Do you think the Yankees have a real chance of getting Yu Darvish and staying under the luxury tax?
-- Tyler S., Lynchburg, Tenn.
The Yankees have legitimate interest in Darvish, but they are thought to be hanging around on the periphery just in case his price drops. Contrary to what Darvish tweeted last week, the Yankees have not made him an offer of any type -- had they offered him seven years and $160 million, as one report suggested, Darvish likely would have snapped it up.
Pardon us for a moment as we bust out the calculators. We know that managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner is trying to keep payroll below $197 million so they can reset the luxury-tax-penalty rate, and the Associated Press has pegged their current payroll at $178 million for tax purposes, including about $14 million for pensions and insurance.
That provides approximately $19 million to spend, not accounting for (relatively small) raises to pre-arbitration players like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino. General manager Brian Cashman also must leave space for callups and in-season moves, so you can see how the numbers will get tight. Cashman said last week that if the Yankees do not offload salary, their next move will likely be their last of the winter.
That's why it has been suggested that if they were to add Darvish, they might have to move a veteran like Brett Gardner or Player Page for David Robertson in a trade, assuming no one has interest in picking up a sizable portion of Jacoby Ellsbury's contract. So, yes, they have a real shot at getting Darvish as long as they're willing to make another move. Darvish would make the rotation better, but his addition would likely weaken them in another area.
:: Submit a question to the Yankees Inbox ::
Will Ronald Torreyes get a legitimate opportunity to be the starting second baseman? He deserves a shot.
-- Gary B., Raleigh, N.C.
Many people have probably forgotten that Didi Gregorius missed most of April with a right shoulder injury, and Torreyes' solid play was the reason why. The 25-year-old gives manager Aaron Boone a versatile option at second base, third base and shortstop as needed, and they're fortunate to have that given the current roster construction.
If they do not add another second baseman and Gleyber Torres begins the season in the Minors, as expected, Torreyes is probably the front-runner to start at second base. Other candidates include Thairo Estrada, Tyler Wade and non-roster invitee Jace Peterson.
Where is Torres in terms of his development? It seems like he's ready to hit in the big leagues, but is he well-rounded at all of the positions they've tried him at?
-- Tyler N., Massapequa, N.Y.
Torres is most polished at shortstop, but the Yankees have moved him around. He played seven games at second base in the Arizona Fall League back in 2016, then 10 more at second base last year (76 innings) while playing 15 games at third base (133 innings).
Generally, the thought is that shortstops should be capable of playing second and third bases as well, and that appears to be the case with Torres. Yankees people rave about his "clock," or ability to control the speed of the game, and he could have been playing third base in the Bronx last season if not for his June injury. Again, he'll very likely begin the season in Triple-A as he returns from Tommy John surgery, but it may not be for long.
Watching Judge play last season was exciting, to say the least. However, I'm reminded of another young slugger the Yanks had in Kevin Maas. What are the odds Judge turns out the same?
-- Andy D., East Windsor, Conn.
Ouch. I don't see that as a fair comparison; for one, Maas didn't hit an American League-leading 52 home runs in his first full big league season. Judge's plate discipline, makeup and ability to make adjustments also suggest that they're two different cases, so let's shelve the Maas comparison.
Sure, there's a chance Judge regresses as the league continues to make adjustments, since the bar is now set incredibly high and none of the Yanks' talent evaluators had his 2017 performance on their radars. They saw Judge as an above-average, everyday player with great power, but no one was forecasting him as an MVP candidate.
I think back to what Yankees special assistant Jim Hendry told me before one of the playoff games: "If you told me by the end of the season that Judge was hitting .250 in the big leagues with 30 homers, we'd have been thrilled." Now, I'd wager Judge will be better than that, even if he's not able to replicate what was a very special 2017 season.
I think Stanton and Judge need to be in the outfield together. Do you see them both playing the corner spots and Gardner moving back to center this year?
-- Tom H., Vancouver
Boone is planning to have both Judge and Stanton work out in left field this spring, attempting to determine which player looks more comfortable out there. Cashman recently outlined a scenario where Stanton might occasionally play left field, Judge would play right field and Sanchez could DH, allowing Gardner to sit against a tough lefty like Chris Sale.
It's going to depend on matchups and the ballpark, but yes, Judge and Stanton will play in the same outfield a number of times this year. It's possible that Gardner gets some reps in center field (he started 18 games there in 2017), but with Aaron Hicks and Ellsbury battling for playing time, I'd expect to see Gardner more often in left field.
With Greg Bird's injury history, should a backup first baseman be an offseason priority?
-- Chris, King of Prussia, Pa.
The starting rotation, second base and third base are far more pressing needs at this time. Cashman believes the Yankees have coverage in the event of another Bird injury; Christopher Austin immediately comes to mind, but Miguel Andujar could play some first base in a pinch. Austin Romine has been pressed into duty there in each of the last four seasons, and the Yankees also had prospect Billy McKinney work out there during the Arizona Fall League.