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  • Cary Greene

What Will the Yankees “Active January” Look Like?

What Will the Yankees “Active January” Look Like?

New Years Thoughts

by Cary Greene

January 6, 2023

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In early December, Yankees GM Brian Cashman received mostly positive reviews for dealing with the Yankees Division rival, the Boston Red Sox, for the versatile left-handed hitting outfielder Alex Verdugo. Then, Cashman executed a blockbuster trade with the Padres for two more left-handed outfielders, landing one of the game’s elite mashers in Juan Soto while also snaring the defensively gifted Trent Grisham.

 

In one swoop, Cashman shored up what was formerly a very unbalanced Yankees lineup while also injecting needed help into the Yankees beleaguered outfield corps. Last season, the Yankees spent roughly $72 million on their outfield, with the likes of Jake Bauers, Willie Calhoun, Billy McKinney, Greg Allen, Isaiah Kiner-Flalefa, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Franchy Cordero whiffing, squibbing, stumbling and bumbling around as if any one of them was a passable outfielder for a once proud franchise that boasted the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Babe Ruth in it’s outfield.

 

In 2024, the Yankees will now spend a smidge more than $115 million on its outfield, so its fair to say, Cashman has spent substantially to improve what was perceived by many as the 2023 Yankees greatest flaw. Even with Giancarlo Stanton’s fissure effect, due to his most recent capsizing of yet another season, the current crop of Yankees outfielders are projected to wallop 132 home runs, drive in 371 runs and produce a total of 16.4 f-WAR.

 

Season after season, the Yankees greatest problem is of course injuries, but with the trades for Soto, Verdugo, and Grisham, the Yankees have infused their outfield mix with tremendous amounts of durability and that’s fantastic news for any team who employs Giancarlo Stanton, believing each season that he might be able to play some outfield in even half of the games he plays in. Now, the Yankees need no longer to rely on Stanton, which makes Stanton anything from a potential cherry on top of the sundae to a trade, or even future DFA candidate.

 

Whenever I look at potential free agent signings or trade targets, I try to be realistic. I ask questions like, How much did the player make last season and what is he going to make this season? What was his on-field performance value relative to the cash outlay last season? Given the money the player will make this season, will his performance likely make it worth the spend?

 

Some Yankees players are tremendous bargains presently. Gleyber Torres and Anthony Volpe are easily the two best examples of this and if they were both oranges, they would be projected to produce more juice than the squeeze in the coming season. For next season only, Yankees fans can also expect Juan Soto to likely be a fantastic bargain, even if he is likely  to earn around $29 million or more in what is his final season of arbitration.

 

Below is a chart that quantifies how I look at the Yankees' birds in hand. I look at the previous season versus what is likely to be the case this season. We’ll use the Yankees outfield projections as our example:



Is the Yankees outfield a perfect storm for 2024? Not quite. However, “if” Giancarlo Stanton gently rebounds as STEAMERS thinks he will, the Yankees are likely going to get on-field performance that likely exceeds their 2024 spend. This is good news!

 

Since the stunning flurry of moves however, it’s been very noisy on baseball’s western front - with the Dodgers stealing the limelight by landing $1 billion worth of star power in the names of Ohtani, Yamamoto, and Glasnow! Imagine a single team adding not only a modern day sultan of swat but  potentially bringing in three aces all in one offseason for the ages??

 

In stark contrast however,it’s been inexorably all quiet on the eastern front over the Bronx. Yet, the Yankees are quietly promising their pinstriped fan base that they expect to have a very busy January.

 

With the fall geese long since having migrated to warmer places unknown and as Gotham City holds its breath, waiting for the Yankees next possible gaggle of moves, the passing of each day brings new honks and clucks pertaining to where and more accurately, whom, the evil eye of the dark empire may be focusing on giving a few golden eggs to.

 

With Jordan Montgomery apparently prioritizing the Rangers and possibly the Red Sox, the crafty lefty who was once battery mates with Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon while a member of the Yankees starting rotation, it appears the Yankees quest to land “at least” one more starter is still ongoing.

 

Many expected the Yankees to actively pursue Japanese lefty Shōta Imanaga but the Yankees reportedly have, “no interest,  considering him to be a flyball pitcher who wouldn’t be a fit for Yankee Stadium,” this per NJ.com’s Randy Miller. While Imanaga’s ERA last season (2.80) was superb and despite that he struck out nearly 9 batters per 9 innings while tossing for the Yokohama DeNA BayStars last season, he also gave up 17 home runs - that's a concerning number. It appears Imanaga’s fly ball rates are simply prohibitive and the Yankees appear to have wisely decided to turn their focus for a starter elsewhere.

 

Kind of surprisingly, the Yankees have suddenly become interested in Blake Snell. While the faithful here at SSTN seem fairly well divided on whether or not they like Snell as a member of the Yankees rotation, I think it’s fair to say that much of quibbling hasn’t been about liking or disliking Snell as a pitcher, but the banter has been more so related to where he would slot into the rotation.

 

Most projection services are calling for Snell to regress to a middle of the rotation starter, so it’s fair to say that he’s not likely to pitch like a bonafide ace. STEAMERS is forecasting that Snell will produce a 3.3 f-WAR season while posting a 3.65 ERA with 11.29 K/9 and 4.16 BB/9 over 174 innings – all while holding opposing batters to a .217 average.

 

While this 2024 projection for Snell, who was last season’s NL Cy Young Award winner, calls for a fall off from his 2023 4.1 f-WAR/2.25 ERA season, I think most will agree that he is a quality starting pitcher who would certainly make the Yankees rotation both better and more left-handed.

 

Recently, the Blue Jays have reportedly taken the lead for the services of free agent Yariel Rodriguez, per MLB Trade Rumors. While the Yankees, who were also rumored to be in pursuit of Y-Rod consider him to be better suited for a bullpen role, the Jays believe he has the stuff to be a starter, so they are now the team to beat as they are doubling down in order to bolster their already solid rotation. 

 

Also of note, the Yankees have apparently, as of Jan 5th, jumped into the mix for White Sox righty Dylan Cease, who Baseball Trade Values projects to be worth $40.4 MTV. With two years of team control remaining, Cease would likely slot into the back of the Yankees rotation. STEAMERS projects he’ll regress significantly from what was a down season for him last year, in which he still flashed a 3.7 f-WAR, with a 2024 f-WAR of 2.7, to go along with a 4.13 ERA while posting 10.14 K/9 and 3.84 BB/9 across 178 innings. Over the past 3 seasons, FanGraphs ranks Cease as the eighth best starter in baseball.

 

Currently, the Yankees CBT payroll figure sits at $290 million, which means Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner is funding a franchise that is very likely going to become a three-time luxury tax offender. Since the Yankees payroll is already above the third tier of $277 million, Steinbrenner is likely focused on not exceeding the fourth (and final) tier which is $297 million. Presently, the Yankees will pay a CBT tax of 95% on their bloated payroll but if they soar past the fourth tier, they’ll pay a 110% tax rate.

 

Signing a player like Blake Snell would likely require a seven-year contract in the neighborhood of $200 million. If divided up equally over the length of the deal, Snell would cost the Yankees $28.57 million in AAV, so the Yankees might decide to get creative and backload his deal. You read that first here on SSTN, so that’s right my dear readers, “if” the Yanks sign Snell, I’m predicting a back loaded deal.

 

However, Cease will only make a third of what Snell would get if his contract wasn’t back loaded, so this makes him more attractive apples to apples. The problem is though, Cease is not a free agent, so trading for him would require a significant prospect outlay on the Yankees part. Considering the Orioles, with their loaded farm system, are also very interested in trading with the White Sox for Cease, I personally don’t see the White Sox doing anything other than extracting maximum value from what can now be called a market that is desperate for starting pitching.

 

According to the Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the White Sox are “staying open-minded” and are “not necessarily inclined to favor a team that could include major-league-ready pitching.” This news might mean that the Yankees, who liquidated a ton of organizational pitching depth, might be able to shop a higher end positional prospect as part of a proposal to the White Sox for Cease. Spencer Jones represents a tiny bit of an over pay, seeing as how Baseball Trade Values lists him as being worth $44.5 MTV. Aside from including Jones, the Yankees would likely need to propose a two or even three for one type trade.

 

Other organizational trade chips include Jasson Dominquez ($28.7 MTV), Austin Wells ($21.1 MTV), Clarke Schmidt ($19.7 MTV), Roderick Arias ($19.3 MTV), Chase Hampton ($15 MTV), Oswald Peraza ($14.7 MTV), and Everson Pereira ($12.7 MTV). Though there’s plenty of prospect “oomph” atop the Yankees prospects chart, make no mistake - trading for Cease would be pretty painful for the organization. Such is the price to acquire front part of the rotation starter with a proven track record.

 

Another starter the Yankees have been linked to is Jesús Luzardo, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan, which I find to be more of a click bait type suggestion than one grounded in reality. Sure, one of Cashman’s minions may have dialed “1-800 Marlins Front Office” but the minion was surely reminded that the cost of acquiring Luzardo starts north of $63.3 MTV, which is his present value.

 

Considering all of these details which I’ve laid out, I project Brian Cashman to keep adding no-name pitchers to the Yankees organization, like he always does, while he contemplates what is presently an absolutely bullish market that places a premium value on starting pitchers worth their weight in Stat-Cast caviar and FanGraphs pickled herring. In the end, Cashman will acquiesce to this year’s market trends and, due to trading for Juan Soto, he’ll need to approach Hal Steinbrenner’s desk and ask for a blank check for Scott Boras to write on, in order to put Blake Snell in the Yankees starting rotation.

 

Now, we move upwards and onwards. With the Yankees outfield all set and given that the Yankees starting rotation will likely be upgraded, are the Yankees all set positionally. Is the Yankees roster, as currently constructed, good enough to keep the window propped open for a significant rebound and perhaps, just maybe, one more run at a World Series championship?

 

Numerous other rumors have been swirling in the winter winds that indicate the Yankees are looking to possibly import a third baseman as well. Though Brian Cashman has definitively stated that the team is all set at third base, apparently planning to use internal options to cover the hot corner for the upcoming season, Cashman is still sniffing around for infield help.

 

This may indicate one of two possible scenarios may unfold. The first and most likely, is that Cashman is looking to add a very inexpensive infielder to the mix, someone who can perhaps play multiple positions. In this scenario, the Yankees lack of belief in Oswald Peraza and Oswaldo Cabrera surfaces.

 

With Peraza now out of options, this situation has really reached critical mass. If the Yankees aren’t going to play him, then they likely need to move him while his trade value, which has declined considerably in the last two seasons, is still high enough to get something of value in return.

 

Due to Cabrera’s miserable 2023 season (60 wRC+/.256 wOBA) and given that he has two options remaining, he very likely will playing in Scranton for the foreseeable future. Thus, the door is open for a very inexpensive utility player.

 

Personally, I don’t believe either player, Peraza or Cabrera, factor into the Yankees future plans at this point. Suffice it to say, I’ll be shocked if either player is on the Yankees opening day roster. I do expect Cashman to trade Peraza by the way. Look for this to happen this month. Cabrera meanwhile is nothing more than a depth piece going forward.

 

Another possible scenario however is that the Yankees miss out a big free agent pitcher. In which case, the door is now potentially ajar for a quality free agent infielder signing - someone who could improve upon the Yankees current infield, a player who has some offensive upside and who could at the very least, serve to lengthen the Yankees lineup.

 

Collectively, the Yankees infield is projected to contribute 116 home runs, drive in 410 runs and be worth 15.0 f-WAR. Now let’s look at the Yankees infield projections, though the same lens that I examined the Yankees outfield.



Projections seem to think that DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo will both rebound this season. If this happens, that’s potentially 4.9 f-WAR between the two of them. Given that Oswald Peraza is projected to be a 1.1 f-WAR performer in 2024, would it be worth it for the Yankees to trade him this month and sign or trade for a replacement who’s bat has more upside?

 

Also, are the Yankees better off returning DJ LeMahieu to the role of being a super utility player, rather than planning on him being their everyday third baseman, with perhaps Peraza backing him up?

 

It’s at this juncture that I think it would be fun to use a “Singerian” Player A vs Player B comparison table to compare two of the free agents that the Yankees have been loosely connected to.



Player A was in his final year of arbitration last season, but he’s now a free agent who is projected to land a significant contract, likely for 5-years with an AAV of $30 million. He’s offensively projected to be about the same as DJ LeMahieu will be, but he’s a shade better defensively and yes, he’s exclusively a third baseman. That player is of course Matt Chapman, who played for the Blue Jays last season.

 

Durability is also a big calling card of Chapman’s and as the Yankees trades so far this season illustrate, Brian Cashman is looking to put a more reliable team on the field in 2024. Therefore, having the certainty of Chapman in the lineup on a daily basis could make a world of difference for the often beat up Yankees. If combined with the ever reliable Juan Soto, Trent Grisham and Alex Verdugo, adding Chapman would add even more stability to the Yankees.

 

Player B doesn’t seem to fit the mold of what Cashman is really looking for. He missed 108 days last season with a hip injury. He may however represent an inexpensive option who could turn out to be well worth rolling the dice for on a short term contract. Should the Yankees sign an expensive free agent starter, signing non other than fan favorite Gio Urshela might actually work out well - if that is, he manages to bounce back and stay healthy.

 

Let’s open all of this up for debate in the comments section below, where SSTN’s Yankees faithful make all the difference concerning the direction the Yankees should head in!

14 Comments


Edward Morvitz
Edward Morvitz
Jan 07

I suspect that given enough at bats, Peraza might be a .260-.270 hitter with about 15 hrs and great defense.

Like

Melfman1
Melfman1
Jan 06

This is third article that I’ve read that has mistakenly indicated that Imanaga gave up 46 home runs last season. That is wrong, look at his stats. He gave up 46 earned runs (17 home runs). It’s sad how bad journalists are these days that nothing gets proofread or fact-checked anymore. I still don’t think the Yankees are interested in him, but it’s not because of 46 homers.

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Melfman1
Melfman1
Jan 07
Replying to

Thank you both! Sorry for the overreaction, it was just frustrating.

Like

fuster
Jan 06

sign Snell and pay him a salary comparable to that paid for Rodon.


and the Yankees have the prospects to make one significant trade without bankrupting the sprouts.


(I like the idea of trading for Oneil Cruz, but that's neither here nor there as the Pirates are unlikely to deal with the Yankees on reasonable terms)


I'm thinking that Corbin Burnes is the best bet.... and that Burnes is in his walk year and his trade value pretty affordable.


Milwaukee's shortstop, Willy Adames is also in his walk year and I would assume that the Brewers might be open to trading Burnes in return for a shortstop and a young starting pitcher


Schmidt and Peraza would be my opening offer


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Cary Greene
Cary Greene
Jan 07
Replying to

Well I didn't mind that the Yankees grabbed Clay Holmes! In fact, I was enthused by the whole trade because I thought that Hoy would turn out to be the next Joe Morgan!

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Alan B.
Alan B.
Jan 06

Peraza just got a 4th option, along with pitcher Yoendryz Gomez. But I do agree with you in that Peraza will be traded. I never thought of Cabrera more than a bench player, or at best an almost everyday position roaming player.


The last 5 guys added to the 40 man roster are more to fill the AAA roster. To me, really too early to do that. Didn't sign Brandon Woodruff. Didn't even sign Mike Clevinger. I never thought Monty was a realistic option, then especially when it came out that Monty's wife got a residency in Boston, can anyone really fault him to want to sign with Boston with sleeping or seeing his wife on a somewhat regular basis…


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Alan B.
Alan B.
Jan 07
Replying to

I'd think they'd option Cabrera before they option Peraza. But optioning either of them IMO is a very stupid move. I'd rather trade one of them, even if we do a deal like we did with Ben Gamel all those years ago for low A or rookie pitchers Juan Then (traded back to SEA for EE in 2019) & JP Sears. Why? Let's be honest here, Vivas will be handed the 2B job in SWB, and having Cabrera or Peraza sent down, only means that Caleb Durbin, who can also play SS besides 2B, instead of sliding over to SS to replace Sweeney, ends up back in Somerset. After next season, there really will be a 40 man roster c…

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