New York Yankees agreed a contract with free agent starting pitcher Gerrit Cole on Tuesday, breaking several Major League records in the process. The Los Angeles Angels and Dodgers were believed to be in the race for Cole, but the Cy Young contender ended up turning down his native California for New York and the famous pinstripes.
The Yankees have been to the playoffs in the last two seasons. Brian Cashman has built a fierce line-up and undoubtedly competitive roster, but the pitching has often been questioned. With luxury tax penalties looming, it remains to be seen what he does in the remainder of the winter, so here are three moves he could make…
After finishing sixth in Cy Young voting two seasons ago, Treinen was non-tendered by the Oakland Athletics. His 5.14 FIP led to an ugly 2019, with Liam Hendriks taking over as the Athletics’ premier reliever. Oakland weren’t keen to pay what was set to be hefty arbitration money for the sinker-thrower, and he’s become a free agent as a result.
Every team can benefit from an extra reliever. While the Yankees bullpen is already immense, and boasts plenty of hard throwers, there is little to be risked if they can pick Treinen up on a relatively cheap one-year deal. His upside is obviously enormous. The prospect of Treinen at anywhere near his 2018 form joining Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino and Aroldis Chapman will leave American League line-ups shaking.
The Miami Marlins aren’t likely motivated to trade Caleb Smith, but the Yankees have the pieces to get such a deal done. With luxury tax penalties an issue for Cashman after securing Cole, they could look to work a deal for Smith while offloading salary. J.A. Happ could either get sent to Miami along with a few prospects, or perhaps Happ goes elsewhere and Smith is brought in as a cheaper alternative.
Smith would replace Happ as the second lefty in the Yankees’ rotation. His 5.11 FIP in 2019 was a little disappointing, but there’s good stuff there. Smith ranked in the 85th percentile in fastball spin rate and the 73rd percentile in expected batting average.
The motivation seems to be there from both sides to get Gardner back in pinstripes for 2020. With Aaron Hicks out long-term, centre field is a spot the Yankees need to address. Gardner enjoyed his best offensive season in 2019, posting a 117 OPS+. Defensively, he’s still solid enough to play centre despite heading into his age-36 campaign.
Away from Gardner, the centre field market is pretty thin unless Cashman fancies an audacious trade for Starling Marte. Kevin Pillar or Jarrod Dyson are unlikely to interest the Yankees – a Gardner deal seems a matter of when rather than if.