Some teams will still be playing baseball next week, but the Yankees unfortunately won’t be one of them. With the regular season just about wrapped up, it is time to look ahead to the long offseason that looms before us. Last year, the Yankees didn’t sign any free agents for the first time in recent memory. Instead, Brian Cashman opted to improve the team via trades. What the Yankees intend to do this offseason remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: they should avoid signing any veteran free agents.
Over the past week, names such as Edwin Encarnacion and Rich Hill have floated around as some of the free agents that the Yankees should or could pursue. First, Buster Olney suggested that the Yankees should go after Rich Hill. I won’t argue that the Yankees don’t need starting pitchers, but Hill will be 37 at the start of next season. Although he has put together a fine year (2.05 ERA in 19 starts), Hill also spent roughly nine weeks on the disabled list dealing with a groin strain, and most recently, blisters on his left hand.
Hill has suffered from a long list of ailments throughout his career including a torn labrum in his left shoulder, and a torn UCL in 2010. He actually started last season playing for the Long Island Ducks before the Red Sox signed him. Considering his track-record and the fact that he is likely to land a multi-year deal thanks to this year’s success, the Yankees should pass. The rotation is a bit of a mess, but turning to aging free agent pitchers should be Cashman’s last resort.
Jon Heyman also suggested that Encarnacion could be on the Yankees’ radar during the offseason since Mark Teixeira will no longer be their first baseman. Signing the soon to be 34-year-old Encarnacion to a multi-year deal sounds like a recipe for disaster. Nothing against Encarnacion—he is a very good player—but if the Yankees signed him, they would be repeating previous mistakes.
Encarnacion is coming off of a season where he has (at the very least) tied his season-high number of home runs (42), and that will set him up for a big payday. He will likely command a three or four-year deal, and his performance will decline at some point, though it is impossible to say how sharply. In all likelihood, Greg Bird will be taking over at first base next season, so the Yankees don’t need to focus on adding another first baseman. However, if the Yankees want to add a power bat then they would be better off targeting a younger player through a trade.
It is time for the Yankees to move away from their obsession with signing veterans. The Yankees have signed a number of costly, aging players who have underperformed over the last few years of their contracts (See: Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia). Now that some of those contracts are coming off the books, the team has the opportunity to turn a new leaf, and the youth movement appears to be underway. Hopefully this will still be the case when the offseason comes to a close.
Do you think the Yankees should go after Hill and/or Encarnacion, or should they avoid signing older players?