With pitchers and catchers finally getting back to the diamond this week, we are truly in the homestretch of the offseason and that means baseball is just around the corner.
My final consensus on the 2018-19 offseason: weird. The Yankees did make some much-needed moves like trading for southpaw James Paxton and resigning the newly dubbed Zack (not Zach) Britton. However, there are also some moves (or lack thereof) that I find interesting to say the least. Let’s break them down.
To many, this was the move that solidified the Yankees as the best bullpen in baseball. But for me, taking everything into consideration, this was a rather bizarre move by the recently brilliant Yankee general manager, Brian Cashman.
With a player like Ottavino, context is a huge part of his value. For instance, the fact that he played his past seven years at the friendliest hitting ballpark in baseball in Coors Field including last years brilliant performance where he sported a sparkling 2.43 ERA over 77.2 innings pitched. Outside of last season, Ottavino has been a good pitcher at best with a few sprinkles of greatness in 2013 where he held a 2.64 ERA over 78.1 innings and 2016 where he boasted a 2.67 ERA, but in only 27 innings.
In 2017 Ottavino tossed 53.1 innings with a 5.06 ERA.
I fear that in the case of Ottavino, the Yankees are becoming a prisoner of the moment. Yes, it’s impressive that he has had such great success in such a hitter friendly park. But in his seven seasons at Colorado, Ottavino was up and down.
The real question is why wouldn’t Cashman resign a proven Yankee in David Robertson for about the same price? He has pitched in the American League his whole career, the majority being with the Yankees. We have also seen that it takes a certain personality to pitch in New York (see Sonny Gray) and that Robertson has it. I just hope this kneejerk move by Cashman doesn’t come back to bite him and the bullpen in the butt.
The Infield Surplus
The New York Yankees now have five infielders (excluding first baseman): Gleybar Torres, Miguel Andújar, DJ LeMahieu, Troy Tulowitzki and the injured Didi Gregorius.
Who plays where? This has been the question of the Yankee offseason and it truly depends on the health of star shortstop Gregorius.
To start the season off, I gather the infield will look a bit like this: Andújar at third, Torres at shortstop and LaMahieu at second with Tulowitzki coming off the bench. This is a solid plan for now and I praise the team for getting some much needed depth. Long-term, however, this move scares me.
On Jan. 14, 2019 LaMahieu signed a two-year $24 million deal with the Bombers. We know Didi’s 2019 season is in major jeopardy and that he will likely be out past the All-Star break. However, as far as we know, the Yankees expect to have Didi back eventually in 2019. At which point the Yankees will have four top-flight infielders in Andújar, Torres, LaMahieu and Didi, all of which merit starting jobs. Does this mean that the Yankees are worried if Didi will ever be the same? Or are they considering trading one of their young stars in Andújar and Torres? The way things are panning out it looks like one of these is bound to happen. Which leads me to my final point; will the Yankees trade one of their young infielders for Bryce Harper?
Does Harper Really Make Sense?
Kind of. With the likes of young talent like Clint Frazier and top prospect Estevan Florial who received an invite to Spring Training, the Yankees have some young depth to back up their rotating outfield core of Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.
With the plethora of infielders now, I’ve pretty much given up on Machado and would actually be pretty concerned if they were to sign a fifth top-flight infielder.
This leads to what in my mind, is what the Yankees have been working towards all offseason: packaging some of their excess young outfield and infield talent to free space for the prize of free agency in Harper.
With untouchables like Torres, Judge and Stanton and the recently signed LaMahieu and injured Didi, this sadly leaves the Yankees with one option, and that is to package their young third baseman, Miguel Andújar, with some outfielders like Gardner and/or Hicks if they are in fact in the market for Harper.
After Judge came out and claimed he would be willing to change positions for Harper, my confidence grew. However, I don’t expect to hear anything soon considering how this offseason has played out.
It’s going to be real interesting to see what Harper and hopefully the Yankees have up their sleeve as Spring Training approaches. Will the Yankees continue to build from the ground up? Or package some of their assets for a trade? Harper or not, it’s going to be a fun and competitive season in the Bronx, and hopefully one that brings home a 27th World Series.