One week away from the Winter Meetings, the MLB Hot Stove hasn’t yet reached it’s boiling point. Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann inked deals with the Atlanta Braves, the Mariners dealt away Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano and James Paxton, Cleveland started it’s tinkering with the trade of Yan Gomes, but news surrounding the biggest free agent fish has been quiet. Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel and J.A. Happ are essentially linked to the same teams they had been linked to four weeks ago and few clear front runners have emerged. With money to spend, holes to fill, and a gap with the Red Sox to shrink, the New York Yankees figure to be major players in the upcoming weeks.
Brian Cashman has made no secret of his intention to bolster the rotation and has already added a top of the rotation arm (when healthy) in James Paxton. The team met with Patrick Corbin and his representatives earlier this week and all signs point to that meeting being productive. After their pitch, Cashman made it clear that the team wouldn’t wait long to hear back from Corbin’s camp before moving on to other options. Seemingly in response, Corbin’s reps stated that a decision would be coming in the following days. He’s been frank about his desire to be a Yankee, having grown up a fan, and the Yankees have a need and the means to make that a reality. At this point, it would be a surprise if he went elsewhere. Despite some reports stating the team may be looking at still adding multiple starters, the Yankees would likely be comfortable with a rotation of Severino, Tanaka, Paxton, Corbin, and Sabathia going into the season, with some young arms with MLB experience ready to fill in should they need to.
The Yankee bullpen will have a few new faces in 2019, with David Robertson and Zach Britton hitting free agency, and Sonny Gray, who spent most of the second half as a long relief and mop-up option, destined for a trade. Britton returning is possible, although his time in pinstripes was unremarkable. He’s still only a short time removed from one of the greatest relief seasons in history, and his sinker from the left side should in theory play well in Yankee Stadium. If the Yankees trust the health of free agent Andrew Miller, the team could instead look to him to handle duties as a lefty out of the pen. In his brief previous stint with New York, Miller was a phenomenal teammate and fan favorite. He would close, pitch the eighth, come in early to get a key out, and never complain or question his role. He spoke candidly and with understanding about his eventual trade to Cleveland. The Yankees would be happy to have him back should everything check out with his knee. A Robertson return is not out of the question either, but Adam Ottavino is another interesting option. The New York native is coming off a phenomenal season in Colorado and could be interested in returning home if the Yankees come calling.
While the Yankees are likely to add a few pieces for reserve positions, the big question left is how involved they’ll be on Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Machado probably fits the roster better at first glance, given the injury to Didi Gregorius and the defensive shortcomings of Miguel Andujar. He could fill in at short until Gregorius returns, then slide to third, pushing Andujar to first. Questions surrounding his character, from admitting to not being a fan of hustling to stomping on a player while running to first to throwing his bat at Josh Donaldson to….well you get the point, cloud his value somewhat. His talent certainly trumps the questions, and he’ll get massive money from somebody, but those questions only get louder in New York. Harper is more of a square peg filling a round hole in the Yankee roster. Even if left field turns into a platoon of sorts with Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier and others, it’s not a glaring need. Harper moving positions to first base has been rumored, but he’s unproven there. Despite that, my gut is that the Yankees find a way to make it work with Harper instead of Machado. His lefty bat would balance out a righty dominant lineup and his intensity would be welcomed by Yankee fans. And perhaps most importantly, there’s reason to believe that New York is his first choice. Prior to a series against the Yankees last season with the Nationals, Harper shaved his famous beard and took the field early for batting practice to make sure they noticed, then showing some awareness of the roster logjam, took an extended round of ground balls at first base. Scott Boras could shop his client to all interested teams, and before putting pen to paper, give the Yankees final say.
Whichever way the Yankees inevitably decide to go in filling out their roster, it’s safe to say they’ll be improved heading into 2019. With money to spend, prospects to deal, and phenomenal players being available all throughout the league, buckle up for a fun offseason in the Bronx.