TAMPA, Fla. — No, Brian Cashman said, the Yankees still aren’t “on equal footing” with the Red Sox.
Not after acquiring Giancarlo Stanton earlier in the winter and not after upgrading his roster Tuesday night with the addition of infielder Brandon Drury, who is likely to start at third.
“They’re the American League East champs, so we’re not on equal footing,” Cashman said Wednesday. “We’re not on equal footing until we take that away from them [and] at the same time, prevent anybody that finished behind us from surpassing us and joining the fray . . . Ultimately we’re not on the same ground because they are the American League East champions, and until someone takes that away from them, you have to pay that homage.”
Somewhat forgotten — though Cashman reminded everyone throughout the winter of it — because of the Yankees’ run to Game 7 of the ALCS was that the Red Sox took the East with a 93-69 record (compared to the Yankees’ 91-71).
The Yankees made the biggest splash of the winter when they traded for Stanton, the NL MVP, and grabbed Drury in a three-team trade.
The Red Sox, in desperate need of a bat, agreed to terms with J.D. Martinez earlier in the week on a five-year deal worth a reported $110 million (Martinez was in Red Sox camp Wednesday to take his physical).
“We’re all excited,” Boston’s David Price told reporters Wednesday. “To add a hitter like that to the lineup that’s good, especially in this division. The Yankees made moves this offseason. To be able to combat those moves with a guy like J.D., that was a good move.”
Pressed about the rivalry, the lefty smiled.
“You guys want it, let’s do it. We hate the Yankees,” Price said. “We hate the Yankees. Hate ’em.”
The news of Yankees camp, of course, mostly revolved around Drury and his impact on the roster. Cashman said the 25-year-old, who landed in Tampa about 4 p.m. Wednesday, has been a desired target for several years. Though most of Drury’s big-league experience is at second base, Cashman said he’ll have “a leg up” in the competition for the starting job at third, which most talent evaluators see as his better position (though they have questions about his defense). That would seem to quash the chances of prized prospect Miguel Andujar winning the job in camp.
“[Drury is] going to have a leg up given the fact he’s had two years of major-league experience that he can fall back on, plus postseason experience, and all those things will serve him well,” Cashman said. “But you’ve got a young buck [Andujar] that is an exciting talent. Andujar is a high-end, skilled player that we think is going to have a very long, successful career in the big leagues and we believe it’s going to be here with us.”
Cashman did caution several times, “Nothing’s being handed to anybody. The competition will play itself out.”
Still, the GM said, the Yankees would not have given up what they consider to be a pair of high-end prospects in the three-team deal — second baseman Nick Solak and righty Taylor Widener went to Tampa Bay — for someone they consider a backup.
“I don’t give up two prospects that we like a lot if we didn’t have conviction about what Brandon Drury can do for us,” Cashman said. “He’s got a lot of abilities at all levels.”
The last two seasons Drury has a combined .275/.323/.453 slash line with 29 homers.
While praising Andujar, Cashman said questions remain about the 22-year-old’s defense.
“His hitting abilities are currently ahead of his defensive abilities because he’s moved himself so fast, his development process has been quicker than most,” Cashman said. “This allows us, if we so choose, to buy more time.”
Defense, though, isn’t considered a strength of Drury’s either, with one opposing team talent evaluator calling him “a liability” with his glove.
“An offense-first infielder with the potential for some pop,” the scout said.
Cashman said his scouts, who have been on Drury a while, see a player on the verge of blossoming.
“This guy I think has a chance to be more than just a quality everyday player,” Cashman said. “He has dreams to be even more and our pro scouting department has those same visions, so we’re playing on those dreams right now.”
Spring training games haven’t even started yet, but it’s never too early to compare how the Yankees and Red Sox stack up.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
Red Sox Yankees
Mookie Betts, CF Brett Gardner, LF
Andrew Benintendi, LF Aaron Judge, RF
Xander Bogaerts, SS Greg Bird, 1B
J.D. Martinez, DH Giancarlo Stanton, DH
Mitch Moreland, 1B Gary Sanchez, C
Rafael Devers, 3B Didi Gregorius, SS
Eduardo Nuñez, 2B Aaron Hicks, CF
Christian Vazquez, C Brandon Drury, 3B
Jackie Bradley, CFRonald Torreyes, 2B
Chris Sale, LHPLuis Severino, RHP
David Price, LHPMasahiro Tanaka, RHP
Rick Porcello, RHPSonny Gray, RHP
Drew Pomeranz, LHPCC Sabathia, LHP
Steven Wright, RHP Jordan Montgomery, LHP
Craig KimbrelAroldis Chapman