It is almost Christmas time, and the Yankees biggest move thus far is trading three minor league prospects the Seattle Mariners for James Paxton. Will the modern Yankees resemble the Yankees of old and make a huge splash in the deep free agent market? If you haven’t heard, the organization successfully got payroll underneath the luxury tax for the first time since its existence thanks to managing partner Hal Steinbrenner’s mandate.
The headliners of this offseason’s free agent class are still on the market and are in search of record-breaking deals. Both Manny Machado and Bryce Harper seem to be interested in donning pinstripes for the rest of their potential Hall-of-Fame career’s. Will ownership pull the trigger and sign one of these mega-stars to bring a 28th World Series championship back home to the Bronx? Or will the Yankees stay the course and become a more frugal team than it has been in season’s past?
Let’s take a moment and review the offseason moves that general manager Brian Cashman has made thus far:
- Declined a $12.5 million club option on LF Brett Gardner’s previous contract and re-signed the South Carolina native to a one-year, $7.5 million deal
- Claimed SS Hanser Alberto off waivers from the Texas Rangers
- Signed C Ryan Lavarnway to a free agent minor league contract
- Re-signed P CC Sabathia to a one-year, $8 million contract
- Traded P Justus Sheffield, P Erik Swanson, and CF Dom Thompson-Williams to the Mariners for P James Paxton
- Traded P Jordan Foley to the Colorado Rockies for P Jefry Valdez
- Selected the contract of P Joe Harvey from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
- Claimed P Parker Bridwell off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
- Traded INF Ronald Torreyes to the Chicago Cubs for a PTBNL
- Acquired Tyler Hill from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for cash considerations
- Designated Bridwell for assignment
- Re-signed P J.A. Happ to a two-year, $34 million contract with a $17 million vesting option for 2021.
So, the biggest question is where do we go from here? Do we sign Machado and trade away Miguel Andujar? Sign a reliever (or two) and build up another super-bullpen? Do we make a blockbuster deal and package Sonny Gray with a prospect for a true big-league impact player?
In short, only Steinbrenner, Cashman and his outstanding baseball operations department know.
However, below you can enjoy reading my opinion of what should be done. The Yankees brain trust needs to continue to focus on pitching. With our five starters presumably set with Severino, Paxton, Tanaka, Happ, and Sabathia, the focus needs to be replacing the holes in the bullpen. After shoring up the bullpen, two other needs need to be filled. That would be a first-basemen and a middle infielder.
Sign Adam Ottavino
Ottavino was the Rockies most dominant reliever in 2018, posting a career-best 2.43 ERA, and 0.99 WHIP across 77.2 innings pitched. The New York native also set a record for Colorado relievers with 112 strikeouts. He has re-invented himself thanks to video and analytics and should be the Yankees top target. Ottavino is one of the game’s best relievers and comes with huge upside.
Re-sign Zach Britton
Britton came over to the Yankees on July 24, 2018, in a trade that sent three pitching prospects to the Baltimore Orioles. After being acquired, Britton returned to his once-dominant self. He posted a 2.88 ERA over 25 games. The sinker-baller is a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium and would give New York the top bullpen in the league if paired with Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Chad Green, and Ottavino.
Trade Sonny Gray for Travis Shaw
At just 28-years of age, Shaw is a perfect low-cost addition to the Yankees infield. He is arbitration eligible for the first time this year and showed incredible versatility for the Milwaukee Brewers down the stretch of their impressive playoff run last season. Shaw slashed .241/.345/.480 with 32 homers and 86 RBI in 2018. He played 53 perfect innings at first base as he committed zero errors, leading to his 1.000 fielding percentage. In fact, throughout his career, Shaw has seen 803.2 innings at first and has committed just three errors. Should the Yankees want to employ him at third, he is more than serviceable at the hot corner as well. Would be a great backup option to have should Miguel Andujar have an injury to begin the season.
Re-sign Adeiny Hechavarria
Hechavarria is coming off of a one-year, six-million-dollar deal initially signed with the Tampa Bay Rays last offseason. For that same relatively affordable price tag, the New York Yankees can add some solid depth to their Didi Gregorius-less defense until the slugger returns from the offseason Tommy John surgery. Hechavarria can flash the leather with the best of them and could potentially swing a consistent bat if he were to get the chance. The Cuban native was used as Gregorius’ replacement for a few weeks down the stretch and as a defensive replacement in the postseason for the Yankees and performed more than adequately. It is a huge plus to acquire a shortstop that way Gleyber Torres can stay and continue to work at second base, which is and will be his position down the road.
Last but not least, the final moves of the offseason should be trading Luis Cessa, and A.J. Cole in exchange for minor league prospects to revamp the farm system. The system could sure use some depth after being purged via trades and the Rule V Draft just last week in Las Vegas, Nevada.
As Robert Pimpsner said in a recent article:
“One strategy the Yankees have employed in the most recent years was to trade depth pieces for bonus pool space in the international free agent market. The other strategy is trading them for complimentary pieces at the major league level and in the upper minors…While the system is not as deep in top-talent like it was just a short time ago, it is deep in other ways. Many of the pieces in the farm system are still valuable; nothing can prove that more than the fact that the Yankees lost six prospects in the Rule 5 draft.”