MLB insider Jon Heyman has been writing a few “actual baseball news” bits of information for a few days now to keep fans engaged during the tough lockout days. At the current time, there is some hope — however faint — that an agreement between MLB and the union could still come about today and preserve the 162-game season, so it’s certainly worth considering the potential upcoming free agent signing frenzy.
It was the Yankees’ turn for some Heyman news on Wednesday morning. He said that the Yankees “requested/received medicals” for at least three free agents: shortstop Carlos Correa and starting pitcher Carlos Rodón and Yusei Kikuchi prior to the lockout beginning on December 2nd.
(Actual baseball news: new daily feature during lockout) Yankees requested/received medicals for free agents Carlos Correa, Carlos Rodon and Yusei Kikuchi pre lockout. Smart to cover bases since 2nd free agency will be frenzied. SS/SP r needs but they do have 2 good SS prospects.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 9, 2022
Correa battled some back issues in 2018-19 but played a relatively healthy season in 2021 (148 games). As for the two pitchers, while they flashed excellence during their first All-Star campaigns in 2021, they have some injury concerns as well.
The fact that the Yankees showed interest in all three players is noteworthy for a number of reasons. The team — specifically general manager Brian Cashman — has publicly said that they are on the hunt for a new shortstop, as Gleyber Torres is expected to be moved to second base.
Uncertainty currently reigns in the Yankees’ infield situation. There is no shortstop, and there are three regular infielders for two positions (DJ LeMahieu, Gio Urshela and Torres are expected to cover second and third base). Meanwhile, the organization isn’t entirely sold on Luke Voit as the first baseman, which could result in LeMahieu making starts there, too, if the team doesn’t acquire someone else.
Correa was stellar in 2021, especially with the glove. As discussed in our previous free agent target post, he would bring a new dimension to the Yankees’ infield, as a reliable defensive shortstop; New York hasn’t had one in years! With the bat, he was terrific too, slashing .279/.366/.485 with 26 homers, 104 runs, 92 RBI, and a 134 wRC+.
Correa’s price tag, however, is expected to be over $300 million. Will the Yankees go that far knowing that they have two top prospects at the position in Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza, or will they use the depth to their advantage? That is perhaps the biggest storyline to follow after the lockout.
The Yankees’ interest in Rodón and Kikuchi can be considered news. The former would have been a legitimate Cy Young candidate if not for some arm issues down the stretch that limited him to 24 starts and 132.2 innings. He was rock-solid when healthy, though, as he made history with a no-hitter and near-perfecto on April 14th, and then finished with a 13-5 record, a 2.37 ERA, 185 strikeouts and a 0.96 WHIP.
The fact that Rodón didn’t receive a qualifying offer from the Chicago White Sox is pretty telling, though. He battled some arm soreness in September, and it’s unclear if he is completely over those issues, especially considering how they derailed his previous few seasons.
As for Kikuchi, his final season numbers in 2021 weren’t all that impressive: he finished with a 4.41 ERA and a 4.61 FIP in 157 innings, with 9.34 strikeouts per nine frames. However, the story is deeper than that, as he developed COVID-19 symptoms around the All-Star break, and there is a chance his performance was, at least somewhat, affected in the second half.
Kikuchi was quite reliable before the break, with a 3.48 ERA and a .282 wOBA against in 98.1 innings. In the second half, though, he struggled to the tune of a 5.98 ERA and a .387 wOBA in 58.2 frames. Kikuchi is a very intriguing target, but several teams will likely be interested in his services. He was said to be mulling over multiple three-year offers before the lockout.
In any case, the Yankees were at least considering some reinforcements before transactions were frozen, and it seems like they could get right to work whenever the lockout is lifted. Stay tuned.