There seems to be growing speculation the Yankees are going to sign a top free agent bat this offseason amongst MLB insiders. This has ramped up over the weekend following the departure of Brian McCann.
While you were spending your pre-Thanksgiving weekend probably watching football or decorating way too early for the holidays, speculation has grown about the Yankees direction in free agency.
On Saturday, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports wrote how the “Yankees are positioned to make major moves” and cited the possibility of bringing flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman back. He also suggested they could use help on offense now that four sluggers from the 2015 Opening Day roster, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann are no longer on the roster.
Clearly this means nothing but let’s explore the complications that come with signing either player. Both Cespedes and Encarnacion are north of 30 in age. Cespedes will be entering his age 31 season while Encarnacion will turn 34 in January. At some point in each of their next contracts they will begin to decline.
If the Yankees were to sign Cespedes there is no place for him in the outfield unless a player is
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traded. The Yanks’ current Opening Day outfield going left-to-right is Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Aaron Judge with Aaron Hicks as the fourth outfielder. Gardner has been rumored to be traded recently so there is a possibility the Yankees would be in need of a left fielder. However, top prospect Clint Frazier who was acquired in the Andrew Miller trade from the Indians is poised to make his Major League debut sometime in 2017. That still leaves no spot for Cespedes unless you rotate him at DH.
In my opinion, it makes more sense to make a run at Encarnacion if they’re going to sign one of the two. Even though it’s been rumored he could command a four or five year contract at around $100M total value the Yanks need run production and protection in the lineup for Gary Sanchez. Encarnacion immediately would slot into the DH spot and could spell Greg Bird at first base when he needs a day off.
Outside of Sanchez and Bird, who’s a year removed from seeing big league pitching, the Yankees don’t have a ton of run production in their lineup. The lineup was so thin toward the end of 2016 that Didi Gregorius saw multiple starts in the cleanup spot. Don’t get me wrong, Gregorius had a great season but doesn’t fit the mold of your prototypical cleanup hitter that Encarnacion would provide.