The only thing on Yankees fans’ minds for the past week has been the chase to get Manny Machado in pinstripes. The Yankees are one of three teams reportedly still vying for the superstar’s talents, and all of them have made their pitches. A decision is coming soon, but apparently not until 2019. Apologies if that was what you were hoping for as a Christmas gift.
In the meantime, however, the Yankees have other moves to make to complete their roster, and one of their most pressing issues is what to do with the bullpen. Relievers David Robertson and Zach Britton are free agents currently, and the Yankees have been involved in talks to bring them back, while also courting Colorado reliever Adam Ottavino. For better worse, the team may not have luxury here of waiting until the new year.
The relief market has gotten going recently, with the most notable signing coming from former Yankee Andrew Miller, who inked a multi-year contract (with a no-trade clause) with the Cardinals. Miller was another candidate the Yankees could have targeted, although the odds were long and they had no known interest in Miller. Even so his signing means that we’re drawing closer to bigger names making their choices.
Ottavino appears to be the prized target of the class, but Robertson has also drawn interest from several teams. Both are somewhat comparable, as they are 33-year-old impact relievers that won’t be closers if they return to their previous teams. Robertson has been the more consistent of the two, pitching to a career 2.88 ERA, while Ottavino is coming off of a better 2018 with 112 strikeouts in 77.2 innings. Both of them are also on the radar of the Red Sox, and this brings in the second reason why the Yankees need to come to terms quickly with one of these names; by letting them sign elsewhere they will be actively improving their rivals.
The Yankees may have the options in-house to replace Roberston or Britton should either of them go elsewhere, and perhaps they even have a candidate or two to breakout in the pen, but by letting one of them potentially go to Boston, it would shore up what was one of the Red Sox’ few weaknesses. Securing at least one of them on the roster, with the possibility of bringing in another as well, should be the primary focus over the holidays.
The Red Sox are currently waiting out the market on one of their own free agent relievers, Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel was asking for a $100 million contract at the onset of the offseason, but reportedly has come down on that with no one willing to take him on that deal. This could signal that Kimbrel is getting closer to signing, and thus further thinning the market, or the Sox could get tired of waiting for him to come down and more aggressively pursue other options. Either way, waiting on others to influence the market isn’t in the Yankees’ best interest. Their need is apparent, and the opportunity is there now. They should pounce on it while they can.