The Yankees have entered one of their first lulls of the offseason, which is something not many other teams can claim. That’s not to say that nothing is happening, far from it, but it is the first point in the offseason where the Yankees are simply forced to wait for a few things to play out.
The team entered November firing on all cylinders, re-signing veteran CC Sabathia before negotiating a big trade with the Seattle Mariners for James Paxton. They’ve also been open since the offseason began about their intentions to trade Sonny Gray away, and have gotten inquiries from several teams about him. Now, however, the pace has slowed down.
The final big pieces to the 2019 puzzle that the Yankees have their eyes on are all free agents, with breakout starter Patrick Corbin the top pitching option on the market, and superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper available on the offensive end. The Yankees have been involved in all of these players’ biddings, most closely Corbin’s, but the momentum that carried them to swift decisions over the past month hasn’t helped them here.
Sabathia was an easy decision for the Yankees, largely because he had every intention of finding a deal with the club. Seattle, one of the only other teams more active than New York, decided to commit to a rebuild and thus moved quickly to sell its pieces before the market could take away potential partners.
Many other teams, however, are looking toward the free agent pool before moving onto other business. Corbin appears to be the closest to a decision, which would jump-start the rest of the starting pitching market, but Harper and Machado’s landing spots remain mysteries. With such prized talent still on the table, the rest of the market is due to wait for a resolution.
This could wind out working in one of two ways for the Yankees. Should the team win one of the top three free agents, or more, than the heavy lifting is done for this offseason. The only moves they would have to make would be little, strategic additions, and they could watch how the rest of the field plays out. Should they strike out though, then the frenzy continues, and suddenly the Yankees are on even ground with their competitors.
In the latter case, the Yankees would immediately need to pivot towards the starting pitcher market, and determine if they would be better off pursuing a J.A. Happ or Dallas Keuchel, or whether the trade market would be the better choice. They would also have to look at their infield, and work out a trade or two to shore it up. Both problems could intersect if the Yankees include Miguel Andujar in any trade for a top-flight pitcher, but with Machado off the board, then the Yankees would be hard pressed to find a good replacement.
All of this is why it is crucial that the Yankees come away with at least one of their top free agent targets. Not because the other scenario couldn’t work out, but because it becomes a lot less clear what the better move is, and where the best upgrade is.