Would you look at that … the New York Yankees still need a shortstop (among five other things) as we approach January. But that’s simply what happens when you’re saddled with a pandemic-shortened season and a burning desire to get under the luxury tax threshold followed by a lockout.
And. during this lockout just about every Yankees fan has come up with various scenarios, via free agency or trade, that can improve the 2022 roster and/or help the front office’s vision become a reality.
The biggest topic of conversation has been the void at shortstop because this free agent class featured arguably the best crop of players at the position we’ve ever seen. The most talented and most expensive shortstops in the game? Perfect match for the Yankees … until it wasn’t.
According to those close to the team, general manager Brian Cashman is bullish on his two top shortstop prospects in Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza and seemingly prefers not to keep them blocked by a long-term signing.
While the optimism in regard to the development of these guys is encouraging, it’s frustrating for fans to hear that the team is looking at least another full year (likely two) down the road in hopes unproven commodities will pan out as they pass on the bonafide MLB stars right in front of them.
Nonetheless, it’s fostered a discussion about stopgap options the Yankees could acquire. One name that floated around was Elvis Andrus, who could very well be moved once the Oakland Athletics’ fire sale commences post-lockout.
Why the Yankees probably won’t trade for Athletics SS Elvis Andrus.
In theory, it wouldn’t be a bad move for the Yankees, but after learning a key piece of information we can expect New York to pass on the veteran shortstop. Though Andrus is due $14 million in 2021, the Texas Rangers are on the hook for $7.25 million of that (per the trade agreement with Oakland), making him a relative bargain at one year and $6.75 million. Not bat at all for a reliable glove and ample MLB experience.
However, the issue is with his team option for 2023, which stands at $15 million. Here’s a more in-depth explanation from Steve Adams of MLBTradeRumors.com:
"“The larger wrinkles are that his $15MM club option for the 2023 season could become a player option and that his initial trade from Texas to Oakland triggered a conditional full no-trade clause, which now gives him veto power over any deal.“Andrus’ contract stipulates that his 2023 option will convert to a player option if he is both traded (check) and then accumulates 550 plate appearances in the 2022 season. The 550 plate appearances is an eminently reachable platform as well, particularly for Andrus.”"
Adams also mentions the issue with de-emphasizing Andrus down the stretch in an effort to avoid the plate appearances threshold, which may not sit well with the players union since it would be clear manipulation, especially if he’s performing up to standards.
So here we have a complicated situation where if the Yankees trade for Andrus, they’re turning his team option into a vesting option which could then turn into a player option with realistic benchmarks. That would bring the deal to a total of two years and $21.75 million, which is far less attractive and then might affect the Yankees’ plans with their prospects.
Sure, the Yankees could turn around and trade Andrus, but banking on the fact a team would be willing to pay $15 million for one year of a 34-year-old shortstop seems like a longshot. Cashman has already gotten himself into many complicated situations, and there’s no sense in adding another to his plate that could extend into 2023.