With the new year upon us, the baseball offseason is already half over. This is the point where general managers need to hunker down and make their best efforts to adjust their rosters as Spring Training begins to rapidly approach.
Unsurprisingly, Brian Cashman has already made a slew of moves in order to try and get the New York Yankees back to the World Series for the first time in a decade. Let’s take a look at the big moves and grade how the GM has done thus far.
Brett Gardner– LF- 1 Year, $7.5 Million- Grade- B+
Gardner’s old contract included a $12 million option for 2019, but Cashman instead passed on the option and negotiated Gardner back for a far more economical $7.5 million. While Gardner isn’t getting any younger at 35 years of age, his veteran presence and steady defense is certainly worth the reasonable price tag, especially if Cashman is serious about not wanting another outfielder (cough*Bryce Harper*cough).
CC Sabathia– P- 1 Year, $8 Million- Grade- B
Another veteran brought back on an economical one year deal to help lead the clubhouse. While Sabathia is far from the pitcher he was when he came to New York 10 years ago, he proved in 2018 he can still pitch, and he will not be asked to be any more than a number 5 starter, if that depending on the return of Jordan Montgomery. But his value as a leader of this squad cannot be overstated.
J.A. Happ– P- 2 Year, $34 Million with vesting option in 2021- Grade- B+
Discounting his start in the ALDS against Boston, Happ may have been the Yankees best starter after coming over in a mid-season deal from Toronto. Thus Happ was justifiably rewarded with a two year deal to stay in the Bronx in the middle of the rotation. Happ can also earn a third year and another $17 million if he throws 165 innings or makes 27 starts in 2020. If Happ can be the pitcher he was last year the deal will look like a steal. But a 36 year old journey-man might not pay off.
The number one focus for the Yankees coming into the offseason was continuing to strengthen the rotation, and this trade does just that. Paxton was a bonafide ace in Seattle, and pairing him at the top of the rotation with Luis Severino gives the Yankees an elite one-two punch. Giving up Sheffield, and two other top prospects, was a high price to pay, but no one will complain if this deal brings the Commissioner’s Trophy back to East 161st Street.
Zach Britton– P- 3 Year, $39 million with team option for 2022 season, opt-out after 2020 if team declines option- Grade- A
Britton’s contract may be confusing, but bringing back one of the best relievers in baseball over the last few seasons, and a lefty at that, was a no-brainer. With David Robertson departing for Philadelphia, New York already had a blow dealt to their bullpen, which was the team’s greatest strength in 2018. Britton will again team up with Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances to make one of the most formidable back ends in baseball.
Troy Tulowitzki– SS- 1 Year, $555 Thousand- Grade- B?
In one of the more intriguing moves thus far, Cashman gave Tulowitizki the league minimum deal to come to the Bronx for one year. Toronto remains on the hook for some $38 million owed to the oft-injured shortstop over the next two seasons. With Didi Gregorius out for most, if not all, of the entire first half of 2019, and Gregorius being a free agent at the end of the year, there is a hole to be filled at shortstop. While all eyes centered on Manny Machado getting a long term deal as the shortstop of the future, Cashman says Tulowitzki will get the chance to prove he is the guy for the Yanks. If Tulowitzki can regain his five-time All-Sta form, this may be the steal of the offseason. Or this could implode as Tulowitzki suffers another injury, like the ones that have prevented him from playing in even 90 games three of the last four seasons.