With the offseason coming towards an end, most players have signed. However, there are some lowkey names out there that could make sense for the Yankees.
Fresh off the heels of an ALCS appearance in 2019, the Yankees appear to be heading in 2020 with among the strongest teams assembled in recent memory. With the addition of dominant ace Gerrit Cole to sit atop the rotation, the team now boasts among the most formidable lineups, rotations and bullpens in the whole league. While the team doesn’t have very many holes, there are still a few areas where the team has room to improve and add depth.
The marquee free agents from this offseason have all found homes, but Brian Cashman loves finding hidden gems in the rough that he feels could contribute to the team, like he did with Luke Voit, Gio Urshela and Mike Tauchman in recent years. Were the Yankees to make a few more moves before Opening Day, there are some unsigned free agents that could make sense for the team.
With that in mind, here are some players still left on the free agent market that would be solid fits for the Yankees to pick up off the scrap heap to round out their 2020 squad.
A Mets fan favorite for many seasons, Flores enjoyed a quality 2019 season with the Diamondbacks after signing a one-year deal with them last offseason. He only played 89 games, as he missed two months of the season with a right foot contusion. The Venezuelan infielder made the most of those 89 games though, putting together a very productive season with the bat, slashing .317/.361/.487 with nine homers and 18 doubles in 285 plate appearances. He also posted an impressive 120 wRC+ and 124 OPS+.
Flores especially feasted on left handed pitching in 2019, slashing .337/.367/.615 in 109 plate appearances and hitting seven of his nine home runs off of southpaws. He also brings defensive versatility to the table, as he has played over 140 career games at each of the four infield positions. While the Yankees seem to be set with their infield of Luke Voit, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela heading into the season, the exorbitant amount of injuries the team suffered from last season proved just how valuable depth at all positions is.
Flores would certainly start for a number of teams across the league, so having him as a bat off the bench and an option to give any of the infielders a day off or fill in when one of them falls victim to the injury bug would be a major luxury for the Yankees.
Another utility infield option, the Yankees are all too familiar with Holt’s game. They have had a chance to see his pesky style of play firsthand during the past seven seasons he spent with the Red Sox, with him stinging the Yankees most when he hit for the cycle in the Red Sox’ 16-1 win in the Bronx in Game 3 of the 2018 ALDS. The Fort Worth, Texas product has only eclipsed 110 games in a season once in his career, in 2015, when he was named an All-Star for the first (and only) time in his career. Like Flores, Holt spent a significant portion of the 2019 season on the shelf, as he missed nearly two months with a scratched cornea. He slashed a solid .297/.369/.402 in 295 plate appearances across 87 games, recording 19 extra base hits, three of which left the yard.
Power isn’t Holt’s game, though, as he is more of a slap hitter and hard-nosed versatile defender. While Holt has played more games (243) at second base than at any other position, he has played every single position except pitcher and catcher at the major league level. His ability to shift all around the field and play solid defense at each position would fit very well on a Yankees team that has its fair share of defensive question marks.
A stretch reliever who is capable of going multiple innings in relief but can also start a handful of games a season is something the Yankees have not had at their disposal since Adam Warren’s stints with the team. The Bombers experimented with Jonathan Loaisiga as a hybrid of a starter and reliever the past couple of seasons, but his future seems to be destined for the pen, and “openers” like Chad Green aren’t expected to go many innings at the start of the game. The Yankees saw the negative impact that overusing relievers can have on a team in the 2019 postseason, when bullpen arms like Zack Britton and Tommy Kahnle were not nearly as effective after pitching so many innings that season, and especially in the playoffs.
After the team’s heartbreaking loss in ALCS Game 6, Britton went as far as to publicly say that he felt that the bullpen was “running on fumes” at the end of the ALCS, and that “we can get a little bit deeper on the pitching side”, particularly in regard to getting starting pitchers who could go deeper into games. The Yankees addressed this need in the offseason, inking Cole to a nine-year, $324 million deal. They did, however, lose Dellin Betances in free agency and CC Sabathia to retirement. The addition of an arm capable of pitching as both a starter and in relief would help with preventing the fatigue that Britton spoke of. McHugh, who started eight games for the Astros in 2019 and relieved in another 27, is a pitcher who could fill that Warren-type role for the 2020 team. He fell victim to multiple IL stints across the course of the 2019 season, ultimately pitching in 74.2 innings. He punched out 82 batters and walked just 30 in his 35 appearances, struggling in his eight starts at the beginning of the season before the team moved him to the bullpen. He recorded six or more outs in seven of his 27 appearances out of the bullpen, regularly providing long relief for a shaky Astros bullpen as the bridge from their elite starting pitchers to trustworthy relievers Will Harris and Roberto Osuna.
While McHugh’s 2019 numbers weren’t impressive by any means, his ability to eat innings and make a few spot starts here and there is something that the Yankees could certainly make use of in 2020 as they aim to stay healthy in the pursuit of World Series title #28.