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Inbox: Which free-agent arms will Yankees eye?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers fans' questions
December 5, 2018

What happened behind the scenes with Patrick Corbin? And where do the Yankees turn now? -- Joan C., Phillipsburg, N.J.The Yankees liked Corbin, and vice versa, but not enough to push past guaranteeing five years. A select group of pitchers have received commitments of more than five years from the

What happened behind the scenes with Patrick Corbin? And where do the Yankees turn now?
-- Joan C., Phillipsburg, N.J.

The Yankees liked Corbin, and vice versa, but not enough to push past guaranteeing five years. A select group of pitchers have received commitments of more than five years from the Bombers -- Mike Mussina, Carsten Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka -- and general manager Brian Cashman did not feel comfortable adding Corbin to that group.
When Corbin's agent, John Courtright, reported that the lefty would get a sixth year from either the Phillies or Nationals, the Yankees did not improve a reported five-year, $100 million offer. Corbin's high strikeout rate, ground-ball ratio and general competitiveness could have made him an excellent fit in the Yanks' 2019 rotation, but given an up-and-down history, who knows what '22 or '23 will look like?
Cashman has said that he must add at least one more high-end starter, acknowledging that he has spoken with J.A. Happ, Lance Lynn and Nathan Eovaldi, but Eovaldi has reportedly agreed to re-sign with the Red Sox. You can be sure there have been others. It would not be a shock to see the Yankees dig in with Dallas Keuchel, and they will re-engage the trade market during the Winter Meetings. In November, the Yanks spoke to the Indians about Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber.
Submit a question to the Inbox
Rather than signing Manny Machado long-term, what about Gleyber Torres subbing for Didi Gregorius post-surgery recovery and maybe signing Neil Walker, Jed Lowrie or Ian Kinsler at second base?
-- Michael D., Thomaston, Conn.

Cashman has said that if the season started today, Torres would be the Yankees' shortstop, and they would select a second baseman from a group of internal candidates including Tyler Wade or Hanser Alberto, who was claimed on waivers from the Rangers on Nov. 2. There's room there to upgrade. Walker and Adeiny Hechavarria wore pinstripes in 2018 and could return; let's add Marwin Gonzalez and Daniel Murphy to the list of fits who could add stability. Or, hey, they could just sign Machado.

Do you think the Yankees would trade Giancarlo Stanton for pitching?
-- Anthony G., New Jersey

Hypothetically? Yes, I think Cashman would entertain almost anything. A better question would be, do the Astros, Cubs or Dodgers -- the three other teams that Stanton told the Marlins that he would waive his no-trade clause for -- want to trade for Stanton? They all had their chance last offseason and begged off, so Stanton landed with the Yankees. Considering the massive financial considerations, it seems extremely unlikely that Stanton would be on the move again so soon.
Is it feasible to play Miguel Andujar at first base?
-- John I., Las Vegas

The Yankees toyed with that last year, when it looked like Brandon Drury was going to be locked in at third base. At the time, the thinking was that Andujar would play 80 percent of his games at third base and 20 percent at first base, but that was when he was at Triple-A. Now that he's in the big leagues, and first base appears to be set with Luke Voit and Greg Bird, the focus will be on smoothing the rough edges of Andujar's defense at third base. Manager Aaron Boone recently said that Andujar "handled himself capably and … showed a lot of people that he is going to be able to play the position on a long-term basis."

What are the chances the Yankees bite the bait on Bryce Harper at first base?
-- Mauricio M., Lancaster, Pa.

Though agent Scott Boras attempted to fatten Harper's market by floating that idea, and Harper at first base was discussed internally by the Yankees, they don't know if he could handle the position. Harper would seem to be a more likely fit in the Yanks' universe as a left fielder; even though they re-signed Brett Gardner, that alone wouldn't be an impediment to adding Harper. Voit is the front-runner at first base, and Bird will have a chance to prove that his 2018 struggles were a fluke.
What is the latest on Jordan Montgomery?
-- Steve A., New York

Montgomery had Tommy John surgery on June 7, and recovery time is generally 12 to 18 months. Adding a healthy Montgomery to the rotation in the summer could be a nice bonus, especially if Sabathia needs a disabled list sabbatical. Montgomery should make a full recovery, but until he gets back on a mound and faces hitters in game action, the Yankees don't want to bank on his return.

Would the team deal Aaron Hicks, with Jacoby Ellsbury coming back and the possibility of signing Harper?
-- Ruben H., Bronx, N.Y.

To the contrary, it seems more likely that the Yankees would sign Hicks to a long-term extension, though that hasn't stopped teams from asking. Perhaps the only scenario where they might deal Hicks would be for an elite starting pitcher. Ellsbury may play a role in the outfield, but he missed all of 2018 and will need to prove his worthiness for at-bats -- the same situation that Ellsbury was in this past spring before the injury issues popped up. Clint Frazier is also said to be progressing in his recovery from post-concussion issues and could play a part, but playing time is not guaranteed.
Is there any reason why we wouldn't just open the bank account and pick up everyone we want this offseason? It makes sense to me to grab Machado, Harper, Dallas Keuchel. Even if we end up with issues on the back end of those contracts, wouldn't winning a few World Series be worth it?
-- Chad H., Orlando, Fla.

We hear this a lot -- and, hey, it's not your money! But as team president Randy Levine said on Tuesday, "We're pretty financially prudent these days."
The Yankees have deep pockets, but owner Hal Steinbrenner has repeatedly said that it should not require a $200 million payroll to win a World Series, which offers a window into the team's thinking. Cashman said that they are "capable of being big game hunters," but my sense is that would consist of landing one or two premier free agents, not all of them.
While they may exceed the $206 million luxury tax threshold, I wouldn't expect payroll to approach $300 million. As for a title justifying the means, there are no guarantees. Sure, spending big worked in 2009, but there were no repeat titles and the Yanks had to ride out the back ends of ugly deals later on. There's also the risk of repeating '13-14, when they spent big on Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. No trophies resulted from that spending spree, and Ellsbury is still due $47.2 million.
"We're always trying to be aggressive and we're trying to be wise at the same time," Cashman said recently. "We're trying to make smart plays, smart investments, whether it's prospect value or free-agent value. Anything we do, we're going to try to do with the effort of improving ourselves and making good, sound business decisions. … I think the goal is always to win a championship, and to do it in a cost-effective manner."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.