While the Yankees’ offseason has often been frustrating, for the most part, it has at least been lively. They led off by bringing back their veteran stalwarts in Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia. They re-signed key trade additions from last year, J.A. Happ and Zach Britton. They traded for a high-upside starter in James Paxton, and shored up their infield depth with DJ LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki.
Conspicuously, they haven’t appeared to aggressively pursue any of the truly elite talents available. At this point, after such a busy winter, any such acquisition of a high-profile player, such as Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, or Corey Kluber, would require a major rejiggering of the roster.
If the team imported Machado, the superstar they were most clearly linked to earlier in the offseason, the roster would essentially be left with two full infields. Tulowitzki was reportedly lured to New York by the prospect of starting, so he presumably starts at short. Gleyber Torres is the incumbent at second, Luke Voit has the inside track at first, and Machado obviously would slot in nicely at third.
That leaves presumed super utilityman LeMahieu, Greg Bird, Miguel Andujar, and, eventually, Didi Gregorius, in a bit of limbo. This presumes health on everyone’s part, and in the case of Tulowitzki especially, this is not a particularly solid presumption. Even so, the Yankees line up to potentially have eight (8!) major-league caliber infielders if they reeled in Machado.
Similarly, a surprise acquisition of Harper would leave the team with basically two full outfields as well, if not more. Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge are entrenched in center and right field, respectively, while Brett Garnder can man left with Giancarlo Stanton flitting between designated hitter and a corner spot. Harper would presumably force Gardner to the bench full-time, and that’s without mentioning the long-lost Jacoby Ellsbury, or the on-the-mend Clint Frazier.
The Yankees haven’t been rumored to be in on Harper, and likewise, they’ve hardly been mentioned in recent Kluber trade rumors either. Yet as the Yankees, they can’t truly be ruled out on any major player until pen has been put to paper elsewhere. Kluber, of course, would create a logjam in the Yankees’ rotation. Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and James Paxton are going nowhere, so a trade for Kluber would put some sort of pressure on Happ and Sabathia.
Even if the team simply follows through with its pursuit of right-handed reliever Adam Ottavino, the roster might need some initial reshuffling. The names Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, and Britton are written in ink in the bullpen. Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga have long profiled as interesting relief candidates, and Stephen Tarpley emerged as a highly intriguing southpaw last season. Another reliever addition would push a talented arm to the minors.
In essence, if the Yankees make a major play between now and the start of the season, they will almost be forced to do some restructuring of the roster. Andujar might have to go, or perhaps Frazier, or Ellsbury, or maybe even Bird. It’s anyone’s guess as to how the Yankees would actually solve these logjams. None of this is to indicate that such a reshuffling should stand as an obstacle to the Yankees’ swinging for premier talent. Having too many good players is an excellent problem to have, one the Yankees should welcome with all speed.
At the end of the day, the most obvious power play the Yankees could make has always been the signing of Machado, followed by making Andujar a primary piece in a Kluber trade. It’s probably a pipe dream, but if the Yankees want to go for the jugular, there’s no better way to do it than to target a young superstar infielder and an ace.
Even if Cleveland takes its aces off the table, the prospect of having to move talented players to accommodate superstars shouldn’t discourage the Yankees from trying to sign an elite player. It’s no fun to have to say goodbye to young players that have already contributed, like Andujar, or players still trying to find their way, like Bird or Frazier. Ultimately, the Yankees shouldn’t have a hard time making those decisions if that’s what it comes to.
With each day that passes, it seems less and less likely the Yankees will take the plunge and make another major move. It sounds as if ownership will remain miserly when it comes to Machado and Harper, but if they wise up, their previous offseason activity will force a reshuffling. Even so, the Yankees should dive headfirst into the deep end and push the roster over the top with a starry free-agent signing. Time is running out for them to do so.