New York Yankees Offseason Tracker: Hottest Free Agency News, Trade Rumors
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the New York Yankees head into the offseason without a clue as to who will be the team's starting shortstop.
Derek Jeter's final season didn't end as well as he would have liked, with the Yankees relegated to watching the playoffs from the comfort of their living rooms for the second consecutive season.
After spending big on the likes of Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka an offseason ago, you'd think that the Yankees might not be looking to add substantial payroll to the budget for 2015 and beyond.
But we know better than to count the Yankees out of the running for any high-end free agent, especially when it comes to the starting rotation, which is full of question marks. Rest assured that general manager Brian Cashman will be quite busy as the offseason gets underway, furiously working the phones as he tries to fill some gaping holes that demand attention.
Keep it here for the most up-to-the-minute rumblings about the Bronx Bombers, along with analysis and everything else that comes with it. While the post date will always show as October 31, simply click to the next slide to see the latest from the rumor mill as the Yankees put together their roster for 2015.
New York's Free Agents and Done Deals
All the juicy rumors and analysis follow, but consider this your one-stop shop for all the comings and goings in the Bronx this winter, including the status of the team's free agents.
Nov. 7: Re-signed RP Andrew Bailey to a minor-league deal
Nov. 12: Signed LHP Jose DePaula
Dec. 16: Re-signed RHP Chris Capuano to a one-year, $5 million deal
Dec. 19: Acquired RHP Gonzalez German from the New York Mets in exchange for cash considerations
Yankees Free Agents
RP Andrew Bailey
SP Chris Capuano (Dec. 16: Re-signed)
RP Preston Claiborne (Dec. 23: Claimed on waivers by the Miami Marlins)
2B/SS Stephen Drew
3B Chase Headley (Dec. 15: Re-signed)
OF Slade Heathcott (Dec. 2: Non-tendered)
RP Rich Hill
RP David Huff (Dec. 2: Non-tendered)
SS Derek Jeter (Retiring)
SP Hiroki Kuroda (Dec. 26: Signed a one-year deal with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan)
OF Ichiro Suzuki
OF Chris Young (Nov. 9: Re-signed)
Dec. 19: Acquired RHP Nathan Eovaldi and 1B/OF Garrett Jones from Miami
While trading Martin Prado leaves the Yankees with a gaping hole at second base (and robs the team of one of the few players that was productive in 2014), the chance to add a pair of young arms with upside—and a veteran backup for Mark Teixeira at first base—was apparently too enticing to pass up.
Nate Eovaldi, 24, is the key piece of the three-player package that the Yankees received. While his 2014 numbers are kind of ugly—6-14 with a 4.37 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and NL-leading 233 hits allowed over 199.2 innings of work.
While he's a power arm with a mid-90s fastball, a slider than can be nasty at times and the potential to develop into a quality mid-rotation arm, he doesn't miss bats. That could be an issue in Yankee Stadium.
Arbitration eligible for the first time this winter, he's under team control through the 2017 season.
Garrett Jones, 33, has long been an object of the Yankees desire, dating back to when he played for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The veteran hit .246 with 15 HR, 53 RBI and a .720 OPS over 146 games for the Marlins last season and is due $5 million in the last year of the two-year pact he signed with Miami last winter.
He figures to serve as Tex's primary backup (a need, given the incumbent's recent inability to stay healthy), a part-time corner outfielder and a left-handed bat off the bench.
Domingo German, 22, wasn't considered one of Miami's top prospects but has put up some quality numbers thus far in the low levels of the minor leagues.
He spent the 2014 season at Single-A Greensboro, where he went 9-3 with a 2.48 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 25 starts, walking only 25 batters while fanning 113 over 123.1 innings of work.
It's not a terrible trade for the Yankees, but not one that makes a whole lot of sense. The club is now going to be relying on a pair of unproven youngsters, Jose Pirela and Robert Refsnyder, who both ultimately may be nothing more than utility players, to man a key position up-the-middle.
Dec. 15: Re-Signed Chase Headley
If you were looking for confirmation that the Yankees have no intention of playing Alex Rodriguez at the hot corner this season, look no further than the team's decision to re-sign Chase Headley to a four-year deal worth $52 million, as reported by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.
One of the team's trade-deadline acquisitions, Headley provided fantastic defense at third base and proved to be versatile enough to play first base as well, stepping in when Mark Teixeira needed a day off due to his injured wrist.
Headley was productive during his stay in New York, hitting .262 with 14 extra-base hits (six home runs), 17 RBI and a .768 OPS in 58 games for the Yankees. As he told Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, Headley really enjoyed his time with the Yankees and would be open to sticking around:
If I had never played in New York, if I hadn't come here and been in this clubhouse and experienced this past couple months, this wouldn't have been high on my list. From the outside, New York, the media, all that stuff I hadn't dealt with before, that may have turned me off to a place that I have really enjoyed. It’s been a huge help.
Not only does re-signing Headley shore up the hot corner, but it allows the team to play Martin Prado at second base, essentially shoring up the entire infield with one move.
Some will say that they overpaid to retain Headley and hey, those people may be right. But it was a move that the team needed to make.
As a result, however, the Yankees are likely out of the running for any of the high-priced pitching talent left available, and will instead look to short-term options to bolster the rotation. Think Chris Capuano-types—or perhaps starters coming off of injuries, such as Brett Anderson, Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen.
Dec. 9: David Robertson Signs 4-Year Deal with Chicago White Sox
New York will have a new closer in 2015.
The Chicago White Sox have signed right-handed pitcher David Robertson, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. Nightengale reported that the deal will be for four years and is worth more than $40 million. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported that the four-year deal is worth $46 million.
Jack Curry of the YES Network confirmed that the Yankees extended a one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer to the closer earlier in the offseason, but he rejected it. As a result of him signing elsewhere, the Yankees will receive a compensatory pick.
Robertson, 30, was the top closer available this winter and performed admirably in his first season as Mariano Rivera's replacement. With Dellin Betances setting him up, the two relievers comprised one of the most dominant late-inning duos in recent memory. Now, New York will have to fill the vacancy left by Robertson.
Dec. 5: Acquired SS Didi Gregorius from Arizona as Part of a Three-Team Deal
2014 Stats: 80 G, .226/.290/.363, 20 XBH (6 HR), 27 RBI, 3-for-3 SB
Contract Status: Not arbitration eligible until 2016, under team control through 2018
For more than a year, Yankees fans have asked: Who will take over for Derek Jeter as the team's starting shortstop in 2015?
We finally have our answer: Didi Gregorius.
Acquired as part of a three-team deal with Arizona and Detroit, Gregorius has struggled to hit major league pitching in parts of three seasons (.243/.313/.366), but has a track record of success at the plate in the minors (.277/.332/.389) and is regarded as an above-average defender at the position.
While his major league numbers may not be good, much less great, they're still better than the kind of production that the club received from Stephen Drew in 2014 or could reasonably expect to get from the light-hitting Brendan Ryan.
Some of Gregorious' struggles could be tied to the fact that he was consistently in-and-out of the lineup in Arizona, shuffling between shortstop, second base and third base.
With consistent playing time in the Bronx at one position—and the ability to do so without constantly having to look over his shoulder—Gregorius can perhaps finally reach the potential that teams have seen in him for the past few years.
While some will criticize the Yankees for dealing away a young starting pitcher in Shane Greene, the chance to land your shortstop for the next decade is worth the cost of a back-end starting pitcher.
Dec. 5: Signed LHP Andrew Miller
2014 Stats: 73 G, 5-5, 2.02 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 62.1 IP, 33 H, 2.5 BB/9, 14.5 K/9
Contract Status: Four years, $36 million
How good was Andrew Miller in 2014? Historically good, as ESPN's Jerry Crasnick notes:
His 14.87 strikeouts per nine innings were the most in American Leaguehistory by a pitcher with more than 50 innings. Miller also dominated hitters from both sides of the plate, holding lefties to a .467 OPS and righties to an OPS of .446.
Signing Miller ensures that the Yankees will once again have a lights-out late-inning relief combination in 2015, with the southpaw joining Dellin Betances, who at this point appears to be the team's closer, replacing David Robertson.
While GM Brian Cashman hasn't ruled out re-signing Robertson—who would give the club a trio of shutdown relievers, essentially ensuring that no starter would ever have to go more than six innings in a game—many believe that the Yankees are prepared to let D-Rob walk, taking the compensatory draft pick that they'd receive when he signs elsewhere instead.
Yankees Plans About to Change?
Update: Friday, Dec. 5 at 1:56 p.m. ET
GM Brian Cashman had made some interesting comments to ESPN New York's Andrew Marchand before the Didi Gregorious trade was announced:
We legitimately have to walk through and consider all avenues and some might be more realistic than others. Again, there are certain things that could impact us and we can change our course of action for something we weren't necessarily pursuing earlier. I'm not trying to chase you guys into some big story, I just think we are open to evaluating the market as it evolves and how our efforts evolve as well.
The next 10 days, the dynamic of San Diego, the winter meetings, it sequesters everyone in and it is the industry's way of saying, 'God damn it, make a decision.
That's a pretty stark turn of events, considering that the club has operated under the premise of avoiding the most expensive talent available sine the offseason began.
Even if the Yankees don't make a move during the winter meetings, that they've let it be known that they could be major players tends to have a ripple effect on the rest of baseball. Things could get interesting over the next week or so.
--End of Update--
Update: Sunday, Nov. 23 at 10:35 a.m. ET
Rumors that the Yankees had begun reconsidering their stance on making a run at a big-time free agent this winter began to circulate about a week ago. As The Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo writes, that may be moving from rumor to fact.
I asked a dozen or so GMs recently in Phoenix about the Yankees’ situation and not one of them thought the Yankees would stay away from a major signing.
With free agency moving quickly this year, the Yankees probably have to start making decisions on Lester in particular, since he’s already visited Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta, and possibly Toronto in the near future. It appears Lester doesn’t want this process to drag on. The Yankees could pass and wait out Scherzer. Cashman and Scherzer’s agent, Scott Boras, have completed some of the biggest deals in history.
Will they or won’t they? The bet is they will.
Whether the Yankees will jump into the fray for Lester remains to be seen, but making a run at Max Scherzer or James Shields certainly looks a lot more possible than it did at the beginning of November.
--End of Update--
Tuesday, Nov. 4 at 12:07 p.m. ET
What do Jon Lester, Pablo Sandoval, Max Scherzer and James Shields have in common?
None of them will be calling the Bronx home in 2015, sources tell the New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand.
If this stance sounds familiar, it's because we've heard this from the Yankees before, only to watch the club sign not only one of the top free agents available, but a number of them.
We need only think back to last winter, when, rather than satisfy owner Hal Steinbrenner's wishes of a team payroll under the $189 million luxury tax threshold, the Yankees spent nearly half-a-billion dollars in current-and-future salary to sign Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka.
So yeah, take this news with a grain of salt.
That said, there's an argument to be made that spending lavishly hasn't worked out as planned for the Bronx Bombers. Both Beltran and McCann were disappointing, while Ellsbury was good, not great. Tanaka, of course, due to his age and talent, remains a wise investment, even with his balky elbow.
As unlikely as it may be, we can't completely discount the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the Yankees really are going to avoid the big-ticket items and focus their attention on more moderately priced additions.
Nov. 12: Acquired LHP Justin Wilson from Pittsburgh
2014 Stats: 70 G, 3-4, 4.20 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 60 IP, 49 H, 4.5 BB/9, 9.2 K/9
Contract: Not arbitration eligible until 2016, under team control through 2018
A key cog in Pittsburgh's bullpen during the team's memorable run to the playoffs in 2013, Justin Wilson took a step back last year for the Pirates. His more than doubled (2.08 to 4.20) and his command, which has always been shaky, became an issue.
That said, the three-year veteran has been tough against left-handed batters, holding them to a .234/.297/.320 slash line and has been surprisingly more effective away from PNC Park, one of the premier pitcher's parks in the game than he's been at home.
Once primarily reliant on his mid-90s fastball, Wilson utilizes four pitches in his arsenal: a four-seam fastball, a cut fastball, a slider and a curve.
While his numbers are underwhelming, Wilson is the kind of young, controllable arm that the Yankees can use in the bullpen for the foreseeable future.
As for giving up Francisco Cervelli, who had become something of a fan favorite in the Bronx, J.R. Murphy and, to a lesser extent, Austin Romine, made him expendable—and most valuable to the Yankees as a trade chip.
Is Elvis Heading to the Bronx?
Update: Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 11:38 a.m. ET
A source characterized the chances of the Yankees making a move to acquire Andrus "the longest of long shots," according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.
The Yankees have no interest in taking on Andrus' massive contract, which Feinsand notes would come along with a full no-trade clause which kicks in should the Rangers deal him.
--End of Update--
Monday, Nov. 10 at 12:02 p.m. ET
The Yankees may not have any interest in handing out a long-term contract worth more than $100 million to any member of the current free agent class, but that doesn't mean that the club isn't willing to add significant payroll this winter.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees are "intrigued" by Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus, whose eight-year, $120 million extension doesn't begin until next season and runs through 2022.
Andrus, 26, hit .263 with a .647 OPS for the Rangers in 2014 and was caught stealing 15 times in 42 attempts, the highest number in the American League and far below his usual level of production on the basepaths.
With so much money left on his deal, Sherman is spot-on when he says that the Yankees would have to believe that Andrus was a buy-low candidate this winter and that his decline on both sides of the ball in 2014 was reversible.
This isn't the first time that we've heard about the team's potential interest in Andrus and with a relatively weak group of shortstops available this winter, you can be sure that it's not the last.
Could Alexei Ramirez Replace Derek Jeter at Shortstop?
Thursday, Nov. 6 at 5:35 p.m. ET
Ramirez, 32, is coming off a season that saw him make his first All-Star appearance while hitting .273 with 52 extra-base hits (15 home runs), 74 RBI, 21 stolen bases and a .714 OPS.
Due $10 million in 2015 and with a $10 million team option (or $1 million buyout) for 2016, he doesn't carry a burdensome, long-term deal, something that surely increases his appeal for the Bronx Bombers.
While all speculation on my part, the White Sox have long admired the Yankees catching depth and have expressed interest in both Francisco Cervelli and J.R. Murphy in the past. While neither player alone would be enough to get a deal done, one or the other could be part of a potential package.