I know, I know. “The Yankees are cheap. They only care about the Luxury Tax and don’t care about winning anymore.” Sure, they haven’t thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at Manny Machado or Bryce Harper (yet). However, they are in the midst of what is a lowkey, yet productive winter.
It started off with the return of veteran outfielder Brett Gardner on a controversial one-year deal worth $7.5M. Coming off a year where he hit just .236/.322/.368 with a wRC+ of 90, it came with questions as to why the Yankees didn’t move on from the 35-year-old outfielder and opt towards a Michael Brantley or even Bryce Harper. As it sits right now, Gardner will remain the club’s starting left fielder unless Giancarlo Stanton sees more action there rather than the DH role he held in 2018.
Next came the resigning of another Yankee veteran, CC Sabathia. CC posted another solid campaign in 2018, giving him three consecutive seasons with an ERA under 4.00. In 29 starts, the left-hander put up a 3.65 ERA/4.16 FIP in 153 innings, striking out 140. If his health holds up, all signs are pointing towards Sabathia slotting in as the club’s No. 5 starter in 2019. If CC can replicate the success he’s seen the past three seasons, then the Yankees would have to be ecstatic.
Two weeks later, the Yankees struck a blockbuster deal with the Seattle Mariners for their southpaw ace, James Paxton. Paxton, 30, pitched to a 3.76 ERA/3.24 FIP in 160.1 innings with a filthy K/9 of 11.68 in an injury-influenced season with just 28 starts. In exchange for their top prospect Justus Sheffield and others, the Yankees received their likely No. 2 arm in the rotation behind Luis Severino. A few weeks later they brought back J.A Happ who went an undefeated 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA after being dealt to the Yankees at the end of July.
The 36-year-old signed a two-year/$35M deal with a vesting option for an additional year which would also be worth $17M. With two starters acquired, the Yankees look to be heading into the 2019 season with a starting staff of :
- Luis Severino (19-8, 3.39 ERA/2.95 FIP, 10.35 K/9)
- James Paxton (11-6, 3.76 ERA/3.24 FIP, 11.68 K/9)
- Masahiro Tanaka (12-6, 3.75 ERA/4.01 FIP, 9.17 K/9
- J.A. Happ (17-6, 3.65 ERA/3.98 FIP, 9.78 K/9)
- CC Sabathia (9-7, 3.65 ERA/4.16 FIP, 8.24 K/9)
If you told me that the Yankees have one of the best rotations in all of baseball, it would be pretty tough for me to disagree with you. Four starters with K/9’s over 9.0 and two with over 10.0, not to mention not one of them posting an ERA over 4.00 in 2018.
However, the bullpen took a significant hit last week with the official departure of David Roberton who signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. But that pushed the Yankees into a full pursuit of Zach Britton, who they acquired this past July, which led to the agreement of a 3-year/$39M deal with the possibility of a fourth year.
So, the Yankees have thus far filled three spots in the rotation, secured an elite bullpen piece and filled in the injured Didi Gregorius’ void at shortstop with the signing of Troy Tulowitzki to a one-year deal last week. And the Yankees seem to have no intentions of calling it an offseason just yet as they are reportedly still very much engaged in Manny Machado and reliever Adam Ottavino.
With all that said, it doesn’t seem fit to call the Yankees “cheap” or “not competitive enough.” They have been one of the sport’s most active clubs this winter and it very well could continue with the blockbuster signing of the 26-year-old superstar Machado. Regardless, they’ll enter camp as an improved team compared to the 2018 group and, of course, as one of the biggest powerhouses in all of baseball.