Another year of baseball is in the books, and the calendar has nearly flipped over to 2020. It was an active year for the Yankees on the field, as the team took its first division title since 2012 and went back to the ALCS.
The excitement carried on off the field as well. The Yankees were the talk of plenty of rumors for trade acquisitions and free agent signings, some of which panned out while others went in vastly different directions. Without further ado, here are some of the most interesting ones from 2019.
Ah, the free agent chase that lasted so long it spilled over into a different year. The 2018-19 offseason was a slow burner that disgruntled many people waiting for major moves to finally click into place, or the complete opposite of this recent offseason. The Yankees were still tepidly courting Manny Machado, but that race would soon be lost to the Padres. The more relevant note now is the discussion on Arenado, who the Yankees showed interest in back then and is currently being shopped by the Rockies. Perhaps something to keep tabs on?
When the Marlins finalized a trade to send J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies, details of a reported talk the Yankees had with the Marlins for Realmuto came out, and they were shocking. Miami wanted New York’s starting catcher and third baseman in return for their catcher. The whole scenario was predicated on the Yankees getting Realmuto to then flip him to the Mets, so losing Sanchez was a no-go, and the two went on to both perform well at the plate. Sanchez unfortunately dealt with injury and still had his struggles fielding at times, putting Realmuto ahead in WAR, but the Yankees are probably in a better position in the long-run having denied this deal.
Jump forward to nearly the midway point of the season, and we’ve transitioned to moves for the playoff push. Instead of trade rumors yet however, we still have a hangover of a couple free agent pitchers who got left behind and were waiting to sign with a team, one of whom was starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel. The former Cy Young winner with the Astros was a bit removed from his prime but still a quality pitcher and capable of eating innings, and the Yankees were in on him. Unfortunately, Keuchel wound up a Brave and gave them a decent run with a 3.75 ERA in 112.2 innings. The Yankees passed on Keuchel again this offseason when the left-hander signed with the White Sox, so perhaps they were just never too enamored with Keuchel.
Near the end of the trade deadline the Yankees were still pursuing starting pitching help, but none ended up coming to the Bronx. They were engaged in talks for several high-profile names, but of those listed the only one to move was Stroman to the Mets. That trade remains as shocking a play out to the Stroman trade talks as any I could’ve imagined at the time. There was also some interest in going after Arizona’s Robbie Ray, and he remains a target today, though the need has drastically shifted. The Yankees standing still at the deadline hurt them in the short-term, but it may have left them in great standing long term.
Every year there is at least one head-scratching proposition that can just boggle your mind. The Red Sox trading Mookie Betts should be one of those scenarios, but so far it hasn’t been. The Sox want to shed payroll and aren’t confidant they can even entice Betts to sign an extension, let alone win a bidding war for him in free agency.
What makes this absurd is the proposal of dealing Betts to the Yankees to alleviate that concern. And the connections between writer and publishing paper to the ownership of the club that makes the suggestion even a remote possibility. If any Red Sox fan could be presented with the opportunity to reverse the Babe Ruth trade, they wouldn’t hesitate to undo it. Instead, the fan base is presented with the suggestion to do it all over again. As a Yankee fan I’d just like the opportunity to appreciate Betts without having to deal with the whole rival player business, but this would be icing on the cake.
Finally, after a year of almosts and involved-in’s, the Yankees got their guy. They had to fend off the Angels and the Dodgers, but the Yankees walked into the Winter Meetings with a need for an ace and walked out with Gerrit Cole. The nine-year, $324 million contract they gave him will be the discussion of many future generations of free agent pitchers, but if he anchors a rotation that delivers a World Series title or more, there will be no debate about whether it was the right move or not.
Dealing J.A. Happ has been one of the few remaining points of discussion on what the 2020 roster will look like. Happ looks to be the odd man out on the rotation, and has a sizable contract of $17 million and a vesting option remaining. On the other hand, starting pitching depth can never be discounted and Happ is a year removed from a strong season in the Bronx. How much of his disastrous 2019 can be credited to age or the juiced ball is up to interpretation, but the decision to send him off or not will likely be the focal point heading into the new year.