Unless you’re an avid reader of The Ringer, a publication that apparently believes the Yankees “sucked up big free agents and leveraged their financial might” this offseason, you were probably left a bit cold by New York’s cost-cutting.
Did the Yankees get better? I’d say yes, and the risks on Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber were well-calculated.
But, excepting the DJ LeMahieu deal (which you could argue came in below market value), New York didn’t out-muscle anyone for anybody. In fact, they’d have been better served by doing so a few times instead of paying the Red Sox to take on Adam Ottavino AND a prospect just so they could sign two cheaper relievers.
All this is to say: the Yankees let some free agents float by, and those free agents are making them regret it entering Opening Day.
Remember how there was never any real competition for Tyler Wade? Well, there could’ve been! Remember how the “will they/won’t they” over the Mike Tauchman trade became the dominant storyline instead of a completely irrelevant narrative? After all, the Yanks could’ve … signed a better outfielder.
Money shouldn’t be a concern — for any MLB team, not just the Yankees — and if you disagree, you probably also think Steve Cohen shouldn’t pay Francisco Lindor what he wants, even though the Mets’ owner uses hundreds for sauce napkins.
The Yankees improved this offseason, but these three free agents they whiffed on are already making the Steinbrenners choke on their wadded-up cash, and it’ll only get worse.
Apologies to Jake Odorizzi, whose inexpensive contract and migration to Houston made him a perfect fit for this list — except he was utterly terrible this spring. So jury’s still out.
The Yankees will regret passing on these 3 free agents.
3. Kiké Hernández
Carrying a clutch utility man who plays shortstop, second base and the outfield instead of a redundant Mike Tauchman and/or Tyler Wade? What a novel concept! Which MLB team figured it out and signed Kiké Hernández to a $7 million AAV deal, per chance?
Oh, you’re kidding.
Obviously, this was out of the Yankees’ should-be-nonexistent price range, but they should have at least acquired some sort of intriguing minor-league FA who replicates Hernández’s skill set. They did not do that.
The Yanks didn’t need to sign a clear backup shortstop to caddy for Gleyber Torres and put undue pressure on him in a huge offseason, but it would’ve been nice to add the versatility that someone like the new Red Sox slugger provides (11 games at short in 2019, 22 the year prior). At the very least, it would’ve made more sense than cramming Gio Urshela in there, or, like we said, gifting Wade the position despite him being the clear worst hitter (worst player?) on the 26-man roster.
It certainly didn’t hurt his case that, after being handed some semblance of a starting job for the first time, Hernández tore the cover off the ball at Sox camp, hitting .340 with three homers.
Spring stats are not the be all, end all, and should not blind you here, though. The bottom line is that many of the Yankees’ redundancies and roster decisions could’ve been solved by adding more versatility at the margins of free agency.