What is the vision for the infield next season? Is a deal with Didi Gregorius still possible?
-- Bill P., Hopewell Junction, N.Y.
If the Yankees had to get a team on the field today, general manager Brian Cashman said that they would be confident in what they have in-house, though it’s clearly their objective to try and make it better. That group would likely include Gleyber Torres at shortstop and DJ LeMahieu at second base, with Gio Urshela or Miguel Andújar at third base and Luke Voit, Greg Bird or Mike Ford at first base. That’s not a bad start.
Focusing on shortstop, Torres actually played there more in 2019 than he did at second base (659 2/3 innings at short, 547 1/3 innings at second), so the Yanks believe he proved that he can handle the job at the big league level. Gregorius is a better defender, as Torres’ range factor was slightly below league average at short, but given his age, there should be room to project improvement.
In the wake of the American League Championship Series loss to the Astros, Gregorius said that his preference would be to stay, but thus far every indication has been that the Yankees will allow him to test free agency while they prioritize the pursuit of starting pitching. Cashman is remaining in contact with Gregorius’ agent, Jim Murray, so a potential reunion is still on the table.
Should we expect a Brett Gardner deal to be announced? Is there a chance he goes elsewhere?
-- Erin F., New York, N.Y.
Gardner has played his entire career in pinstripes to this point, and I have never sensed any interest that he is curious to find out what another uniform would look like. This past spring, I recall Gardner saying that a few ex-teammates over the years have told him some effect of, “You wouldn’t like it here.” That seems to mesh with Gardner’s personality.
Given that there seems to be mutual interest, Gardner and the club should find common ground eventually. His productive season will likely merit a raise over the $9.5 million he earned in 2019, including a $2 million buyout of his previous contract, and potentially a deal that includes either a guarantee or an option for '21.
How much value does Miguel Andújar have as a trade piece?
-- Chris N., Hartford, Conn.
Cashman said he has received numerous trade inquiries regarding Andújar, who is expected to recover from the right shoulder surgery that cost him most of the 2019 season. As a young (25 years old in March) and cost-controllable player who put up a 130 OPS+ during his rookie season in ‘18, there is no shortage of clubs that would be eager to slot Andújar into their lineup, a group that includes the Yankees.
Third base is Urshela’s job to lose going into the spring, but Andújar’s presence would provide an alternative. Andújar has been working out in Tampa, Fla., and while the club has not officially told him to prepare for possible duty at first base or in left field, he has tweaked his offseason workouts in order to increase that versatility.
I'm hoping to see Mike Ford at first base more in 2020. Do you project that he may see more starting time?
-- Michael T., Milton, Pa.
Ford is in position to take advantage of the uncertainty surrounding both Bird and Voit, as Bird’s injury history makes him a non-tender candidate and Voit will be returning from core surgery that impacted his second half. Assuming another first-base candidate is not added and LeMahieu takes the majority of his reps at second base, Ford should get regular at-bats early in the spring as Voit is eased into action.
If the Yankees strike out on Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, will they pivot to a multiyear offer for Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Wheeler or Madison Bumgarner? Or do you see them looking for a lower-cost, short-term addition to the rotation?
-- Mike C., via Twitter
It could be all of the above, and it’s probably too early to tell which path they’ll take. Cashman made an interesting comment regarding the top-of-the-line starters on Thursday, saying that they intend to put together an “educational component” for the players of what it would mean to pitch in The Bronx. It echoes what they did in 2008 as part of the effort to woo CC Sabathia.
“We’ll try to make sure that they understand what our culture is, the personnel we have here to serve you and, and the great operation that the Steinbrenners allow to be run here,” Cashman said. “The players that circle through here, in many cases, it wasn't necessarily an original destination spot for them, but they walk out of here honestly feeling and telling us back that this is the best place they've ever played for a lot of reasons.”
In the end, money will talk. As good as the presentation was for Sabathia, including a DVD that featured hard-hatted construction workers at the new Stadium imploring the ace to pitch in New York, the Yankees also blew everyone out of the water by dropping $161 million on Sabathia’s doorstep. The price tag could be nearly double that for someone like Cole, who could land $35 million per season.
If those numbers don’t fly, I could see them making a push for Wheeler in particular -- Cashman engaged with his representatives at the GM Meetings in Arizona -- and they are laying the groundwork for the idea that some of their additions will not be of the big-ticket Fifth Avenue variety.
“There's certainly some very large, highly acclaimed names that are free agents,” Cashman said. “There might be some others that could be impactful, that might not be as pretty or sexy out there in terms of name recognition. That could be true on the trade side too. Bottom line is, we're just going to look at every opportunity, no matter how big or small the public perception happens to be.”