There were no big headlines for the Bombers in 2019, but a few interesting notes on how the Yankees plan to tackle this year’s free agency and the 2020 coaching staff.
Andújar Generating Trade Interest
From a second place finish in the AL Rookie of the Year race to a lost season in 2019, the future remains murky for Miguel Andújar.
Gio Urshela‘s breakout has him penciled in as the Opening Day third baseman and leaves the 24-year-old Andújar without a clear role given the team’s current roster construction.
The Yankees GM discussed how the team could take advantage of Andújar’s athleticism:
“Because of Urshela, it gives us some things to kick around,” Cashman said, via Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. “If Gio continues to hold that position, you’re going to want to see if you can find that way to get [Andújar’s] bat in that lineup. Can he play first? Can he play the outfield? You know, you start playing with those mind games.”
In an appearance on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN Radio, Cashman also mentioned Andújar was a hot topic of conversations with other GMs in Scottsdale.
“I’m definitely getting a lot of interest in Miguel Andújar while I’m sitting down here,” Cashman said over the phone (via Brendan Kuty of NJ.com). I’ve got clubs asking me, ‘What are you going to do with him? We’d have an interest in him. Mark us down.'”
Mendoza to Replace Bard as Bench Coach
Hired as bench coach with the encouragement of manager Aaron Boone, the Yankees have allowed Josh Bard to depart the organization in search of a role closer to his home in Colorado, reports Ken Davidoff of the New York Post.
The team has promoted Infield Coach Carlos Mendoza to take on the bench coach role, though he will still be responsible for the infielders as well as running Spring Training.
Mendoza began his Yankees career as a coach with short-season Single-A Staten Island in 2009, before managing in the Gulf Coast League (Rookie) and for Low-A Charleston. He was the organization’s infield coordinator from 2013 to 2017 as well as lower level field coordinator in 2017. He was named Major League Quality Control Coach/Infield Instructor on Feb. 5, 2018.
Blake, Swanson Hirings Confirmed
Cashman also confirmed the Yankees hired Matt Blake away from the Cleveland Indians to serve as pitching coach and Tanner Swanson away from the Minnesota Twins to serve as catching coach/quality control coach.
Blake spent three seasons working as a pitching coordinator and assistant director of player development for the Indians, and actually had been promoted to the role of Director of Pitching Development just days before the rumor of his Yankees hiring broke.
Swanson had served as the Twins minor league catching coordinator since 2017 and is widely regarded as a framing guru. He helped Twins catcher Mitch Garver improve from just a 3rd percentile framer to the 47th percentile from 2018 to 2019.
Sherman: Yankees “Tried Hard” to Acquire Givens From Baltimore
As we all know now, the asking prices for starting pitching at the 2019 trade deadline were high enough that the Yankees were looking to pad an already impressive bullpen. That quest led the Yankees to a familiar trading partner in the Baltimore Orioles for right-handed reliever Mychal Givens.
Givens had a down year for Baltimore, with a 4.57 ERA (4.50 FIP) in 63 innings. It appears Givens was a victim of the 2019 “juiced ball” era, with a way more respectable 3.62 xFIP (adjusted to league-average home-run rate). He allowed home runs on 22.8% of fly balls in 2019, and his 1.86 HR/9 rate was 28% higher than league average.
His 12.29 K/9 and remaining years of team control would make him an interesting trade candidate for a bounceback season. His ranks in the 82nd percentile in velocity and 77th percentile in spin. Plus, he throws a slider with a 35.5% whiff rate that he only throws 15.3% of the time.
Combine those elements and you’ve got an interesting project for the new pitching regime who would be under control for a few seasons.
Martino: Yankees Won’t Pursue Gregorius “Very Aggressively”
After not tagging shortstop Didi Gregorius with a qualifying offer, It’s possible that the relationship between the Yankees and the fan favorite will come to an end.
Andy Martino of SNY is reporting that “industry folks do not expect Yanks to pursue Gregorius very aggressively”. He had previously reported that the 29-year-old is not interested in a pillow contract, and that the team had deemed the $17.8 million qualifying offer too expensive.
The Yankees do have an impressive infield already on hand should they allow Gregorius to depart, with Gio Urshela manning third base, Gleyber Torres sliding to shortstop and DJ LeMahieu returning to his traditional position at second base.
Coming off a career year (.268/.335/.494, 122 wRC+), Gregorius looked like an obvious extension candidate. However, he needed reconstructive elbow surgery that limited him to 82 games and a .238/.276/.441 (84 wRC+) line.
The Cincinnati Reds, who signed Gregorius out of Curaçao before trading him to Arizona, have already been linked to him.
Cashman: Yankees Will Pursue Rotation Upgrades
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Brian Cashman told reporters that the Yankees will indeed be pursuing upgrades to their starting rotation this offseason.
With Sabathia now retired and Domingo Germán facing a lengthy suspension for domestic violence, there’s an obvious fit for more starting pitching whether it arrives via free agency or the trade market.
That’s exactly the plan that Cashman will employ this winter, having told reporters he’s already checked in with the camps of top free agents Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Zack Wheeler. The team also plans to reach out to the representative for left-hander Madison Bumgarner.
Those are obviously some of the top arms available, but don’t be surprised if you hear the Yankees connected to some names that are under the radar.
“The easy thing right now is to focus on some of the big names, and I promise you, we’ll be doing that. But we’ll also be touching on some mid-level and some lower unknowns that might manifest themselves into some interesting conversations down the line. Trust me, I know one thing, we are going to stay connected and get as much information as we can.”Brian Cashman on ESPN New York (via Bryan Hoch, MLB.com)
It’s worth remembering that the 2018 GM Meetings was where Cashman began putting together the James Paxton trade, and it would not be surprising to see the Yankees reinforce their pitching core with some kind of trade while the free-agent market manifests itself.