After a quiet start to the offseason, the New York Yankees have made a pair of major moves in quick succession. They have now likely ended their first search for a starting shortstop in 20 seasons while also adding a valuable late-inning arm to the bullpen. Lets take a deeper look at the financial and roster implications of these acquisitions.
The first move was a three-team trade involving the Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks, but from the perspective of the New York Yankees it was essentially a one-for-one swap. The Yankees essentially traded Shane Greene for Didi Gregorius. The second move was the free-agent signing of Andrew Miller. These moves take the Yankees 40-man roster to 37 which still leaves the front office with flexibility to sign free agents, participate in further trades or make selections in the Rule 5 draft.
Gregorius has almost certainly been acquired to be the starting shortstop, with Brendan Ryan moving down the depth chart to backup (or possibly platoon partner if Cashman is to be believed) which was where he was always likely to open the 2015 season. Meanwhile, Miller currently projects to replace David Robertson in pitching late-game high-leverage innings alongside Dellin Betances, although it is not yet clear who would close in this scenario.
Before this trade, Shane Greene appeared a favorite to open the 2015 season as a member of the starting rotation. As presently constructed, the opening day pitching staff will likely feature Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia as three of the five starters. With Ivan Nova unlikely to be fully healthy until midseason, David Phelps, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell and Chase Whitley would all compete to fill those two remaining spots, though Brian Cashman still has plenty of time to add starting pitching through further moves.
Contracts, Payroll and Luxury Tax
At 36 million over 4 years, Andrew Miller will be making $9 million a year over the course of his contract and will be signed through the end of the 2018 season. The Greene-for-Gregorius swap was essentially payroll-neutral for 2015, with both players currently pre-arbitration and expected to make around $500,000 next season. Didi Gregorius currently projects as a Super-Two player, which would make 2015 his final pre-arbitration season, but he will remain under team control through four arbitration seasons which would go up to and include the 2019 season.
Before the Miller signing, the Yankees had around $170 million guaranteed for twelve players, with a further four players due arbitration. Baseball Reference, after estimating arbitration results and nine pre-arbitration salaries to round out the roster, had estimated the Yankee payroll to be $185 million, or just $4 million below the luxury tax line. Miller will push that estimate to around $194 million, and this is before accounting for player benefits which will tack on an extra $12 million or so. Essentially, the Yankees will go well past the tax line. Expect the 2015 payroll to remain well north of $200 million.
Approach to Free Agency
The Yankees were rumored to be actively pursuing starting pitching in free agency even before the Greene-for-Gregorius swap, so this might well be the next shoe to drop. A factor influencing the front office in making this trade might have been the quality of starters available, including Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields and Brandon McCarthy. There are several credible back-of-the-rotation options as well, so the Yankees might not stop with just one free agent addition to the rotation.
The market for shortstops was comparatively dry, but by acquiring Gregorius the Yankees are now likely no longer looking to add a free agent shortstop. It remains to be seen if this trades affects a Yankee pursuit of Yoan Moncada, although considering Moncada was never likely to break camp with a major league team in 2015, and may not remain at shortstop anyway, the fact that New York now has a starter at shortstop for next season may not deter their interest. In any case, this trade may well not stop Cashman from signing additional infield help as both second and third base could potentially use additional depth. Martin Prado currently projects as the starting third baseman, but a key part of his value is his defensive versatility which will be limited should he be rooted to a position without credible depth behind him. As for second base, currently it projects to be a competition between prospects Robert Refsnyder and Jose Pirela although the Yankees might choose to add a veteran into the mix.
The signing of Andrew Miller does not necessarily take the Yankees out of the market for David Robertson, but now the front office would be able to walk away if his price remains beyond their comfort levels. Considering the depth the Yankees already have in the major league bullpen and in the minors, it is likely that relief pitching will not be seen as a major need at this point.
Impact to the Farm
While the addition of Gregorius has no effect on the farm system, the signing of Miller does push some of the Yankees' relief talent out of the way. It doesn't necessarily block Jacob Lindgren, but it will make it more difficult for him to fit in as another lefty in the bullpen. Expect Lindgren and possibly Jose Ramirez to be given an opportunity to break camp with the major league squad, and even if he starts the year in Triple-A, he should be near the top of the call-up list for short relief help when the inevitable injuries strike the pitching staff.
Trading Greene has opened up another rotation spot, at least as long as the Yankees haven't signed a free agent starter. In addition to Phelps, Mitchell, Warren and Whitley, the Yankees could give Manny Banuelos a chance to win a spot with the major league rotation. Once a top prospect in the system, Banuelos has lost momentum since Tommy John surgery in 2012, which also cost him the 2013 season. However he is still only 23, so the clock probably isn't running out on him just yet and a chance to win a big-league job should help him going forward.
The Yankees have not traded any prospects or given up a draft pick with these two moves, however, if Robertson signs elsewhere, they will gain a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft.