Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings have come to a close and the New York Yankees conspicuously left the annual palaver without making a single major move.
Yankees long-time general manager Brian Cashman was very candid with the New York Post about the Bronx Bombers' lack of activity, while the rival Boston Red Sox made significant progress to climb out of the bottom of the American League East.
“I didn’t do anything,’’ Cashman said. “I threw a lot of different ideas a lot of different ways. There is a long way between now and Opening Day. I will keep conversations alive.’’
As the Post indicated, the Yankees top priority heading into the meetings was a new starting pitcher to help a rotation that waned in the second half after Masahiro Tanaka went down with a right elbow injury. And the Yankees also face serious questions about the health of declining ace C.C. Sabathia, and when Ivan Nova can return from Tommy John surgery.
The Yanks already lost starter Brandon McCarthy to the Dodgers and closer David Robertson to the White Sox, but managed to swipe reliever Andrew Miller from Baltimore for four years and $36 million, and traded for shortstop Didi Gregorius, who was perhaps prematurely dubbed Derek Jeter’s heir apparent.
Still, those moves did not address the starting rotation. Several other starters from last year’s squad, most notably former 16-game winner Hiroki Kuroda, are also free agents, but none are viewed in the same light or worthy of a contract like the six-year, $155 million deal Jon Lester signed with the Cubs.
But despite clear holes at the top of the rotation, and ESPNNewYork suggesting that the Yankees may have interest, several reports state the Yankees will not pursue Tigers free agent Max Scherzer. The Washington Post quoted one source of saying the Yankees “aren’t in it, and aren’t going to be in it,” in reference to the high-priced Scherzer sweepstakes.
It’s widely believed Scherzer, armed with baseball’s most powerful agent Scott Boras, could command a deal more lucrative and longer than Lester’s. It appears like the Yankees aren’t willing to break the bank for the 30-year-old right-hander who went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA and 252 strikeouts last season.
The Yankees aren’t the only big market team to switch gears from a lavish style to a more frugal approach.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, who were the highest-spending team in the league last year, revamped their squad with four trades in less than 24 hours, including the deal that sent former All-Star center fielder Matt Kemp to San Diego.
L.A. got a few veterans back in Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick , but what they really did was acquire a number of highly rated prospects that could become the centerpiece of a deal for Philadelphia Phillies starter Cole Hamels.
CSNPHilly.com suggested the Dodgers latest moves allow “flexibility” on the roster, either to chase a starter like Scherzer or make a trade for Hamels. On top of such prospects as outfielder Joc Pederson and infielder Corey Seager, L.A. also has righty Zach lee, lefthander Julio Urias, and infielder Alex Guerrero.
Philadelphia’s new manager Ryne Sandberg insisted earlier this week that a deal for Hamels would have to blow general manager Ruben Amaro away. But it’s possible, following the Red Sox and Cubs moves to solidify their rotations, the Phillies chances of landing such a huge package for Hamels might have diminished, according to the Philadelphia Daily News.
Boston landed Wade Miley from Arizona and Rick Porcello from Detroit, and along with the Cubs' signing of Lester, the Dodgers could emerge with the best deal for Philadelphia.
However, should the Dodgers revert to their free-spending ways they could attempt to sign James Shields. The Kansas City Royals ace could cash-in significantly after Lester’s deal essentially set the market for both he and Scherzer.
Shields, 32, went 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA and 180 strikeouts to lead one of baseball’s best rotations last season, while catapulting the Royals to their first postseason and World Series appearance in 29 years.
Shields was born in Newhall, California, and went to Hart High School in Santa Clarita, just on the outskirts of mammoth Los Angeles County.
The Kansas City star reports that the Royals have been in contact with Shields this offseason, but there’s a slim chance he returns to the defending AL champs. Executives told The Star before the winter meetings began, that Shields could command a five-year deal in the $85 million to $100 million range.