Some Under-the-Radar Free Agents For the Yankees to Consider
By Chris O’Connor
January 12, 2021
With recent reports indicating that DJ LeMahieu is unhappy with the pace of negotiations with the Yankees and is seeking something close to the 5 year, $110 million deal that JD Martinez got from the Red Sox in 2018, the possibility of him having played his last game in pinstripes is growing. A return is certainly possible, but even if they are unable to re-sign him, I do not think it is likely that they splurge on another top free agent like Trevor Bauer or George Springer as they look to get under the luxury tax threshold. I do hope the Yankees re-sign DJ, but I could see them using their remaining budget for mid-upper tier options like Jake Odorrizi and Masahiro Tanaka. With their starting pitching and up-the-middle infield depth looking shaky, let’s take a look at some under-the-radar players for the team to consider.
Andrelton Simmons (31)
Simmons would be a great fit in my mind if they are unable to re-sign LeMahieu. The Yankees lack great infield defense and Simmons is one of the greatest defensive shortstops of all-time. He has developed to become about a league-average bat in recent years, hitting for decent averages but little power. His contact skills, however, would mesh well with the Yankees all-or-nothing approach. He has never struck out more than 67 times in any season.
Tommy La Stella (31)
La Stella is similar to Simmons in that he rarely strikes out and is a plus defender. He can play 1st base, 2nd base, and 3rd base, versatility that the Yankees may need with injury concerns among many in the lineup. His OPS+ over the last 2 years has been 122, making him a solid bat to add to the lineup. He has injury concerns himself, having never played more than 123 games in any season, but this is why he would not cost much on the market.
Kike Hernandez (28)
Hernandez has been very durable in recent years and like La Stella, brings a decent bat and versatility on defense. He has played every defensive position aside from catcher in his career and in 2018, he hit 21 homers with a 117 OPS+. He has, however, struggled over the past two years, which is why he would come cheap. Just 28 years old, it is harder to believe that he would become better after leaving the Dodgers, the premier organization for player development, but maybe the Yankees can work their magic with him. If not, he would be a decent utility piece to the club.
Other versatile infielders to look at include Brock Holt, Zack Cozart, and Freddy Galvis.
Now some pitchers:
Corey Kluber (34)
The two time Cy Young Award winner pitched to a 2.89 ERA in 215 innings as recently as 2018, though he has pitched a total of 36.2 innings over the past two years. This would be a great low-risk, high-reward player. If he can regain his old form, or something close to it, he would be a great value on what is likely to be a one year prove-it deal.
Cole Hamels (37)
Like Kluber, Hamels is a buy-low candidate with extensive postseason experience and a long track record of success in the majors. Though he pitched only 3 innings last year due to a shoulder injury, he pitched to a 3.79 ERA across 330 innings in the two prior seasons. Hamels has a career 3.41 ERA in 100 postseason innings and might be looking for one more title run before he calls it a career.
Jose Quintana (31)
This would be more of a high-risk, higher-upside get than Kluber or Hamels. The Cubs traded top prospect Eloy Jimenez to get Quintana back at the 2017 trade deadline and he was pretty average with them, pitching to a 4.24 ERA over his 4 years there. Aside from an injury-plagued 2020, Quintana has been very durable over the course of his career and though he does not throw very hard, he has good off-speed stuff, so maybe Matt Blake and the new analytically driven pitching coaches can tap into that. I think Quintana settles for a one year prove it deal and he would be a nice get for the Yanks.
Other low-cost options I would take a look at include Taijuan Walker, Jordan Zimmerman, and Matt Shoemaker.