After struggling down the stretch of the season and failing to advance beyond the 2015 American League Wild Card Game, the New York Yankees need to make several upgrades in the 2016 offseason. The team has a few prospects that they could use for trade bait, and general manager Brian Cashman will likely look to improve through free agency.
Only the Los Angeles Dodgers have a higher payroll than the Yankees, and the organization is known for actively pursuing high-priced talent. New York may have to be creative this winter, considering they don’t want to make a significant increase in their payroll.
The Yankees have needs in their pitching staff, as well as their lineup. New York’s bullpen was the strength of their team in the regular season, but their starting rotation ranked just 17th in ERA in MLB. Only the Toronto Blue Jays scored more total runs than New York, but the team’s offense failed them when it mattered most. The Yankees’ veterans struggled to match their numbers before the All-Star break, and they were shut out in their one playoff game.
The 2016 MLB free-agent class is deep, and a few names stand out as players the Yankees could look to sign.
The starting pitcher will command the type of money that the Yankees don’t want to spend, but the team should at least consider making an offer to the best free agent available. New York didn’t trade for Price at the July 31 deadline, and he went to the Toronto Blue Jays, making them the World Series favorites. Had New York acquired Price, they might still be playing in the postseason.
Masahiro Tanaka is the Yankees’ No.1 pitcher, but the team is lacking a legitimate ace. Price has a career 3.09 ERA, and he went 9-1 with Toronto to help them win the AL East. He’ll likely command a contract similar to Max Scherzer’s $210 million deal, which could ultimately keep him out of a Yankee uniform.
Price would be an ideal acquisition for the Yankees, though he might not be the most realistic. Samardzija falls much more within New York’s price range, and his struggles at the end of the season have made him a much more affordable commodity, eliminating the possibility of a $100-million deal.
Samardzija had a 6.29 ERA in the second half of the year, but he could be rejuvenated playing for the Yankees in a pennant race. He had a 2.99 ERA in the previous season, and he would be an upgrade for New York. Ivan Nova has been big disappointment since the 2013 season ended, and Samardzija could end up as a top-three pitcher on the Yankees’ staff.
The Yankees could use a few upgrades on offense, but it will be difficult for them to make any significant free-agent moves. They are paying Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann big money over the next few seasons. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are under contract, and New York isn’t likely to add a big time outfielder with prospect Aaron Judge waiting in the wings.
The most logical move would be to add Zobrist, who can play just about every position. New York could choose to start next season with rookie Rob Refsnyder at second base, but the team was reluctant to give him the job in 2015, even though Stephen Drew hit under .200 for much of the season. The Yankees reportedly had interest in Zobrist at the trade deadline, and might want to revisit luring him to the Bronx.