It's time for the Winter Meetings, and that means it's also time for rumors. Here's an interesting one: according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, the Yankees have expressed interest in free agent Asdrubal Cabrera. They would obviously have him play second base in lieu of the Rob Refsnyder/Dustin Ackley platoon, but Morosi had one caveat, stating that the Yankees are on a "tight budget." Brian Cashman has made it clear that ownership has given him little room to work with this offseason before some of the bigger contracts expire, so Cabrera is probably their best free agent option for second base.
Cabrera played for the Rays on a one-year, $7.5 million contract this past season, and he did a decent job of rebuilding some value for a larger contract. In 2015, he hit .265/.315/.430 (104 wRC+) with 2.2 fWAR, making him more than worth that contract if you buy his league average defense at shortstop. Steamer projects him to be a 96 wRC+/1.2 fWAR player over 138 games, which isn't too hot.
Considering the options at second base, it isn't the worst idea. Cabrera is open to playing there, and free agents like Daniel Murphy and Ben Zobrist are likely off the Yankees' radar. The trade market would likely command top prospects or major league ready pieces for anything of value.
FanGraphs predicts that Cabrera will receive either a two or three-year deal at about $9-10 million per year, which isn't unreasonable at all. If (and that's a big "if") Cabrera can be a league average player, it's a steal. Since 2013, he has hit .249/.307/.405 with a 98 OPS+ while averaging about 30 doubles and 14 homers per year. That kind of production is not bad at all. If his defense takes a dive and his hitting ability regresses back to 2013 levels though, then he's dead weight on the payroll for a few years. Regardless, it's still wise to explore other second base options.
It's pretty clear that front office isn't wholeheartedly invested in Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley at second base, and they shouldn't be. Ackley is intriguing because of the former top prospect sheen, but his good performance with the Yankees was a whole 23 games. He hasn't been a consistent player whatsoever. Refsnyder, as well, is an unknown entity. He was fine in 16 games at the major league level, but his defense is widely derided by the organization, and until he can be more than a league average bat with poor defense, he doesn't have much value.
This also shines some light on the Yankees' current budget. If $10 million is a lot in terms of added payroll, they likely aren't adding anyone of consequence outside of trades. Cashman has said multiple times that they're looking for younger, controllable players, and that means free agents are largely off the table. As far as free agents go, though, Cabrera isn't the worst option.