The 2018 Winter Meetings are upon us. Teams will start to arrive in Las Vegas today, with the first full day of action scheduled for tomorrow. Expect a flurry of action to unfold this week, as this gathering marks the busiest occasion of the offseason. The Yankees figure to be in the mix of all the major developments. Here are four questions that should clear up in the coming days.
1. Are the Yankees in on Manny Machado or Bryce Harper?
The last time the Winter Meetings took place in Las Vegas, the Yankees walked away with CC Sabathia. After choosing not to sign Patrick Corbin, the team apparently feels the need to make a similar splash. Andy Martino explains how the Bombers aree experiencing some pressure, and that could result in a strong pursuit of either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper.
The credentials of both elite bats need no further repeating. They stand to be two of the most coveted free agents in baseball history. Either would make the Yankees a significantly better team, turning an already strong lineup into one that rivals Murderers’ Row.
Brian Cashman and company will meet with the representatives for Harper and Machado this week. There are no guarantees that the team will reel in one of the sluggers, but these sort of things can come together quickly. At the very least, there should be some clarity regarding where the Yankees stand on the two free agents.
2. How will the team finish the rotation?
At the start of the offseason, Cashman explained that he wanted to add two “preferably elite” starters into the Yankees’ rotation. They took care of one with James Paxton, but fell short on Corbin. Does J.A. Happ fit into the impact category? He’s good, but I don’t think he’s elite.
Happ, however, may not be the team’s only option. The Cleveland Indians appear ready to move one of their frontline starters. Could the Yankees make a push to land a no-doubt ace like Corey Kluber? Cashman already sat down with Cleveland’s brass at the GM Meetings last month. It’s not far-fetched to think that they will reconnect in the coming days.
Let’s hope the Yankees aim high, and if they have to settle, they walk away with Happ. Otherwise we’re looking at a Lance Lynn reunion, and that’s a sequel nobody needs to see.
3. Does Sonny Gray get traded?
On the subject of starting pitchers, the Bombers aren’t just looking to add. They want to subtract a piece from their rotation, too. Cashman made it crystal clear following the season that he would trade Sonny Gray. “I think to maximize his abilities,” the Yankees GM noted, “it would be more likely best somewhere else.”
That quote came on October 13th. In the weeks that followed, he repeated that refrain time and time again. Just recently it was revealed that 11 teams have interest in the embattled right-hander. Yet, as of this writing, Gray is still on the Yankees.
Will Cashman pull the trigger at the Winter Meetings? It wouldn’t be the first time he made such a move. Just last year he salary dumped Chase Headley on the Padres. Gray is worth keeping an eye on in the coming days.
4. What about the bullpen?
The Yankees love a super-bullpen. It’s been their calling card for years. At any given time, the team likes to have at least three viable, big-league closers on the staff. It’s a strategy that shortens the game, which proves especially valuable during the postseason.
The bullpen market, however, has been notably quiet. One would think that having two key relievers hit free agency — David Robertson and Zach Birtton — would spur the Bombers into action. Instead, there have just been a few drips and drabs about Robertson representing himself, Andrew Miller’s medicals, and Joakim Soria of all people.
The relief corps seems like something the Yankees will address after they do their heavy lifting. With agents and teams buzzing around Vegas, though, deals can get struck before you know it.