The Yankees and Brian Cashman are looking to build a championship-caliber team this offseason. With the players they currently have on their roster, they’re already pretty close. They were a few hits and a few runs away just a couple weeks ago. Nobody is doubting the Yankees roster and the fact that it can win a championship. This team has had two straight seasons of 100 wins or more, they have the talent (even if it would be great if they had even more). For them, it’s just a matter of executing when given the chance.
Of course, the exact roster they enter 2020 with is still very much in question. The Yankees have a few key free agents hitting the market, and most notably, Didi Gregorius looks like he may not be coming back. That leaves the roster in an interesting spot.
The Yankees essentially have two position battles going on at both third base and first base, followed by two studs in the middle infield. We’re a long way from seeing any decisions officially made, but one thing is for sure; neither has played the middle infield in the past. Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu will probably need somebody to relieve them should Gregorius depart for other pastures.
This is exactly why I think signing a lower-profile veteran middle infielder could be extremely worthwhile. Scanning through the free-agent middle infielders, I noticed two that could be great candidates to provide quality at-bats and fielding off the bench.
First, let’s begin with Asdrubal Cabrera. Cabrera has never been a star in his career. Realistically, he’s been a pretty average journeyman. His career numbers aren’t flashy, but aren’t bad either. The veteran going into his age-33 season can play both shortstop and second base and has been to the playoffs five times, and most recently won the World Series with the Nationals. His most valuable attribute, however, might be that defensive versatility. He could fit nicely at second base, and fill in at short in a pinch. With Torres and LeMahieu getting most of the playing time, all Cabrera would need to do is provide dependable insurance off the bench and veteran experience in the clubhouse.
Next, I would point to Jose Iglesias. He could fill a similar niche to Cabrera, and unlike Cabrera, he’s still under 30, for the next two months at least. Iglesias has always been known for his flashy fielding ability and would be a great guy to take over for Torres at short on off days. He certainly won’t scare anyone at the plate, but he’s averaged an 86 OPS+ across the past two seasons, which is more than enough for a top-flight defender at shortstop. While some level of pop off the bench would be nice, the Yankees should have that covered with their other potential reserve players like Mike Tauchman, Mike Ford, Clint Frazier, and the like.
All eyes will be on the big free-agent pieces like Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole, and rightly so. That said, while players like Cabrera, Iglesias, and their ilk will come far for less, their contributions still could come in handy on next year’s team. We only need look back at this summer to see how important depth contributors can be.