Yankees GM Brian Cashman needs to trade for another starting pitcher
TAMPA, Fla. — On Sunday, when Aaron Boone was asked to name his starting shortstop, he answered, "Gio Urshela."
Urshela was promptly traded to the Twins that same night, along with Gary Sanchez, as the Yankees upgraded the left side of their infield with shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and former MVP Josh Donaldson.
The following day, when Boone was asked to name his starting first baseman, the manager replied, "Luke Voit."
Roughly 33 hours later, the Yankees re-signed Anthony Rizzo, who arrived Thursday at Steinbrenner Field, courtesy of a two-year, $32-million deal that of course makes him the everyday first baseman.
So what’s next? Since there’s no more spots left for Boone to speculate on, thereby giving us a clue who’s soon to be out of a job, it’s probably safe to circle either Voit or perhaps even Gleyber Torres as potential trade chips to bring back what the Yankees clearly need at this point: rotation help.
The Yankees have plenty of infielders right now, including two first basemen and a $90-million Gold Glove second baseman in DJ LeMahieu who’s slated to bounce around between three positions. Considering that LeMahieu provides plenty of backup for Rizzo, Voit is the most expendable piece, but he’s not able to fetch a front-line starting pitcher without more prospects attached.
General manager Brian Cashman should be able to find a taker for Voit, however, after coming up empty last season and the fire sale in Oakland is an appealing option. The A’s already have traded two All-Stars in Matt Olson and Matt Chapman — as well as pitcher Chris Bassitt to the Mets — within the past week, and two other premium arms in Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas are on the block. Given the volatility in the marketplace, and free agents drying up, expect more trades on the horizon, and it doesn’t sound like Cashman is finished.
During Monday’s camp-opening presser, Cashman must have mentioned a dozen times how busy he’s been talking to agents and teams. At one point, the GM even picked up his phone, looked at the screen and told the assembled media it was another one checking in. Since then, the Yankees closed the Rizzo deal, but the flurry of activity hasn’t slowed.
"What I would say to that is I haven’t seen much of Cash in the last couple of days because he has been busy," Boone said after Thursday’s workout. "I know those guys are working overtime right now, especially on top of obviously trying to round out our club and explore different options, things like arbitration numbers. So there’s a lot going on in this condensed version without three months of the offseason. The front office has had a lot on their table."
The Yankees’ rotation already was in need of some fortifying before Opening Day, and Domingo German landing on the 60-day IL Thursday with the unsettlingly vague diagnosis of "shoulder soreness" further exposed the cracks among the starting staff. After the $324-million ace Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino has pitched a total of 18 major-league innings since 2018 and Jameson Taillon is coming off October surgery to repair a tendon in his ankle.
The next tier of Jordan Montgomery, Nestor Cortes and Luis Gil all have shown considerable upside, but Cashman is taking a fairly big leap of faith with the rotation as currently constructed. Maybe the Yankees are due for some better spring-training luck after enduring so many March injuries the past few years, but counting on their roster to stay healthy has been a terrible bet. Cashman should get to dealing while his trade chips are still functional.
Voit had a familiar feeling Wednesday when asked about Rizzo’s return. He went through the same thing last season around the trade deadline with the Yankees trying to move him, and he’s the odd man out again in this infield alignment. With Freddie Freeman signing a six-year, $162 million contract with the Dodgers late Wednesday night, that brings more clarity to the market at the position as well. Voit is projected to earn $5.25 million this year through arbitration, but won’t become a free agent until after the 2024 season.
"I know there’s going to be a lot more trades," Voit said. "There’s still 100 free agents out there. So these next 19 games are important for me to show other teams to prove I’m healthy."
As for Torres, the Yankees are probably more willing to bank on a big rebound year moving him back to second base rather than trading him off last season’s disappointing performance (nine HRs, .697 OPS). Still just 24, a comfortable Torres should be better equipped for a return to his All-Star form from 2019, and he’s projected to pull in $5.75 million this year through arbitration, three seasons away from free agency.
It would be tough to watch Torres rip 30-plus homers for another team, but the Yankees do have immediate coverage at second base, with more high-ceiling middle infielders on the way before too long in Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza. How Cashman chooses to import rotation help remains to be seen, but that’s got to be next on his agenda. Someone’s likely gotta go to make it happen.