Wouldn't he make sense?
-- Howard S.

Sure, I think you could make a case for former Nationals righty Zimmermann making sense for any number of teams. The Yankees' rotation could be set as currently constituted, but it's built upon some gambles, given the recent health track records of guys like Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda. Luis Severino might be the safest bet right now, and he only has 62 1/3 big league innings under his belt.

After their significant commitments to Tanaka and Sabathia, and with the big money not coming off the books until next winter, you wonder if Steinbrenner would authorize another nine-figure contract for a starting pitcher. But that's what it would take to bring in Zimmermann, who's still in a lower financial tier than the likes of Price, Cueto, former Dodgers righty Zack Greinke. There's going to be a few eye-popping numbers in this market.

Is there any chance the Yankees release A-Rod and let Beltran DH for one year? It would give them better defense and more flexibility.
-- Vaughn S., Oneida, N.Y.

Now that would be a bizarre spin to conclude A-Rod's saga, going from a historic suspension to passing Willie Mays' home run total and reaching the World Series broadcast booth in one calendar year. Doubtful, though. If the Yankees were unwilling to eat the contract when A-Rod was an unknown asset coming into this year, they're not about to bow out on the remaining $41 million coming off a year in which he exceeded expectations and was one of their best performers.

What is the ETA for Aaron Judge as a contributing player? Do scouts believe he'll make any legitimate impact before 2017?
-- Jeff L., New York

Cashman has already said that he believes Judge, the Yankees' top prospect, will be a part of the big league picture in '16, though probably not on the Opening Day roster. Judge will be very visible in big league Spring Training, and a strong showing back at Triple-A (where he struggled somewhat in 228 at-bats last year) could accelerate his timetable to the Majors.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.