Which Players will the Yankees Acquire this Season?
Which Players will the Yankees Acquire this Season?
April Thoughts, by Cary Greene
April 6, 2023
Experienced fans know that the first third of the season is a time for most team’s to assess what they’ve got. Then, as the MLB Trade Deadline approaches near the midpoint of the season, contending teams try to improve and non-contenders look to make deals that will help them in the future.
The Yankees are in a very interesting place right now because they’ve elected to roll with Anthony Volpe at shortstop, while optioning the now seemingly tradable Oswald Peraza to the minors. There’s no secret about the partial youth movement the Yankees are engaging in and with an uber prospects like Jasson Dominguez forcing his way into the picture, and other pieces like Trey Sweeney, Austin Wells, Everson Pereira, and the aforementioned Peraza all looking more and more like pieces the Yankees are counting on in 2024 and beyond, I don’t think Cashman is going to be hunting for star players to trade for this season.
Of course every Yankees fan would love to see the Angel’s Shohei Ohtani in pinstripes, but I don’t see Yankees Owner Hal Steinbrenner willingly pushing the 2023 payroll over it’s current $291.5 million number because Tier Four of the CBT is $293 million and I highly doubt Yankees GM Brian Cashman will get the green light to add Ohtani and whatever pro-rated amount of his current $30 million contract would need to be absorbed. Perhaps the Yankees will entertain signing Ohtani this coming offseason, time will tell.
With Ohtani, lefty Julio Urias headlining the 2024 free-agent class, and the Yankees balancing a partial youth movement as roughly $67 million potentially comes off the books, I think the Yankees could very well significantly improve next offseason. I don’t see Cashman making any huge moves this offseason, other than potentially trading for a closer.
Clogging the picture are the contracts of Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson but let’s also acknowledge the commitments the Yankees have made to DJ LeMahieu, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge, Carlos Rodon, Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton. Compounding the Yankees situation are contracts of injured players, like Frankie Montas and certainly the Yankees will need to re-sign or replace various players who are in the final year of their contracts - meaning Harrison Bader, Montas, Luis Severino, Wandy Peralta and Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
Presently, I believe the Yankees lineup isn’t balanced enough to win in October and so I do expect Cashman to entertain the notion of promoting Jasson Dominguez by mid-season if he’s playing well at Triple-A. If that happens, I believe Cashman may stand pat positionally.
It also appears that the long-range plan is to use DJ LeMahieu and or Trey Sweeney at third base next season, effectively replacing Josh Donaldson, who is in his final year of team control. Trading Donaldson (negative $23MTV) in season is prohibitive, unless a contender suffers an injury at third base. It therefore behooves Cashman to stand pat, but I do think he’d very much like to unload Donaldson and his best chance of doing so is to wait until the Trade Deadline.
With Dominguez in center field, the Yankees might also look to promote Austin Wells at some point, perhaps later in the season, rather than making a big trade. Combined, Dominguez and Wells offer a lot of firepower from the left side of the plate and since that’s what the current iteration of the Yankees lacks, I think it’s likely that Cashman remains patient and continues to try to fill the need for left-handedness with a mix of Franchy Coredero and Aaron Hicks. Make no mistake though, when Dominguez is ready, one of these two players (like Cordero) wil be DFA’d.
In the meantime, I think if Cashman can upgrade from Cordero, he’ll consider doing that and I think that’s probably the only “minor” move he’s likely to make prior to the deadline. Cordero isn’t a bat that's going to mash right handed pitching and the Yankees really need to complement Rizzo in by adding a left-handed bat in the lower part of the lineup. He may look to an out of contention team to scoop up a player that might help out this season. I was convinced that Detroit’s Austin Meadows was a reasonable trade target to pursue, but now I believe Cashman will continue on with his favorite strategy, he targets teams with expendable players, teams that are well stocked at a certain position.
Where Cashman likely will need to focus is on improving the bullpen and I expect him to add a closer at some point, even though doing that may be very painful. I was a bit baffled last offseason that Cashman didn't go after former Yankee reliever David Robertson, but considering that the Mets paid him $10 million for this season, I get why he held off in doing so this year, considering the CBT implications.
A reliever to keep an eye on is the Pirates closer David Bednar ($21.9 MTV), who would look fabulous at the end of the Yankees bullpen. Cashman dangled Peraza at last season’s Trade Deadline and I think the chances are good that he might do so again. If the Yankees struggle to close games out in the coming months and if the Pirates fall out of contention as they normally do, it might make sense to explore a deal with the Bucs for Bednar.
Beyond acquiring a closer, it seems like the Yankees may have other spots open in the bullpen, so I expect Cashman to acquire a parade of bullpen depth and stash most of it in Triple-A. Hopefully Tommy Kahnle will pan out and be able to contribute as he could represent a quality, higher-leverage arm.
It would have been nice if Cashman had signed Tyler Anderson to kick off this offseason and he should have also traded Frankie Montas when he had the opportunity. With Severino in a walk year, I expect Cashman to focus on bringing him back, but adding another starter may make some sense as well, with the primary issue being cost.
Quality starters are expensive to trade for in terms of prospects and with the Yankees really counting on a number of their better prospects right now, as they move into the home stretch of their partial youth movement, I don’t anticipate a blockbuster pitching trade from Cashman. What I do expect is the routine hoarding of depth that is standard Cashmanesque behavior each April and May. He patiently waits out the market and then he scoops up out of work players he thinks will provide depth in case of injury, while also making small trades here and there - some of which really work out well for the Yankees.
For example, last April, a very active Cashman signed three players to Minor League deals (Kaleb Coward (3B), Greg Bird (1B), Derek Dietrich (2B)) while also trading for three players (David McKay (RHP), Miguel Castro (RHP) and Jose Trevino who became an All-Star Catcher and one of the most important players on the team last season. Last April turned out to be a very significant month for the Yankees as Cashman very quietly was able to significantly improve the Yankees.
Then in May, Cashman stayed very busy as he added balance to the lineup, additional catching depth and more pitching depth, signing free agent Matt Carpenter to provide left-handed pop while also signing six more players to minor league contracts - catcher Rob Brantly and five more pitchers (Keninson Diaz, Rafaelin Nivar, Ryan Miller, Danny Salazar and Sabier Marte). The addition of Carpenter was a massive help to the lineup over the first half of the season, if only he didn’t get injured!
In June, Cashman made two trades, moving David McKay to the Rays while acquiring DH Jake Bauers from the Reds, while also claiming Albert Abreu off waivers from the Royals. He also signed another seven players to minor league contracts - infielder Chris Owings and pitchers Ryan Weber, Richard Rodriguez, Christopher Medina and Cole Ayers who were all among the notable transactions.
This season should be filled with many small trades and seemingly unimportant Minor League free agent signings. It’s impossible to predict which players Cashman will target, though I hope he focuses on adding a closer, then works to add left-handed pitching and left-handed outfielders, because those are the vulnerabilities of the roster as currently constructed.
My dream of moving Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson persists as well, but until other teams suffer serious injuries in the outfield or at third base, I don’t see any takers emerging for either player.