LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — After officially acquiring Giancarlo Stanton on Monday, general manager Brian Cashman said he still had some payroll flexibility to make roster upgrades, particularly in the starting pitching department.
That process continued Tuesday when the Yankees sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to the Padres in exchange for outfielder Jabari Blash.
“An opportunity for us to clear some money,” Cashman said late Tuesday afternoon on the second day of the winter meetings. The Yankees remain determined to bring their payroll under the $197-million luxury tax threshold.
A source confirmed San Diego will pay all of the $13 million the 33-year-old Headley is owed for next season. He debuted with the Padres in 2007 and played for them until he was traded to the Yankees before the 2014 deadline. Mitchell, 26, never made it as a starter or reliever for the Yankees, who drafted him in the 16th round in 2009, but Padres scouts have been high on the righthander for several years.
The Yankees want to acquire at least one starting pitcher, their top offseason priority. “We’re working real hard at it,” new manager Aaron Boone said Tuesday. “I think it’s something that we need to do, and we’re trying to do. Hopefully, at some point we’ll get a guy or two in the mix.”
CC Sabathia is a preferred target, though the additional money freed up could allow the club to go after a higher-end starter on the market, such as Alex Cobb.
Because of a farm system brimming with desirable prospects, there is also the trade route Cashman is pursuing, checking in on teams with starters available such as the Tigers (Michael Fulmer), Diamondbacks (Patrick Corbin), Pirates (Gerrit Cole) and Royals (Danny Duffy), to name a few.
It also opens the door for the Yankees to possibly bring back free-agent third baseman Todd Frazier, who fit in seamlessly after being acquired from the White Sox at the trade deadline. Or the Yankees could allow two of their top prospects, Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar, to battle it out in spring training for the starting job at third.
“We have more flexibility today than we did prior to this trade,” Cashman said. “We did it with the knowledge that we have some hungry, talented, inexperienced kids ready to prove that they can take that next step. But at the same time, there might be some opportunities that exist, whether it’s via free agency or trade, that could make us gravitate in a different direction.”
For example, the Yankees have done their due diligence of checking with the Orioles on star third baseman Manny Machado, a free agent after the 2018 season whom they’re open to trading. Though it seems unlikely Baltimore would make such a deal within the division, the Yankees will keep tabs on the Machado situation.
Torres, Tyler Wade and fast-rising prospect Thairo Estrada also could be considerations at second, which is an open spot after Starlin Castro went to the Marlins in the Stanton deal.
Speaking of the situation at second base, Boone said: “I’m very comfortable with who we have in our system and the depth that we built up in the system and guys that are, frankly, either knocking on the door or ready to play major roles from the start. We’ll just have to see how the next couple months play out. I’m certainly comfortable with the talent level that’s about ready to go. Whether we give them some time depends on what moves we make or don’t make in the coming months.”