The Yankees made their intentions clear coming into the winter meetings. They were looking for an ace, and Gerrit Cole would be their top priority. New York secured their white whale, and also made progress elsewhere. They re-signed the longest-tenured Yankee in Brett Gardner, creating further depth for an outfield that will see Aaron Hicks miss about half the season. With those two signings, the Yankees have covered up holes in their depth chart, but could still be looking to make a few more moves.
Now that the winter meetings are in the past, here are a few things that might come up on the Yankees' checklist for the rest of the offseason.
Over the last week, we have seen both Didi Gregorius and Austin Romine join other clubs, but one Yankee free agent in Dellin Betances is still out there looking for employment. The Yankees have shown an interest in adding a reliever on two fronts. It was rumored they were looking into Blake Treinen when he was non-tendered, and once Josh Hader was placed on the trade block they started kicking the tires on him as well. With six out of the eight relief spots taken by the elite five, and with Luis Cessa without options, two reliever spots appear available, leaving clear potential for one more reliever and a spot for the Scranton Shuttle.
Betances, a Yankee regular since 2014, has been one of the most dominant relievers of this decade, and letting him go doesn’t only mean losing top flight talent. It’ll mean losing one of the faces of the organization, and a player who has been important to this team's ascension over the past few years. The Yankees should try to bring him back, perhaps on a pillow contact, or look to replace him with a productive veteran on the market.
February was a busy month for the Yankees last offseason, as they offered contract extensions to both Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks. They might look to lock down other players, as such extensions provide stability for the player and likely savings for ownership. Securing a talent like Severino for four years and possibly a fifth was a no-brainer. Players like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Chad Green, who are currently going through arbitration, could be candidates for other long-term commitments.
Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and James Paxton form a dominant top four, but things aren’t as clear after them. Plausible fifth starter J.A. Happ is the Yankees' top trade candidate. Domingo German’s domestic violence investigation is ongoing, Jordan Montgomery is about to make his full-season return from Tommy John surgery, and Jonathan Loaisiga has not been able to stay healthy for a full season.
Deivi Garcia and Michael King form the end of the Yankees' pitching depth currently, but a team looking to clinch their division shouldn’t be relying on rookie options. Garcia and King may exceed expectations like Montgomery did in 2017, but it's better to be prepared, because if we learned any thing in 2019, it’s that injuries can strike at any moment.
Now that Austin Romine is gone, Kyle Higashioka is next on the depth chart. Compared to Romine, Higashioka can offer more power with the bat, superior pitch-framing ability, and a better poptime, according to Statcast. However, the Yankees could look to add minors depth as a precaution for the major league roster, like they did with Zack Granite, offering him an invitation to spring training, adding further depth for the outfield.
Additionally, adding a back-up catcher via major-league contract isn’t out of the question. Martin Maldonado has been linked with the Yankees as well this offseason.
A J.A. Happ trade
With the contracts of Gerrit Cole and Brett Gardner sitting on the table and a 40-man roster at full capacity, something has to be done to clear some space. Moving Happ to a team willing to potentially buy a prospect could be a start. Rebuilding teams are always looking for prospects to add, and if they believe 17 million dollars is worth a season of Happ and a prospect, a deal could come together.