Checking Off the Yankees’ Hot Stove Shopping List
Fans have gotten nearly everything they could have hoped for, but there are still a couple of items left on the New York Yankees’ wish list.
Following their Game Seven elimination in the American League Championship Series, the Yankees had a number of important roster questions heading into the offseason. It’s only Christmas Eve, yet most of these needs have already been satisfied.
Masahiro Tanaka signed a seven-year contract with New York prior to the 2014 season. He has more than proven his worth, having emerged as one of the top starters in the league.
Tanaka’s 2017 campaign was marred by inconsistency. At one point early in the year, he actually had the worst ERA in the AL. But he rebounded strongly in the second half, hitting a number of high points along the way.
His April complete game shutout at Fenway Park was perhaps the best outing of his career. Later in the season against Oakland, Tanaka set a career high with 13 strikeouts. He subsequently topped that with a 14-strikeout effort and then hit 15 in his final regular season start.
It was in the playoffs that Tanaka really excelled. His seven shutout innings prevented the Yankees from being swept out of the Division Series against Cleveland. He duplicated the feat a week later against Houston when his Game Five victory in the ALCS put the Yankees one win away from their 41st appearance in the Fall Classic. Overall, Tanaka gave up a total of only two runs in three postseason starts against a pair of the best hitting teams in baseball.
The Yankees’ biggest hot stove question was answered immediately following the World Series when Tanaka announced that he would not be exercising the opt-out clause in his contract. The 29-year-old will instead remain in pinstripes.
More recently, CC Sabathia agreed to return on a team-friendly $10 million one-year deal. The veteran lefty has been a member of the Yankees for nine years, having helped the team win it’s 27th World Series title in 2009.
Sabathia had other suitors, but he took a $15 million pay cut to remain in pinstripes. He cited “unfinished business” as his prime motivation for staying. Sabathia wants to help the Yankees win another championship.
He was 14-5 for the club last season. As with Tanaka, CC came up big when the team needed it most. Sabathia was 10-1 in games following a New York loss. The lone defeat came in Game Seven of the LCS in Houston. CC had been the undisputed leader of the pitching staff, and he also inherited the mantle of de facto team captain following A-Rod’s release the previous year.
The hot stove would have been an entirely different process for the Yankees if they had been forced to replace a pair of starters of Tanaka and Sabathia’s caliber. I’m not even sure that they would have been replaceable, given their proven ability to consistently perform at their best in high-pressure situations.
Although they came up short in their bid to sign two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani, the Yankees landed the biggest fish of all when they acquired NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton from Miami for second baseman Starlin Castro and a pair of low-level prospects.
New York needed a veteran power bat to complement the emerging Baby Bombers. The 28-year-old Stanton is still in his prime years of production. Yet, as a ten-year veteran, he brings ample experience and a solid track record to the Bronx.
Last season, Stanton belted 59 homers, becoming only the third player outside of the steroids era to hit that mark in a season. Fittingly, the other two, Roger Maris and Babe Ruth, were both Yankees. Stanton’s union with Aaron Judge marks only the fourth time in baseball history that the defending home run champs from both leagues will play for the same team.
Judge and Stanton both play right field. Along with breakout performer Aaron Hicks, veterans Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, and top prospect Clint Frazier, the Yankees have an embarrassment of riches in the outfield. They need Stanton’s bat, though. The designated hitter slot had been a black hole for most of the 2017 season, which was especially evident during the playoffs. New Yankees manager Aaron Boone will an array of weapons to choose from to fill the outfield and DH spots on a nightly basis.
Stanton was a four-time All-Star and received MVP votes four times, including a second-place finish in 2014. He and Judge both won the Silver Slugger Award last season, while Judge was a Gold Glove finalist.
The organization has a stated goal of getting under the $197 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold for 2018. In addition to dealing Castro to the Marlins, General Manager Brian Cashman also traded third baseman Chase Headley to the Padres. The two departures essentially make the Stanton acquisition revenue neutral for 2018. Even after re-signing Sabathia, the Yankees have money to spend while still staying under the cap, if they desire.
Prior to the trades, Cashman had announced that prized prospect Gleyber Torres would compete for the third base job in spring training. The Yankees GM has since named Torres among a group of candidates to take over at second base. Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes, and Thairo Estrada were also mentioned. Miguel Andujar is another internal option for the hot corner, with both Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner pointing to his improved defense.
New York has an exciting core of young players. It would be exciting to see more of them, like Torres and Andujar, join the fold. But the Yankees also have a bigger target in sight.
The Baltimore Orioles seem intent on dealing Machado, who is in the final year of his contract. Extension talks have broken down, and the Orioles appear resigned to losing Machado one way or another. Although it was reported that Baltimore had taken him off the trade block, this could just be a negotiating tactic to extract a better offer from the Yankees and other would-be suitors.
It had also been reported that the Orioles would not be willing to trade Machado to the Yankees and were even going as far as attempting to require that prospective trade partners agree in advance not to flip him to New York. I think that Orioles owner Peter Angelos will deal him to the highest bidder. The big question is, can the Yankees put together a package for Machado that is acceptable to the Orioles and doesn’t include a top prospect? Or if not, would the Yankees be willing to part with Clint Frazier or Chance Adams?
Manny Machado is definitely the guy every Yankees fan wants to see in pinstripes manning the hot corner. The three-time All-Star topped thirty homers in each of the last three years for the Orioles. He seems to be a perfect fit for the Bombers.
Brian Cashman is also looking to add another young, talented, controllable starter to the team’s stable of pitchers. Although other players have been mentioned, Gerrit Cole of the Pirates has been the Cashman’s primary target. Cole has a career FIP of 3.27. The latest rumor is that the Pirates asked for Gleyber Torres to headline the trade and the Yankees offered Clint Frazier instead.
Adding Cole is a luxury at this point. The Yankees already have the same five-man rotation in place that got them 91 wins and a trip to the playoffs last year. Moreover, New York’s pitching during the postseason was outstanding.
So acquiring Gerrit Cole should not be classified as a “need.” It certainly doesn’t seem like a deal that warrants the trading of a top prospect. Machado, however, may be a different story.
A Hot Stove to Remember
The Yankees have done very well this offseason. Actually, they’ve done spectacularly. Brian Cashman has locked in a quality five-man rotation, with a stellar bullpen having already been in place. Salary has been dumped, with young top-rated prospects standing at the ready to earn their place. The club now has the defending NL MVP to unite with the junior circuit’s runner-up in the heart of a powerful lineup.
They’ve done all this without risking going over the salary cap and without giving up any of their top prospects. That’s why they call the man “Ninja Cash.”
I think most fans would feel very comfortable starting the season with the roster as is. Still, adding Machado and Cole to the mix would really make the hot stove competition an emphatic victory for the Yankees.
So, Yankees fans, put out some milk and cookies for Santa tonight. You never know, there could be more gifts on the way.