The Yankees had a number of important roster questions heading into the offseason following their Game 7 elimination in the ALCS. It's only Christmas Eve, yet most of these needs have already been satisfied.
The biggest question was answered immediately following the World Series, when Masahiro Tanaka announced that he would not be exercising the opt-out clause in his contract. More recently, CC Sabathia agreed to return on a team-friendly $10 million one-year deal.
The veteran starters combined to throw 327 innings and win 27 games for the Yankees last year. More importantly, the pair came up big when the team needed it most. Sabathia was 10-1 in games following a New York loss and was the undisputed leader of the pitching staff. Tanaka really showed his worth in the playoffs when he limited offensive juggernauts Cleveland and Houston to a total of two runs over three starts. The hot stove would have been an entirely different experience for the Yankees if they had been forced to replace a pair of starters of Tanaka and Sabathia's ilk.
Although they came up short in the Ohtani sweepstakes, the organization landed the biggest fish of all when they acquired NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton from Miami for Starlin Castro and a pair of low-level prospects. The designated hitter slot had been a black hole for most of the 2017 season, which was especially evident during the playoffs. With Stanton added to the fold, the team now has a veteran power bat to plug in to the middle of the lineup, one who is also very adept at playing the outfield.
General Manager Brian Cashman also dealt third baseman Chase Headley to the Padres to cut salary. The departures of Headley and Castro essentially make the Stanton acquisition revenue neutral for 2018, which helps the team in their goal to get under the $197 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold. It also leaves the club with a couple of holes to fill in the infield.
Prior to the trades, Cashman had announced that prized prospect Gleyber Torres would compete for the third base job in spring training. The Yankees GM has since named Torres among a group of candidates to take over at second base. Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes, and Thairo Estrada were also mentioned. Miguel Andujar is another internal option for the hot corner, with both Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner pointing to his improved defense.
The guy we all want to see in pinstripes manning third base is Manny Machado. The three-time All-Star has topped thirty homers in each of the last three years for the Orioles, and he seems to be a perfect fit for the Bombers.
Baltimore seemed intent on dealing Machado, who is in the final year of his contract. Extension talks have broken down, and the Orioles appear resigned to losing Machado one way or another. Although it was reported that Baltimore had taken him off the trade block, this could just be a negotiating tactic to extract a better offer from the Yankees and other would-be suitors.
It had also been reported that the Orioles were not willing to trade Machado to the Yankees, and were even going as far as attempting to require that would-be partners agree not to flip him to New York. But who are they kidding? We all know that Orioles owner Peter Angelos will deal him to the highest bidder. The big question is, can the Yankees put together a package for Machado that is acceptable to the Orioles and doesn't include a top prospect? Or if not, would the Yankees be willing to part with Clint Frazier or Chance Adams?
New York is also in the hunt for another young, talented, controllable starter to add to its stable of pitchers. Although others have been mentioned, Gerrit Cole of the Pirates has been the team's primary target. Cole has a career FIP of 3.27. The latest rumor is that the Pirates asked for Gleyber Torres to headline the trade and the Yankees offered Clint Frazier instead. I don't know about you, but I'd pass on that one.
Adding Cole is a luxury at this point. The Yankees already have the same five-man rotation in place that got them 91 wins and a ticket to the playoffs last year. New York's pitching during the postseason was also outstanding. So I would definitely not classify the acquisition of Gerrit Cole as a "need." It certainly isn't a deal that warrants the trading of a top prospect. Machado may be a different story.
The Yankees have done very well this offseason. I think most fans would feel very comfortable starting the season as is. The team has an exciting core, and it would be interesting to see how kids like Torres and Andujar fare in the starting lineup every day.
Still, the thought of adding Machado to the mix is just too good to pass up. So put out some milk and cookies for Santa tonight. You never know, maybe we haven't gotten all of our gifts yet.