LAS VEGAS — Unlike many teams, the Yankees left the winter meetings presumably having accomplished something tangible.
Presumably because, although they agreed to the parameters of a two-year deal with lefthander J.A. Happ, with a vesting option for a third year, the deal still was not complete as of Thursday afternoon.
“We’re hopeful on bringing him back here,” assistant general manager Michael Fishman said Thursday morning after the Rule 5 draft, always the last event of the winter meetings. “We’ve made a lot of progress with him and hopefully we can have him back for 2019.”
All indications pointed to it just being a matter of time before the Happ deal becomes official, which would give the Yankees a starting rotation of Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Happ and CC Sabathia. Jon Heyman of Fancred reported that Happ will receive $34 million guaranteed, earning $17 million in 2019 and $17 million in 2020. Heyman also reported that the Yankees have a $17-million vesting option in 2021.
So what’s next for the Yankees?
General manager Brian Cashman, who departed before the Rule 5 draft, has said his offseason priorities are adding two starting pitchers (Paxton and Happ would address that) and one or two relievers and addressing the absence of Didi Gregorius, who will miss at least the first two months of the regular season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Cashman also has said multiple times that the organization has some interest in free-agent infielder Manny Machado. A meeting with him figures to occur sooner rather than later.
Is one currently on the calendar? “No comment,” Fishman said with a smile.
It remains to be seen how the Yankees’ interest will translate in years and dollars if they do make an offer. Ample evidence exists that managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner isn’t likely to green-light the kind of eight-to-10-year, $300-million-plus contract that Machado reportedly is seeking. Still, the logical progression from Cashman saying he has an interest in the player is an actual sit-down with him.
There are other options, of course, for the Yankees to cover themselves while Gregorius is out. They’ve engaged with the agent for free agent Freddy Galvis, who has played primarily at short in his career but also has seen time at second and third, and also have on their radar Nick Ahmed, a shortstop whom the rebuilding Diamondbacks are open to moving.
The Yankees could use Gleyber Torres, who played mostly at second base as a rookie last season, at short and Tyler Wade at second.
“We’re comfortable with him at either position,” Fishman said of Torres.
As for the very crowded reliever market, there finally was some movement there late in the meetings. Various reports late Wednesday night and into Thursday morning said Jeurys Familia agreed to a three-year, $30-million deal with the Mets and Joe Kelly agreed to a three-year, $25-million deal with the Dodgers. The Yankees didn’t really pursue either pitcher, but those agreements could get the ball rolling on relievers in whom they do have interest such as Zach Britton, David Robertson, Andrew Miller, Kelvin Herrera and Adam Ottavino. The trade market also has been explored.
“We’ve had discussions on various relievers,’’ Fishman said, “both on the free-agent market and the trade market. Looks like that market on the free-agent side is starting to move and we’re having those discussions now. That’s an area we’re looking to address.”
Rule 5 results. The Yankees lost six players and gained one in Thursday morning’s Rule 5 draft. Arizona selected righthander Nick Green in the first round of the major-league phase. In the Triple-A phase, catcher Chris Rabago (Kansas City), righthander Gilmael Troya (Philadelphia) and righthander Anyelo Gomez (Boston) were taken in the first round. Oakland selected outfielder Mark Payton in the second round and the Cubs picked righthander Alexander Vargas in the third. The Yankees took righthander Adonis De la Cruz from Seattle’s Double-A roster in the first round of the Triple-A phase.