Yankees insider Bryan Hoch dropped some nuggets about potential free agent pitching targets.
The Yankees’ offseason plan has seemed clear from the end of October, whether fans like it or not: bring DJ LeMahieu back at (nearly) all costs, add a starting pitcher or two, and attempt to fortify the bullpen and bench as long as said fortification is available for pennies on the dollar.
Though we’re only marginally closer to a LeMahieu resolution as the calendar turns to the second week of 2021, we might have a bit of newfound clarity about who the team is targeting in their search for soaking up innings.
Two of Yankees insider Bryan Hoch’s mailbag answers this week collectively helped us in our goal of discerning who the team is chasing.
And neither target is going to break the bank or demand expediency from Brian Cashman, in all likelihood.
First, Hoch addressed the rumor the Yankees might have an advantage with Corey Kluber in his mailbag response regarding the team’s interest:
"The Yankees may have an inside track with Kluber, based upon his long-standing relationship with performance coach Eric Cressey; in fact, Kluber is scheduled to hold a mound session for interested teams on Jan. 13 at Cressey’s Florida facility. If nothing else, they should have an accurate read on Kluber’s talent level. Considering that he is coming off injuries and would likely agree to an incentive-laden contract, that seems like a good fit for the back end of the rotation."
Kluber, specifically, has also emerged as a Red Sox target, but it’s not off base to suggest the Yankees have kept an trained eye on him leading up to that Jan. 13 date.
Of course, in a later answer in the same mailbag, Hoch echoed the sentiment once more, claiming that a free agent or two was likely to force either Michael King, Deivi Garcia or Clarke Schmidt into the minors to begin the season:
"Probably not all three, especially if the Yankees augment a rotation that also projects to include Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery and Domingo Germán to begin the year. While the door is not closed on a Masahiro Tanaka return, Jhoulys Chacin will compete for a spot as a non-roster invitee, and an addition like Kluber or Taijuan Walker remains possible. It’s easy to imagine one of García, King and Schmidt breaking camp for Opening Day, with the other two remaining on a starting schedule at Triple-A."
Could Walker be this team’s back-end play? It seems quite likely, and has for a while — or, at least ever since he was snapped playing beer pong with Aaron Hicks. Or telling Jomboy and Jake he could see himself hanging out with the Yankees’ big boys club, joining Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton.
If we were conspiracy theorists, we’d say Walker was happily waiting for the Yankees to finish off their LeMahieu pursuit, advised by the team to hold tight.
Of course, Kluber will naturally take longer to sign a deal than most other free agents, even in this stagnant market. It’s going to take a workout and plenty of assurances to get him the money he’s seeking as a reclamation project.
Walker’s not an ace in practice, but as an insurance policy against the kids taking a collective leap? And as a No. 3 or No. 4? Yeah, that’ll play.
Keep your eyes trained on this space in the days following Jan. 13, when we could finally see some action in the Yankees’ rotation chase.
Unless DJ LeMahieu remains unsigned. Then, we probably won’t. Cool, stagnant stuff.