It has been an understood fact for quite some time that the 2019 offseason would be monumental for Major League Baseball. Bryce Harper. Manny Machado. Clayton Kershaw. Dallas Keuchel. The list goes on and on.
Another thing synonymous with the 2019 season? The return to power of the New York Yankees. Fresh, young faces like Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres. A rising ace in Luis Severino. A bullpen ace with Chad Green. All of these young, homegrown players have burst onto the scene, propelling the Yankees to 200 wins over the past 2 seasons.
Don’t kid yourselves, though; these are still the same Yankees—they did just trade for Giancarlo Stanton and his massive contract. But, the point still stands: the Yankees are good, and they’re gonna be here for a while.
Having said that, there is always room for improvement. There’s a lot that could be done here for the Yankees, stupid moves, and smart moves.
Let’s start with what the team actually has. Andujar had a wonderful rookie season, slashing .297/27/92. Those are not only good numbers for a rookie, but good numbers for a 28-year-old player in his prime. Often, Andujar was the most consistent bat in the Yankees’ lineup.
However, he has his flaws—there’s a reason he was yanked from playoff games in favor of Adeiny Hechavarria. Miggy’s glove…needs a bit of work. Like a LOT of work. He had a -25 defensive runs saved, which is a historically bad figure. There are some people skeptical that he will improve, many of which I assume come from within the organization itself.
There’s three paths you could take with Andujar: keep him at third, move him to a different position, or trade him.
By keeping him at third, you allow him more familiarity with the only position he’s known, giving him an opportunity to grow while at the same time letting him go to work with the bat. This could get ugly if he doesn’t improve and there is a defensive black hole at the hot corner.
In terms of a position switch, where could he go? Middle infield is clogged with studs, and the same goes for the outfield. If you’re thinking very long-term, Hicks could be gone but that would involve either Andujar or Judge playing center, something I assume the Yankees would want to avoid. DH is occupied by a rotating ring of Stanton, Sanchez, or anybody else. So, that leaves first base as the only spot he could shift to. As much as I love Luke Voit, I just don’t think the organization sees him as a long-term solution there; he’s a bit unproven. You could easily shift Andujar to first and keep his bat in the lineup. This opens up a hole at third, which I will get to shortly.
The final option is trading him. This goes against the grain; a young star building block; why trade him? Well, sometimes you have to give to get. The Yankees have been on a quest to find starting pitching; so far, they’ve resigned J.A. Happ and traded for James Paxton, so it’s definitely better than last year for sure. But, there is a lot of injury uncertainty, and who knows how reliable CC Sabathia is going to be, so a sixth starter makes sense. If you trade Andujar, you give him up for a front-line starter. I’m talking about a Corey Kluber or a Trevor Bauer or a Noah Syndergaard. If Miggy goes, he goes for a 1-2 starter. Once again, that opens up a hole at third. Which leads to…
This shouldn’t be much of a surprise. Machado has been linked to the Yankees for a while, he has wanted to be a Yankee, the Yankees tried to trade for him, there’s a hole, etc. Writing’s on the wall here.
Machado would likely play shortstop for the start of the year, with Didi Gregorius out for a good chunk of time. Once he returns, Manny would probably slide over to third. This is made possible by the vacancy at third, whether Andujar is traded or moved to first.
Machado is ULTRA-talented. He’s 26, and just put together a season where he hit .297, homered 37 times, and drove home over 100 runs. Not to mention that he is a whiz at the hot corner with the glove. If you sign him, you’re getting a superstar. He would need superstar money, but maybe not as much as initially believed, as he may take a home-town discount to be a Yankee.
He does have his flaws, though. The “Johnny hustle” comment, a bit of a pretty-boy attitude, and some incidents where he acts like a dirty player. Christian Yelich has called him out on this, and rightfully so. I think he’s a bit of a dirtbag. A talented dirtbag, but a dirtbag.
If Andujar is this team’s third baseman, Machado will not be a Yankee. It just doesn’t make sense. In that case, what else could they do?
I’m gonna go out on a whim and say Harper is a better fit than Machado. Here’s why:
From a practicality standpoint, it would seem that there isn’t a whole lot of room on this roster for Harper. I completely disagree with this statement.
Right field is locked up with Judge. However, left and center I would argue are decently open. Stanton will play some left, but he will primarily DH. Brett Gardner is 36 and on a one-year contract; I don’t think he’s more than a reserve outfielder at this point. I love him, but it just is what it is. You don’t let Brett Gardner get in the way of signing Bryce Harper. You just don’t.
If not left field, then center field is an option. I think Aaron Hicks is a lot more mobile than some may think. He’s got a year left on his deal, and his value has never been higher in his career. We are talking about a stud here; he was one of the best center fielders in the game last year. He would go for pitching reinforcements if he gets traded. If not, and the Yankees decide to let him walk, center field opens up.
If not the outfield, then first base is an option too. He’s taken grounders at first, and has already switched from catcher to outfielder once in his career anyway; why not again? Of course, I make it seem much easier than it is. But, if he’s as athletic as we all think he is, this is definitely possible.
I think Harper makes more sense than Machado from a bat perspective. He’s a lefty in a righty-heavy lineup. Having Harper in the 3-hole would work wonders for Stanton and Judge and the rest of the hitters. Machado would be a really good batter, but another righty. I think this was evident last year, when the Yankees at times ran into trouble with busting up innings.
And no, I don’t buy for one second that Cashman is out on Harper. I think this is 100% a smoke trap to try and fly under the radar, similar to Teixeira in 2008. Harper’s lefty bat I think is the kicker; if he was a righty, this wouldn’t have as much of a shot at happening. But, I think they slot him in, one way or another. My bet would be left field.
This is the first move that concretely makes sense, but is the most realistic option of the three. Daniel Murphy is a candidate to be signed to a deal to play second base, but really, he could do a lot more than this. If there is any hole in the infield, plug him in—he could play every position. This is vital with Gregorius on the shelf for potentially the whole season. Further, if anybody else goes down, Murphy can play that spot. He could arguably be a signing for first base too.
On top of his ability to bounce around the infield, Murphy provides the Yankees two very important pieces offensively: a contact bat and a lefty bat. The contact hitting aspect is very important; with Judge, Stanton, and Sanchez, these guys are home run swingers. Not to say they can’t get a single or a double—in fact, Judge is quite good at this—but the majority of the lineup too many times last year tried to go for the big blow instead of a single or double with RISP. That changes with Murphy. Get him, and either bat him 3 or 5 and he will drive in a lot of runs with his bat. He can knock a few out of the park, but his bread-and-butter is getting on base.
I touched upon this with Harper a bit; Murphy is a lefty bat, which is big for the Yankees. They are a righty-heavy lineup, and they need somebody to break that up. They had this with Gregorius, but lost it once he got hurt. By slotting Murphy into the 3-hole or 5-hole, that stability is provided. It makes a lineup that much more difficult to pitch to.
I am aware that Sanchez has some trade rumors swirling about; I think these are all bogus and just teams checking to see if there was a sliver of hope. Yes he’s coming off of a down year, but he’s still a really good player. As I detailed earlier, he is not as bad defensively as people make him out to be. People also seem to be under the impression that he can’t hit.
Really, y’all? REALLY???
ONE bad season and you’re ready to write him off? Despite doing things no rookie catcher had ever done before with the bat?
Stop it. He’s not going anywhere. He’s not being shopped for J.T. Realmuto. Get that out of your heads.
So, do I have a prediction for who they grab?
I think they get Murphy for sure, hang onto Andujar, sign Harper (yes, I do believe), and grab a bullpen piece or two. Will they be over the luxury tax? Yes, 100%. But you don’t get yourself under the tax to not go back over when given a chance to go over, especially if you’re the New York Yankees. It’s just not The Yankee Way. They’ll spend, and spend big.
Follow me on Twitter: @svdecaps
Cover image provided by Rob Carr/Getty Images
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