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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 1/2/21

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Yankees sign Socrates Brito; Tanaka speaks on interest in returning to Japan; Five key questions for the Bombers

Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images | Randy Miller: The Yankees did make a signing on New Year’s Day, but it wasn’t the one that fans were waiting for. The team signed outfielder Socrates Brito to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Brito has 99 games of MLB experience for the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays. He went through a lot in 2020, overcoming COVID-19 himself, but tragically losing his brother to the disease. He’s the ninth minor league free agent the Yankees have signed, adding to their camp roster, but it is unlikely that Brito will play a large role with the Yankees in 2021. Still, more outfield depth can’t hurt, especially with Brett Gardner’s future unclear.

SNY | Garrett Stepien: A report earlier in the week indicated that Masahiro Tanaka was only interested in playing for the Yankees or returning to Japanese baseball, and yesterday, Tanaka spoke about it on Japanese radio. Tanaka said that “everything is still unclear” regarding MLB’s season structure and his future, and even said “I don’t know if I’m playing baseball in [the] Major Leagues.” He called his chances of returning to Japan “not zero.” At the very least, Tanaka certainly seems to be seriously considering returning overseas if the Yankees don't make him a reasonable offer, which may force their hand. | Bryan Hoch: In reading Hoch’s piece on the five biggest questions remaining for the Yankees, one point is immediately clear: the Yankees have quite a few holes to fill on their roster, and they might be running out of time. DJ LeMahieu’s status is still in the air, and the longer that drags on, the fewer potential replacements remain. The rotation is also a question mark, and for all the hope that the team would upgrade its bullpen, the Yankees haven’t shown serious interest in any relievers at this point. It all adds up to a new year full of familiar concerns.