Major League Baseball is about six weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training. So in the absence of real news, we’ll wade through the Yankees rumors to give you the real scoop.
As winter kicks into overdrive and the NFL season come to a climatic finish, we’re all hungry for that little morsel of possibility when it comes to our favorite MLB club making a transaction or two that separates them from the pack headed into the new season. As for the Yankees, while it’s been a more active offseason than that of 2015, it still hasn’t been all that explosive.
Yes, Aroldis Chapman is back in the fold, as is former St. Louis Cardinals slugger, Matt Holliday. Both should aid the Yankees in their continued transition from rebuilding to contender — but fans still want more — most notably a starting pitcher.
At the moment it doesn’t look like their wishes will come to fruition, now that water has all but doused the rumored Jose Quintana trade. But fear not, I’ve compiled the most notable news on who is said to tickling the Yankees’ fancy — and whether it’s true or not — or even makes a single iota of sense.
Kurt Suzuki – Fiction
One of the big reasons the Yankees traded Brian McCann to the Astros (besides shedding his salary and installing Gary Sanchez as the everyday catcher) was because the organization feels comfortable moving forward with a combination of Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka as backup catchers.
Romine is more of a defensive presence than he is offensive, but he did surprise with the bat at times in 2016 and can fill in at first base in a pinch. As for Higashioka, after nine years of toiling away in the Minors, he finally seemed to find his groove, batting .276/.337/.511 with 21 home runs and 80 RBI at Double-A and Triple-A last year.
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As for free agent backstop Suzuki, he will likely never put up the same numbers he did as an All-Star in 2014. A better barometer of success for him going forward is if he’ll be able to stay on par with ’16s stats of a .249 BA, 8 HR, and 49 RBI.
Suzuki’s defensive prowess pretty much assures him a backup job somewhere, it just won’t be with the Yankees. This could be Higashioka’s one chance to prove he belongs at the Major league level, and it looks like he’ll have a legit shot to unseat Romine in Spring Training as the first option at backup catcher. It’s unlikely that the Yankees keep three catchers on the 25-man roster, so adding another name to the fray is not feasible.
Jerry Blevins – Fact
The Yankees bullpen currently has two left-handers in it — Chapman and Tommy Layne. Layne (32), is a decent enough specialist. He won’t wow you with his 90 MPH fastball, but he gets the job done more times than not.
RotoChamp has predicted that Layne’s 2017 season will look like this: a 3-3 record, 3.63 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 46 K and 26 BB in 52 INN. For a guy making a little over $1M, he holds a lot of value.
As for Blevins, who pitched with the crosstown Mets last season, his projections for the new season are currently incomplete, but if you figure he’ll be what he was in ’16 (a 2.79 ERA with 52 Ks in 42 INN), you’d be hard pressed to understand why he’s still on the market. Throw in his ability to hold left-handed batters to a career .588 OPS, and it’s clear to see why adding him to Yankees bullpen would be a wise move.
The main hindrance here, though, is that according to Brandon Kuty of NJ Advanced Media, Blevins is seeking a three-year contract for around $5M per season. While this isn’t a ton to shell out for a solid lefty reliever, it could be more than the Yankees are willing to bid since they have already surpassed the luxury tax threshold.
Adding Blevins to the backend of the ‘pen would be a major boon to the already strongest part of this club. It will be interesting to see if Brian Cashman makes a move on him before someone else does.
Jason Hammel – Fact
The Yankees were first linked to the free agent starter at the beginning of December. Since that time, there hasn’t been much interest in the 34-year-old Hammel, mostly due to the fact that he missed the final two months of last season with arm trouble. According to John Perrotto of FanRag Sports, Hammel, and his reps may have to settle for a short-term deal if he hopes to soon be employed.
Obviously, this isn’t the pitching name Yankees fans want to hear the team is interested in, but with the dearth of established names currently situated to contend for the last few spots in the team’s rotation, why not add a guy, who when healthy last season posted a 15-10 record and 3.83 ERA in 166 INN.
RotoChamps predicts Hammel will go 8-10, with a 4.01 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 142 K and 43 BB in 155 INN. No, not spectacular, but on a 1-year/$5M deal, it’s worth the gamble for a mostly effective shooter — especially since you really never know what to expect from Michael Pineda.
Danny Duffy – Fiction
Duffy had a breakout season in 2016: 12-3 record with a 3.51 ERA in 179.2 INN while striking out 188 and only walking 42. So why would the Royals want to trade him then? Well, it could be because the 27-year-old lefty is in his final year of arbitration, so the Royals could look to move him before he becomes too costly for the friendly confines of Kauffman Stadium.
MLB Network’s Jon Morosi said the Royals were floating his name in trade talks during the recent Winter meetings — though, most teams were reluctant to deal prospects for a player who can become a free agent next fall.
Listening to Royals play-by-play announcer Rex Hudler on MLB Radio the other day, Hudler says the organization is “all in” to challenge the Cleveland Indians for the AL Central title. By trading away Duffy, their chances of that are severely diminished. That’s why I wouldn’t expect Duffy’s name to pop up in trade talks again until late July — and that’s only if the Royals find themselves struggling to stay above .500.
A left-handed starter with Duffy’s demeanor pitching in Yankee Stadium would play very nicely, though his propensity for allowing long balls (27 in ’16) would need correction in a hurry. This trade could be revisited by the Yankees and Royals at a later time, but for now, it’s not happening.