Owners of the second-highest payroll in Major League Baseball for the last three seasons, and projected to hold that spot once again in 2016, it’s quite evident the New York Yankees ownership and general manager Brian Cashman have no intention of reclaiming the No. 1 spot they held for years.
That fact is no more evident than in New York’s recent activity, or rather lack thereof, during MLB’s offseason and at the current Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee.
Instead, the Yankees aren’t ringing up the agents of some of baseball’s most enticing free agents, they’re working the phones for a trade to bolster a starting rotation that ranked 19th in the majors with a 4.25 combined ERA and for a fresh bat at second base.
Two recent reports from ESPN’s Jayson Stark and Fox Sports Jon Morosi are clear signs New York’s hoping to pull off its second trade of the offseason, nearly a month after acquiring outfielder Aaron Hicks from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for catcher John Ryan Murphy. There's also a possibility they may start spending on a free agent.
Sources say Yankees have also been in touch with Marlins about Jose Fernandez. And Yanks, Dodgers & Dbacks all doing background work on him
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 7, 2015
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) December 7, 2015
Considering New York didn’t even sniff free-agent starters Zack Grienke or David Price, a move for Fernandez via a trade makes the most sense for Hal and Hank Steinbrenner, who are less willing to spend.
Fernandez fits New York’s immediate and long-term desires. He’s a highly talented 23-year-old, who owns a career 2.40 ERA. More importantly, Fernandez isn’t eligible for arbitration until next year and free agency until 2019.
CBS Sports’ John Heyman solidified Stark’s findings with a new report Tuesday over Fernandez’s trade market, and the Yankees clearly have competition. According to Heyman, the Dodgers are trying to recover from the loss of Greinke to Arizona, and Fernandez is considered a top target. The Giants and Diamondbacks are also reportedly interested. Another report from Stark on Tuesday had the Houston Astros interested in Fernandez, as well. Yet, there are also reports that the Marlins are very reluctant to deal their star pitcher, but have simply entertained offers.
With so many trade opponents New York will have to pony up a significant enough trade package to one-up the three NL West squads and Houston, yet what they are willing to give up might not be enough for the Marlins. According to the New York Post, Cashman remains open to trades, and that includes dealing Andrew Miller and Brett Gardner. But the Yankees are more open to moving starter Ivan Nova, which makes sense since he’ll be a free agent after next season and might be too expensive.
Still, Miller, who closed out 36 games last season, appears to be New York’s best chip if they hope to land a great young starter on a cheap deal.
“Nobody else they have, especially if they aren’t going to trade their top prospects, brings that young starter back but Miller,’’ an American League executive told The Post.
Instead, New York could potentially land Miami outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but it may cost 24-year-old starter Bryan Mitchell, starter/reliever Adam Warren and more, according to The Post.
Then there’s free-agent second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, who was a two-time All-Star with Cleveland three years ago and enjoyed a bit of a comeback year with Tampa Bay last season. He didn’t hit better than .246 since 2012, but appeared in 143 games and hit .265 for 15 home runs and 58 RBIs in Tampa Bay last season.
Cabrera would a be an upgrade over the collection of players who appeared at second base last season, but considering Cabrera’s age (30), he will likely seek a raise above the $7.5 million he earned last season.