The New York Yankees brought Aaron Judge back on a record-shattering deal, and have some more work to do in the coming days to secure his running mates.
Whether they make their next addition in the name of strengthening the rotation (Carlos Rodón) or plugging left field (Andrew Benintendi), anything they do after that will have to be an improvement at the margins — think Tommy Kahnle, but cheaper. There’s a reason for the recent proliferation of Diamondbacks outfield trade rumors, after all.
The Yankees have a bit of room left in their budget, but mum’s the word on Hal Steinbrenner passing the final luxury tax threshold of $293 million, a dreaded zone where only Steve Cohen has gone thus far.
According to estimates, the Yankees have about ~$42 million left to spend annually before they hit that line — that is, if they don’t shed any of the existing salary belonging to Aaron Hicks or Josh Donaldson.
Assuming nobody wants to rid the Yankees of their current financial burdens — because no one ever does — Steinbrenner will have room for one more splash and some bench maneuvers left in his pocket this offseason. These three players, who should cost a relative pittance, should be of interest.
HONORABLE MENTION: Josh Harrison, who’s nearly 36 years old and will probably cost a few million dollars. He’s versatile. He’s aging out of lists like these, but … we just like him. 1.4 WAR and a 94 OPS+ last year! Energy guy! OK, that’s enough, sorry for using some space for Harrison Talk.
3 cost-effective free agents who can add to Yankees’ bench depth
3. Jose Iglesias
The Yankees require a roving veteran shortstop, regardless of whether or not Oswald Peraza gets the Opening Day nod. At this point, it would be tough for any team to do much better in that regard than Jose Iglesias.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa would be a better utility man than starting shortstop. He would not be a better utility man than Iglesias.
Iglesias and Kiner-Falefa put up roughly the same offensive profile year in and year out, though Iglesias at least has a longer track record with a few more successful outlier seasons. Take away IKF’s defensive shortcomings and discomfort, too, and add in Iglesias’ wizardry at short (and, presumably, second from time to time), and you’ve got a 90 OPS+ bat on a one-year deal who can mentor those around him rather than shy away from leadership.
On the verge of turning 33, Iglesias has been a prototypical one-year flyer for bad teams for the past several years. He prospered in Cincinnati in 2019, then dominated in 39 games in Baltimore in 2020, a season so ruefully short that the O’s never got the chance to sell high at the deadline. He “scuffled” with the Angels in 2021 (.259 average, eight bombs in 114 games) before lighting it up for the Red Sox down the stretch, hitting .356 in 23 games at the end of the season, but arriving too late to be a part of the playoff roster (sad).
Somehow, the Colorado Rockies didn’t flip him last summer in the midst of another positive-WAR campaign. Maybe, this time around, the Yankees circumnavigate the process and sign him during the offseason instead of getting in gear at the trade deadline.