How will the Yankees react this winter after being jilted by a free agent?
Last year, Shohei Ohtani surprised the Yankees, who had made the two-way Japanese star an offseason priority, by choosing the Angels.
The 2018 AL Rookie of the Year, it turns out, wanted to pitch on the West Coast.
GM Brian Cashman pivoted and Giancarlo Stanton, brought in via trade from the Marlins, was among the results.
Tuesday brought the news that free-agent lefthander Patrick Corbin, whom the Yankees desired — though not at the same level as they did Ohtani — had agreed to a six-year, $140-million deal with the Nationals.
Corbin, it turns out, wanted a six-year commitment and the Yankees weren’t willing to go more than four or five years.
So Cashman finds himself in the position of needing to pivot again.
Where to, exactly, is not yet clear, though pitching depth — both for the rotation and the bullpen — continues to be the priority, followed by some kind of protection in the infield with Didi Gregorius set to miss at least the first two months of the season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
“I’ve been saying the same thing [all winter], we’re looking to add starters, we’ve got one of the two,” Cashman said by phone Wednesday. “And then we’re looking to add to the ’pen and middle infield to address those issues.”
The Yankees have already re-signed CC Sabathia and added James Paxton from the Mariners in a trade. Cashman has been in touch with the agent of J.A. Happ, a trade deadline acquisition in 2018, since the GM meetings early last month and a reunion with Nathan Eovaldi, a former Yankee, can’t be ruled out. Free agents such as Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Lance Lynn or Wade Miley, to name a small handful, are all possibilities.
On the trade front, the Indians have made clear they’re open — at a steep price, of course — to moving one of their front-line starters, a group that includes Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. Cashman has kept in touch with the Indians since the GM meetings.
“We rule nothing out,” club president Randy Levine said Tuesday of where the majority of money might be spent this offseason. “But I think Hal [Steinbrenner] and Cash have both said pitching is the priority right now.”
The Yankees could again, as they did last winter, choose to swivel in the direction of one of the biggest names available, in this case free agent Manny Machado, whose agent Cashman has had dialogue with since this free agency period began. In regard to the other big-ticket item, free agent Bryce Harper, indications continue to be that Yankees won’t be chasing the slugger, who isn’t a fit for the already outfielder-heavy Yankees.
The Yankees last season achieved Steinbrenner’s mandate of getting payroll beneath the luxury tax threshold, which in 2018 was $197 million. That number increases to $206 million this season.
“We clearly have resources,” Levine said. “Cash and his people are talking to a lot of different people, a lot of different players, figuring out what pieces we need, what’s the best way to go. And as I said, $206 million is a pretty good number, but the Steinbrenners have always said, and I think Hal has told you guys, that if they come to him [with a proposal] they think really could get us over the top, he’s open to it.
“That’s the way we are, we’re about winning championships here. Last year, we were in the top four or five in payroll, and that’s where I expect us to be this year.”