Spring Training is underway, let's grade the Yankees offseason moves
The Yankees completed the 2020 season getting bounced by the Rays 3-2 in the ALDS. The Rays made it to the World Series, which was frustrating, to say the least. Plagued by injuries yet again, it was a disappointing season and all eyes were on Cashman to address the direction of the team. The team had a handful of free agents and a desperate need for pitching and consistency. The offseason started off extremely slow, painfully slow, but Cashman made a flurry of moves in the past few weeks to solidify the 2021 team.
- Tommy Kahnle (Dodgers - FA)
- Adam Ottovino (Red Sox - Trade)
- JA Happ (Twins - FA)
- James Paxton (Mariners - FA)
- Masahiro Tanaka (Rakuten Eagles Japan - FA)
- Jonathon Holder (Cubs - FA)
- Erik Kratz (Retired)
- DJ LeMahieu (6Y - $90M)
- Brett Gardner (1Y - $4M)
-Corey Kluber (1Y - $11M)
- Jameson Taillon (Pirates - Trade)
- Darren O'Day (1Y - $3.15M)
- Justin Wilson (1Y - $4M)
- Greg Allen (Padres - Trade)
Minor League Deals
- Jay Bruce (1Y - $1.35 M)
- Derek Dietrich (1Y - $575k)
- Robinson Chirinos (1Y -$1M)
- Jhoulys Chacín (1Y - $800k)
The number one priority was to resign DJ, and the Yanks did just that. In his two years in pinstripes, he finished in the top four twice for AL MVP voting, and last year lead the AL in batting average and OPS. For a second, it looked like it would take over $125 million to land DJ. For another second, it looked like the Yanks would lose him. Ultimately, neither occurred, and the Yankees brought him back on a 6 year, $90 million dollar deal. An unbiased opinion, this was an A+ move for the team. The Yankees locked in their second baseman for the coming years without breaking the bank.
Heading over to starting pitching, the team opted to let all three of their free-agent starters walk. My initial thought was that Tanaka would remain, but that was the unfortunate opposite. Letting Tanaka walk was a heartbreaker, but I am happy he returned to Japan to play for his former team. Paxton heads back to the Mariners, and his time in pinstripes did not pan out as anticipated. He held his own, but injuries and inconsistencies did not allow him to live up to his "Big Maple" status. Then there is JA Happ, who flashed potential but provided more headaches. In corresponding moves, the Yankees took an interesting approach to fill those voids. Overall, these moves are C+ material.
Their only free agent signing was none other than former 2x CY Young winner, Corey Kluber. They inked him to a 1 year prove-it deal for $11 million. Kluber is a phenomenal talent, but the past two seasons Kluber only pitched around 30 innings, due to injuries. However, Yankees performance coach, Eric Cressey, has worked with Kluber thoroughly, which gives fans and the team a sign of hope.
The team's other move was Jameson Taillon of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Yanks sent four prospects. People forget he was drafted in between Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, not bad? Taillon was one of the finest pitching prospects in the game, who has flashed prominent talent in the past. He has faced some adversity over the years, including two Tommy John surgeries and testicular cancer. That didn't stop his former roommate/teammate, Gerrit Cole, from vouching for him. He has revamped his mechanics and has so much upside. They also added Jhoulys Chacin on a minor league deal, who could compete for a rotation or relief spot.
The team's approach was risky, but they added some low-risk, high high-reward talent. I'll grade it a B. With Cole leading the charge, Sevy coming back in July, and Garcia/King/Schmidt/German/Monty all providing some form of potential in the rotation, I say I am comfortable with the team's pitching. Outside of Bauer, the pitching market wasn't the most attractive, but there were a lot of safer choices.
With the bullpen, the team added some familiar faces. In addition to picking up Zack Britton's option, the team added former Oriole Darren O'Day, and Justin Wilson (who pitched for the team back in 2015). O'Day had himself quite the year with the Braves last season, pitching a sub-two ERA with his submarine pitching style. O'Day is historically been tough on right-handers and Cashman believes he will be an upgrade over Adam Ottavino. Justin Wilson was one of the Mets better bullpen pieces, but he returns back to the Bronx. These two fill the void of Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottovino, and Jonathon Holder. Kahnle was released upon his Tommy John surgery. There was hope that he would return but opted to sign with the Dodgers. The Yanks then followed up in the offseason and shipped off Adam Ottovino's expiring contract ($9M) to the rival Red Sox. Holder was DFA'd yet again, and heads over to Chicago. Unless Otto spends the season tearing up the Yanks, I'd say the team did well here. I'll give this a B+.
To improve the offensive depth, the Yanks added a slew of veterans. The resigned Brett Gardner, which was anticipated and I don't care who needs to hear it, I love it and I am happy it happened. Although Frazier is the starting Left Fielder, Gardy brings needed depth in both left and center, plus a solid lefty bat and veteran leadership. This move was needed and Gardy deserves one last ride with the Bronx. Let's hope they can bring him another ring.
The team added Jay Bruce, who was a three-time All-Star from his days with the Reds. Bruce was something of a power-first hitter even in his prime. It wouldn't be surprising if he makes the team over Mike Ford, because he brings some versatility in being able to play both corner outfield spots and first base. The short porch at Yankee stadium is something that could help bring back the power lefty bat in Bruce. Another outfielder, Greg Allen, comes over from the Padres in exchange for pitcher James Reeves. Allen is known for his amazing defense, but his career batting isn't that bad. In 221 games with both the Indians and the Padres, he batted a .239 average with 8 homers and 57 RBI's. Then there is Derek Dietrich, who has experience at first base, second base, third base, and in left field, and his increasingly powerful left-handed swing would be a good fit at Yankee Stadium if he were to crack the MLB roster at some point. Hopefully, he can replace Tyler Wade on the roster. With Erik Kratz (aka Papa) retiring, Chirinos now fills the veteran catcher presence. Don't sleep on the catching prospects, especially Austin Wells, eyeing for that third catcher role. All in all, this equates to a B.
The Yankees accomplished what they wanted. They brought back two key players. They revamped their rotation and bullpen, and they shed payroll. If the team wins a championship with this roster then it would be well deserving of an A. As for now, I rate this a solid B. I am happy with the moves but it was nothing flashy. All we can do is hope that this equates to a World Series appearance, and furthermore a win.