After the Yankees made the biggest splash of the offseason by trading for National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees have been quiet, very quiet. Yes, that doesn’t apply for just the Bombers, as there are still about 100 players (as of now) that remain unsigned. That being the case, many, including myself, thought that maybe the Yankees would sign a third basemen, or second baseman. This was a thought because the Yankees dealt last seasons starters at both of those positions (Starlin Castro to Miami in Stanton deal, and Headley to San Diego in a salary dump). That being done left just a few in house contenders for this years opening day at those positions. However, many believed it was in best interest if the Yankees went and got hometown kid Todd Frazier to return on a 1-year deal (so they have the option to go after Machado in 2019). Todd Frazier chose to stay in New York….. but in the Queens. The Mets signed Frazier to a two-year $17 million contract on Monday night. However, I wouldn’t say the Yankees “missed out” on Frazier, rather the Mets could just offer him that second year, something the Yankees didn’t want to do. His presence on a team is unmatched, but his subpar batting average can be matched in the Yankees lineup by a number of options. Although everyone knew Frazier wanted more than one year, it still came as a bit of surprise that he chose to step away from a World Series contender. However, this leads many Yankees fans and writers to believe that Brian Cashman has something up his sleeve in terms of free agency.
I will discuss the Yankees in house, and free agency options and how I think the Yankees will play at second and third base this year. First, lets discuss free agency. In free agency, there are only three real options that the Yankees have, and I would assume only two of them are realistic options. First, the least possible, in my opinion, would be signing Mike Moustakas to a one-year “prove it” deal. With a really bad free agent market this offseason, Moustakas might want to sign with the Yankees and increase his numbers (in a lineup that he could thrive in). This does make sense. The Yankees want only one-year out of any signee, and Moustakas may need to settle for a one-year deal in the end, and where better can a lefty power hitter take a prove it deal than in the Bronx with the short porch in right field. This seemingly would be a perfect fit for both sides (if Moustakas intends on taking a one-year deal) because Moustakas can increase his stock going into next season, and the Yankees will be able to cut ties after this season and go after Manny Machado. However, I find this scenario unlikely, because it is believed by many that Moustakas will eventually get a sufficient enough multi-year deal, and the Yankees will not offer that.
Secondly, Neil Walker, could be an option for the Yankees at second base. Walker, who was dealt from the Mets to the Brewers last season, is still without a home, and may be another guy who will have to settle for a one-year deal after gauging the open market for this long. Neil Walker to the Yankees, in my opinion is realistic, and might happen, but I don’t think I would bet on it. After seeing Todd Frazier sign a two-year deal, Walker will realize that he could probably be offered the same thing from another team and may jump at the idea of having a multi-year commitment. However, the Yankees and the Mets have been the two big names mentioned on Walker, and with Frazier to the Mets, the Mets seem to have their infield figured out and don’t need anyone else. Walker is a good fielder and has some power, and is a reliable hitter (especially if he were to bat at the bottom of the Yankees order). Although I feel that Walker to the Yankees isn’t overwhelmingly possible, those chances increase every day as spring training quickly approaches.
My last option, which I think may be the most probable one, is a reunion between the Yankees and Eduardo Nunez. New York has been labeled as one of three teams who are vastly interested in Nunez with the Red Sox and Rays being the other two. The issue with this, again, is whether or not Nunez will be willing to take on a one-year deal. However, of the three free agent candidates, I feel the Nunez will be most likely to accept one because of how overlooked he is. Nunez is a solid average hitter, but he does struggle in the field and can play third, second or short (don’t count on him playing short). The 30-year old was grown in the Yankees system but traded because he was blocked by guys named Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. Have you heard of them? Anyway, it is ironic that now the Yankees have two spots to fill and may need to get Nunez back to fill a gap. While I am unsure whether he would accept the one-year deal, I believe he would be a good fit.
The Yankees going and signing any of those three free agents, or any free agent infielder for that matter, relies solely on whether it is a one-year deal or not. If the Yankees get any of them it will be for one year (unless its a team option for second which they won’t pick up). All three players are good options who I could see fitting in the Yankees lineup, and if I could have my choice I would go after Walker hardest, but I understand that Nunez might be the choice of Cashman. I don’t anticipate the Yankees signing any of those guys though, as I expect them to stay in house.
Before getting into the in house options, which are most likely, I want to throw out a hypothetical. I don’t like to do this much because it is all guessing, but I need Jacoby Ellsbury off of my team. If he agreed to it (because he has a no trade clause), would you trade Dellin Betances and Ellsbury to the Diamondbacks for Martin Prado? I would do that in a heartbeat. The Yankees have already seen Betances is demanding of money, and we saw we could live without him when he struggled and was out of the bullpen rotation in the playoffs. Also, getting Prado in return could solve an issue for the Yankees at second base, and the Diamondbacks will get themselves a closer in Betances. However, Ellsbury’s unwillingness to be traded is fair, its in his contract, but it is holding the team back from making moves (like going after Yu Darvish if we had Ellsbury’s numbers off the payroll). I don’t see this happening but hey, its fun to think about.
At the end of the day I think what will ultimately happen, is the Yankees staying in house for options at second and third base. The Yankees can mix and match the two positions with guys like, Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Tyler Wade, and Ronald Torreyes (Torres, Wade and Torreyes can play both, and shortstop). Gleyber Torres (main piece in Aroldis Chapman trade with Cubs) is the Yankees #1 prospect, and was the #1 prospect in all of baseball for a while last season before getting hurt (now is #5). I believe that Torres will be the Yankees everyday second baseball starting on opening day, or three weeks after opening day (which gives the Yankees another year of control over his contract. The Cubs did this with Kris Bryant). Torres was expected by many to be with the Yankees as their everyday third basemen at some point last season when Headley struggled, but Torres needed to get Tommy John Surgery on his non-throwing elbow after injuring it with a slide into home. If it wasn’t for this injury, the Yankees probably wouldn’t have ever landed Todd Frazier last season anyways.
Next is Miguel Andujar, who the Yankees love. The 22-year old is the Yankees #5 rated prospect (#14 on FanGraphs!). How could they not love him? He played a few games for the Yankees last season (3-4 in his first start). Andujar has an electric bat that has been big league ready since before last season. The issue was that he was blocked and also struggled in the field. Signing someone to block Andujar again, in my opinion would be foolish. If the fielding is something he can clean up, he could, and should, be the Yankees opening day third basemen.
My next two guys are guys who were on the big league roster all and most of last season. Ronald Torreyes is a stud backup. I mean that seriously. He has been on the big league club for two years now. He is everything you want in a utility guy, he hits for average (.292 last season) and is above average in the field while he can play three positions with ease (also would do okay in the outfield). However, Torreyes doesn’t walk enough, his OBP is (.314) and he doesn’t have any power numbers. Torreyes is solid, he filled in every day for Didi Gregorius, and Starlin Castro last season when both guys missed time due to injuries, and also was never rusty when coming off a long haul on the bench to fill in for someone one game. While Torreyes is reliable, he is the perfect backup, not an everyday guy. Tyler Wade on the other hand, is a guy that can play anywhere. The 23-year old played third, short, second and the outfield corners last season as a utility guy (was also named International League, AAA, MVP). In triple-A, Wade hit .310 with 7 home runs and stole 26 bases in just 82 games. The Yankees love his versatility and love his bat, even though he struggled in his first action as a big leaguer. The Yankees haven’t given up on his despite those struggles. The once highly rated prospect (no longer a prospect) is still high on the Yankees radar and can be a viable option for the club entering the season.
I don’t believe that Torreyes or Wade will be an every day player by any stretch of the imagination this season. However, what I can see is one of these guys playing that three week stretch at second base to get another year of control over Gleyber Torres (as previously mentioned), until that time is up and Torres will fill that position. Meanwhile, if that’s the route the Yankees choose, one will play second for a short stretch while the other will be the utility guy.
In the end, I believe it is in the best interest of the Yankees to go with Andujar and Torres (at some point, opening day or 3 weeks in) to play third base and second base. This is the most economic move for the team as they try to stay underneath the luxury tax. Also, they are both really good players who won’t have that rookie pressure in the Yankees deep lineup. Both will have tremendous impacts during the season as the Yankees continue the chase for 28.
The Yankees are young, and although we’ve seen the emergence of guys like Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, second player finisher in Rookie of the Year in 2016 catcher Gary Sanchez, and 3rd place Cy Young Finisher Luis Severino (not to mention that amazing potential of Greg Bird and Clint Frazier, who are both former #1 prospects), the next wave of great young baby bombers is coming soon in Torres and Andujar (among others) and the Yankees should run with them behind proven veterans and established young players. This will be an exciting year for Yankees fans everywhere.