Yankees (finally!) use Steve Cohen as spending excuse in left field search


Ah, the return of an old Yankees friend: blaming others for the current state of the free agent and trade market! It’s been so long!

So far, so good this offseason for the Bombers and Hal Steinbrenner, meaning it’s been quite a while since the team could rightly be accused of bungling anything. First, Steinbrenner heeded the call (and responded to the bullying) by emptying his wallet to make Aaron Judge a lifelong Yankee, just like the slugger had requested.

Then, he promised Judge further expenditures to help bolster his new (old) team’s credibility … and delivered again, meeting in the middle on Carlos Rodón to give Judge a rotation to devote himself to and Gerrit Cole an impressive running mate.

You would be foolhardy to claim Steinbrenner hasn’t spent big this offseason. That said, he’s left a vacancy in the outfield, one that won’t be filled by Andrew Benintendi, who received one or two too many years from the Chicago White Sox.

It won’t be filled by Michael Brantley, either. Nor Daulton Varsho, nor Joc Pederson, nor Bryan Reynolds (probably). So … re-do?

Per Jon Heyman, the Yankees still plan to stop short of the highest tax threshold, named after Mets owner Steve Cohen. For projections’ sake, they currently appear to be about $3 million short of that $293 million level before offloading any additional salary … so … introducing, your starting left fielder, Someone Who Makes Less Than That!

Yankees will not go with Estevan Florial as Opening Day starting left fielder … will they?

What, you expected the Yankees to field a full roster? What is this, 1960?

According to Heyman, here’s where the team stands entering the new year:

"The Yankees had a very productive winter — keeping Anthony Rizzo and especially Aaron Judge, and adding Carlos Rodon. But they may pass on remaining left-field free agents Jurickson Profar, David Peralta and Corey Dickerson. They want to stay below the $293M “Steve Cohen tax” threshold (they are at $290M), and aren’t opposed to giving Oswaldo Cabrera and Estevan Florial a shot.The Yankees were interested in Andrew Benintendi but just for four years. They liked Michael Conforto, but not at the $36M deal and two years with a player option he got with the Giants. Interesting that the Giants pivoted to a player who missed last year and had shoulder surgery after questioning Carlos Correa’s MRI exam."

None of the remaining free agent options scream “must-sign,” but that means the Yankees had better get engaged in the trade market post-haste. Oswaldo Cabrera is excellent, but he’s most valuable as a utility guy and not an outfielder, a position the Bombers came up with on the fly down the stretch last season.

Estevan Florial? He’s more an idea than a baseball player. Theoretically, his promotion could provide a spark. In practice? 3-for-31 last year, and not an Opening Day starter of any kind, at this point in his career.

No Yankee fan is going to pine for Corey Dickerson, and if Hal has chosen this as his line in the sand, then so be it. Better hard-line stance than one regarding Judge or the sixth year of Rodón’s contract.

That said, Cohen is the only current owner without limits, and you know damn well he wouldn’t enter a potential title-winning season with a vacancy in the lineup. Once you’ve gone this far, why not finish the job?