"Embrace the suck," Cashman declared after the deadline. The McCann trade may help the 2019 Yankees, but it makes the 2017 version a little worse, at least at this moment. This post builds a roster under two conditions: salaries under $215M and no free agent with the qualifying offer attached, plus the assumptions that it's too early to trade Tanaka, Gregorius or Betances, but that when reasonable, trades aimed at 2018/2019/2020 should be pursued. This roster could contend, but probably wins just more than half its games while setting up the team to be better in future seasons.
The Yankees just added 6 players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. Please don't ask me for predictions, I would have missed Ramirez, Herrera, and Gallegos. Gallegos looks to join the bullpen shuttle. Ramirez, Herrera, Mateo, and Andujar are unlikely to impact the 2017 team unless they explode in an awesome way or an awful string of injuries strike the big league team. If Enns continues to succeed despite his lack of stuff, maybe he makes an impact in the second half.
Most of the trading and free agency season awaits. According to Cots salaries and the MLB Trade Rumors arb numbers the Yankees are at $159M for 14 players. This includes Alex Rodriguez's contract and the money sent to facilitate the McCann deal. If the new collective bargaining agreement increases the salary minimum the additional 11 players will cost about $7M which leaves a max of $49M left to pursue upgrades through free agency and trades.
Unfortunately, this isn't a great market for free agents, but that makes it a good market to be dealing major leaguers.
Jacoby Ellsbury + $45.6M for the Cardinal's Jaime Garcia.
Garcia was bad last year. He's missed a lot of games to injury during the last 4 years. He's listed on mlb.com as the Cardinals 7th starting rotation option for 2017. He makes $12M in the final season in his contract, which is probably about what he'd receive as a free agent since he was really good in 2015. Ellsbury was mediocre last season and his contract is awful. Yet he would improve the Cardinals, who might not want to match Fowler's or Desmond's asking prices while losing their 1st round pick. Ellsbury at 4yrs 44M is probably in the ballpark of what he'd receive as a free agent (I'd guess 3yrs/36 or 3yrs/39). The Yankees make this even more enticing by front loading their payment to cover Ellsbury's entire 2017 salary.
Michael Pineda for the Rangers's Cole Ragans and Alex Speas
Ragans and Speas are two 18-year olds in rookie ball. Texas drafted them 30th and 63rd overall in the 2016 draft. MLB.com ranks them as the 5th and 9th best prospects in their system. They are very far away, but could pay dividends in 3-5 years. Frankly I have little confidence in this evaluation of Pineda. As we know he strikes out batters and makes them look silly as well as anyone. And yet he also frequently melted down. In a year where the starting pitching options are have significant red flags, I feel that some team will talk itself into offer a pair of interesting prospects instead of investing $50M in Ivan Nova. Since I don't want to pay him in free agency, trading him now makes sense. As a contender with starting pitching depth issues, Texas fits as a trade partner.
Starlin Castro and Tyler Austin for the Dodger's Walker Buehler
The Dodgers do this because they need a second baseman, none are available in free agency, and they also need right-handed hitters. Despite Casto's flaws, he's the best they can do without giving up several prized prospects for Brian Dozier. As for Austin, the Dodgers played Yankee AAA castoff Rob Segedin down the stretch, and just traded for the 30-year-old part timer Darin Ruf. Austin may already be better than both and would at least provide insurance in AAA. Buehler is their 2015 1st round pick, and spent the year recovering from Tommy John surgery. MLB.com ranked him 7th in their system. Apparently he looked good during Instructs and the Arizona Fall League. Another high upside arm for the system.
Austin Romine for the White Sox's Tyler Saladino.
The White Sox's catching system is a mess. They don't know whether they are rebuilding or not. Even if they were going for it, the free agent options aren't pretty since Ramos tore his knee. They'll play Romine more than they would play Saladino, and might even start him. Anderson's emergence pushed Saladino back to the bench. While this puts a lot of pressure on Higashioka, I'm more concerned with 2B now that we've shipped Castro for a pitching prospect.
Before we get to free agents, the Yankees should extend Gregorius with a 5 year 42.5M contract. I stole this from Mike Axisa's offseason blueprint at RiverAveBlues.
Free Agent Signing 1:
Rich Hill for $48M over 2 years. Not happy about the money, but the length is great and the upside is there. The Yankees have depth starting pitching options. They can set it up to skip Hill in the rotation every 3rd start if that's what is required to keep him healthy through the year. If Hill matches his recent success over 120 innings, he'll be very valuable. (Note, MLB Trade Rumors and Fangraphs cloud numbers projected 3 years, but only $50M and $51M so I thought 2 years $48 would be worth more to him)
Free Agent Signing 2:
Matt Holliday for $14M, one year. Holliday really struggled the last 2 seasons, but his BABIP was much lower than his career norms. His hard hit percentage was 38.5%and he ranked 5th in average exit velocity according to Statcast. His decreasing walks are a concern, as are his increasing grounders, but Steamer predicts a bounce-back to 121 RC+. Holliday can DH a bunch, maybe platoon at first with Bird, and lengthen the middle of the lineup.
Free Agent Signing 3:
Brett Cecil for $24M over 3 years. Cecil had a down season in 2016, but for the 3 seasons before he was excellent, even earning an All-Star bid. If he was a closer, he'd get 50% more. He's struck out between 10.38-12.83 batters per 9 innings, and he doesn't walk that many people. He's no Andrew Miller, but if he signs, I'd expect him to win the 8th inning job and push Clippard and Warren to the middle innings quickly.
With these trades and signings, the roster has taken shape. The A lineup relies a lot on unproven talent, but there's some upside offensively and defensively.
1. Gardner (LF)
2. Headley (3B)
3. Sanchez (C)
4. Holliday (DH)
5. Bird (1B)
6. Judge (RF)
7. Gregorius (SS)
8. Hicks (CF)
9. Torreyes (2B)
The 8th and 9th spots could just as easily be Mason Williams and Tyler Saladino. Higashioka would catch about 60 games, preferably mostly against left-handed pitching so that Bird can sit, Holliday shift to 1st and Sanchez DH. Refsynder rounds out the bench.
The rotation remains shaky, but again while Hill is healthy and if Garcia rebounds, it could even be a strength. Plus there isn't any pressure to place Severino in the rotation (or in the pen). The team can make their Severino decisions based on what they think will best develop him.
AAA: Severino, Green, Enns, Montgomery, Adams
Finally the bullpen looks to remain a strength, even if it isn't quite the lethal weapon of the early summer.
7. Shuttle (Goody, Heller, Holder, Shreve, Gallegos, Barbato)
Finally, the Yankees continue to shell out for minor league free agents. They need two catchers, another middle infielder, a right-hand hitting outfielder, a veteran swingman, and a 1st baseman. Who those should be? I have no idea. Since this plan has shed the incumbent backup catcher, center fielder, and second baseman, the Yankees should be a desirable destination though. This Fangraphs post suggests some hitters who could be useful depth. Todd Glaesmann as the right-handed outfielder, Williams Astudillo to catch, and Wilfredo Tovar for the middle infield. Plus bring back Phil Coke (to move between the AAA pen and rotation as needed by callups), and Chris Parmelee. Whether the Yankees surprise and make the playoffs, the Railriders should be awesome. Embrace the mediocre my friends.