“We’ll only make a trade if something makes sense,” said Yankees GM Brian Cashman. “We’ll make a trade if we feel like we’re getting some sort of value back.”
But these are comments Yankees fans don’t want to hear as pitchers and catchers report to Tampa, Fl. in four weeks. And with a salary tax threshold that has exceeded $230 million, Cashman and the Yankees hierarchy may not be looking to go beyond that.
This is not the late George Steinbrenner talking, the Yankees owner who spent and went over the limit to assure the fanbase that he was serious about winning. Now a 20-minute ride to Flushing, Queens and residing at Citi Field are the Mets with owner Steve Cohen.
Or as they say, “Uncle Stevie” and he is spending to win to assure the Mets reach and win their first World Series championship since 1986.
However, as the economics of baseball changed, the old fashioned trade market has gone the other way to free agent acquisitions, and an owner (Cohen) spending at a rapid pace that has exceeded a salary threshold.
Call it a change of philosophy in the Bronx or a different strategy to win with. Regardless, there are many questions to be addressed before Opening Day, March 30 at Yankees Stadium.
Let’s go back to Cashman’s remark about trade and value. Is there value for Aaron Hicks, who started last season in center field and ended up in left field and has a disappointing and lucrative contract? Josh Donaldson is in the same boat with a bad deal at third base. Two players who are just not that marketable and play primary positions in a Yankees lineup that failed to produce and get past the Houston Astros.
The Yankees are in a position again to finish ahead of the Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles and Red Sox in the AL East, give or take their continued tendency to win with the home run ball. They present a solid pitching rotation and a decent bullpen that could use an addition or two.
But Hicks and Donaldson are projected to be in the Opening Day lineup, much to the dismay of a fan base that is impatient and frustrated. Cashman, according to sources, could find no takers for the Hicks and Donaldson contracts.
So, we have a holding pattern here with the Yankees. And the narrative for the Yankees was always being a step ahead of the competition. Perhaps there will be some movement during spring training and something may get done before Opening Day.
The Marlins had an interest in Gleyber Torres, but Cashman would not part with top prospects as part of a package that would have returned a starter from their rotation. Signing lefthander Carlos Rondon alleviated the need to give up what Miami was asking for Pablo Lopez, who was traded to the Twins.
That holding pattern is a log jam in the infield. There are no takers for Torres, who has been inconsistent offensively and assumed to be the starter at second base. The Yankees have a solid belief that Torres will become a consistent hitter, with 39 home runs and over 85 RBI.
But patience has run thin with Torres since his rookie campaign in the Bronx, basically another holding pattern and one longtime scout said to me this week “When will the real Gleyber show up in the Bronx?”
Perhaps, the 26-year old Torres will rebound and live up to potential with consistency, go after a better selection of pitches, and cut down those strikeouts with runners in scoring position as he improves in the infield.
Perhaps Donaldson will find a new home, all pending if top prospect Anthony Volpe has a good spring, realizing he is not on the 40-man roster and has 22 games of Triple A experience.
Cashman could make offers and include Isiah Kiner-Falefa, also a part of this holding pattern. I can’t envision a contract of DJ LeMahieu going elsewhere, and according to Cashman his right toe is improved and already down in Tampa.
Recall, though, Kiner-Falefa was benched during the AL Division Series and ALCS, replaced with rookies Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza at shortstop, two of their top prospects. Torres is under club control through 2024 and asking for $10.2 million in arbitration.
Just another part of this holding pattern and decisions. The Yankees value their prospects, as evidenced by their trade talks with the Pirates for outfielder Bryan Reynolds. Pittsburgh was asking for a lot in return, resulting in more discussions and never coming close to a blockbuster move.
From all accounts, Cashman remains confident that Volpe can be in this infield mix and the same can be said about Peraza. Regardless, the holding pattern will continue.
Not what the Yankee fans are looking for, but you can’t blame them with the remnants of a four-game Astros sweep in the ALCS still lingering.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com Watch “Sports with Rich” live on Tuesday Nights at 8pm EST on The SLG Network/Youtube with Robert Rizzo Available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify under The SLG Network.