New York Yankees' Top Free Agent, Trade Targets Post New Year
The calendar may have flipped to 2017, but we're still a couple of cold months away from baseball. That's actually good news (hear me out) for many MLB clubs with unfinished items on their to-do lists.
Like, say, the New York Yankees, who have holes to plug in the starting rotation, the bullpen and behind the dish.
Let's examine a few realistic trade and free-agent targets, with the key word being "realistic." Not all of these deals will go down, but they're tied to credible rumors—or at least informed speculation—and a sense of the Yankees' needs and resources.
They could hypothetically use Mark Trumbo's pop, for example, but he's not in the budgetary plans. Plus, where would they put him?
We'll begin with a veteran backup catcher and work our way to a left-handed All-Star. Tap the (frozen) clay off your (proverbial) cleats and dig in when ready.
Kurt Suzuki, C
The Yankees have handed the keys to their catching kingdom to Gary Sanchez, who posted a 1.032 OPS in 53 games last season and finished second in American League Rookie of the Year voting.
After trading veteran Brian McCann to the Houston Astros, however, they've left Sanchez with little back up.
Austin Romine is the front-runner on the current roster, but his .222/.256/.329 career slash line doesn't inspire confidence.
New York obviously isn't going to shell out for a top-shelf name in the Matt Wieters mold, but there are realistic options on the market.
Kurt Suzuki isn't the same player who made the All-Star team in 2014, but he slashed .294/.332/.447 in the first half for the Minnesota Twins last season and finished with eight home runs and 49 RBI.
Suzuki is an average defensive player at best, but he'd provide a right-handed bat off the bench and some seasoned insurance for Sanchez.
Jerry Blevins, LHP
The Yankees have their closer in $86 million man Aroldis Chapman. The only other lefty locked into the bullpen is Tommy Layne, though, which means New York could seek out another southpaw.
Jerry Blevins excelled in Gotham last season, posting a 2.79 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 42 innings for the New York Mets. He's been especially deadly against left-handed hitters in his career, holding them to a .588 OPS.
The 33-year-old is seeking a three-year deal with an annual value around $5 million, per Brendan Kuty of NJ Advanced Media. That may be more than the Yankees are comfortable spending after opening the vault for Chapman.
Along with Dellin Betances, Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren, however, Blevins would form one of the game's deeper pens.
Jason Hammel, RHP
New York's biggest need, without question, is in the starting rotation.
Masahiro Tanaka is coming off a healthy, ace-like season. After that, it's creaky veteran CC Sabathia, hard-throwing but mercurial Michael Pineda and some combination of Luis Severino, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa and Chad Green.
All except Mitchell owned ERAs north of 4.00 last season, and Green has a grand total of eight big league starts under his belt.
This year's free-agent starting pitcher pool is comically shallow, and it's not getting any deeper as the winter wears on.
There are options with upside, however, including right-hander Jason Hammel.
Hammel posted a 3.83 ERA in 166.2 innings last season for the Chicago Cubs and would slot into the back end of New York's starting five. The 34-year-old is no one's idea of a rotation anchor and may have to settle for a short-term deal, per FanRag Sports' John Perrotto.
He's shown he can still be an effective big league pitcher, however, and he's a realistic (if unsexy) low-cost target.
Danny Duffy, LHP
Turning to the trade front, the Kansas City Royals' Danny Duffy is an interesting under-the-radar target.
The 27-year-old went 12-3 with a 3.51 ERA in 179.2 innings last season with 188 strikeouts next to 42 walks. He has a final year of arbitration remaining before he hits the market, which means he doesn't necessarily fit with a long-term vision.
It also means he won't force the Yankees to gut their restocked farm system.
Duffy's name hasn't cropped up in many rumors, though MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported the Royals were "gauging interest" on the left-hander during the winter meetings.
One other caveat to consider: Duffy is a fly-ball pitcher, which could hurt him at home run-happy Yankee Stadium.
Jose Quintana, LHP
Every deal listed up to now would arguably upgrade the Yankees' roster and fill a need, but none would grab front-page headlines.
A trade for Chicago White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana decidedly would.
Quintana has eclipsed 200 innings in each of the past four seasons. Last season, he posted a career-low 3.20 ERA and finished 10th in American League Cy Young Award balloting. Between 2013 and 2016, Quintana's 18.1 WAR ranked seventh among pitchers by FanGraphs' measure.
He'll make $7 million in 2017 and $8.85 million in 2018, followed by $10.5 million team options in 2019 and 2020.
He is, in short, an affordable, controllable stud. Along with Tanaka, he'd form one of the top righty-lefty combos in baseball and help the Yankees keep pace with the Boston Red Sox, who already acquired Quintana's former teammate and co-ace, Chris Sale.
All that said, he won't come cheap. The Yankees would have to part with some of the top chips from a system Bleacher Report's Joel Reuter ranked No. 1 in the game in September.
New York is apparently considering it. The Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates have been the "most aggressive teams" on Quintana, per USA Today's Bob Nightengale, and there have even been three-team discussions involving New York, Pittsburgh and Chicago.
General manager Brian Cashman has so far resisted the urge to raid his cache of prospects. That doesn't mean he won't if the right deal comes along.
"I think we'll stay engaged in the marketplace, and over time if we do match-up favorably with somebody where we can get what we want and they get what they want, then yes, we'll try to get something," Cashman said recently on MLB Network's "High Heat" (h/t Kuty).
Whether that something is Quintana remains to be seen—but there's no doubt it would generate headlines.
All statistics and contract information courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.