Jan. 11: The Yankees have officially announced Britton’s signing on Twitter.
To clear a roster spot for Britton, they’ve designated infielder Hanser Alberto for assignment. He was acquired in a waiver claim from the Texas Rangers on Nov. 2. He was hitting .322/.366/.392 with one homer and 16 RBIs in 43 games for the Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican Winter League. Alberto lasted on the Yankees 40-man roster for two months and nine days.
Jan. 5: With the ink barely dried on David Robertson‘s two-year, $23 million contract with Philadelphia, the Yankees struck a deal to bring back reliever Zach Britton. The deal guarantees the first two years of the contract, a two-year team option after year two, or a one-year player option should the Yankees decline it.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic was the first to report momentum towards a deal, and Jeff Passan of ESPN confirmed shortly after that an agreement was in place.
That contract has become somewhat of a Scott Boras specialty, having debuted these paired options in contracts for Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Yusei Kikuchi and now Britton. Britton will earn a $1 million raise from his final year of arbitration salary, and will remain in the Bronx for at least two seasons. From what I gather, the Yankees have the first choice on the two-year team option, and after that, Britton can either opt in for 2021 or test free agency again.
After coming to the Yankees in a Trade Deadline deal for prospects Cody Carroll, Josh Rogers and Dillon Tate, Britton pitched to a fantastic 2.88 ERA and stellar 77.8% ground-ball rate in 25 outings for the Yankees. With his impending free agency approaching, Britton fielded questions about a return to the Bronx, and he always seemed open to the idea.
The Yankees had always said they were looking at two relievers, and it will be interesting to see the direction they take as the market begins to heat up. They’ve been very connected to Adam Ottavino recently, but he would be an expensive piece for a bullpen already stocked with expensive pieces. I’m very into the idea of ownership going full Evil Empire and securing Ottavino, as well as Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado. They’re definitely going over the first luxury tax threshold, and they should make it worth it.
CC Sabathia took an important step towards being ready for February’s Pitchers & Catchers reporting date, as the team announced Tuesday that he has been cleared by doctors to begin working out after an early-December angioplasty.
The veteran lefty had a stent inserted Dec. 11 after experiencing “acid reflux, heartburn and an increased amount of perspiration while riding an exercise bike,” according to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com. After a hospital evaluation, Sabathia “is said to have an excellent short-term and long-term prognosis.”
“We’re thankful for CC responding or reacting to the complaints he was having in such an intelligent way to make sure he got the care necessary, so there were no serious consequences,” GM Brian Cashman said.
The Yankees had put a pause on their trade negotiations surrounding Sonny Gray as they awaited confirmation that Sabathia was still on track for Feb. 13. Gray, as I’m sure you know, has generated trade interest from up to 11 different teams this offseason. Cashman had said that they might hold onto Gray in order to ensure they would be protected if Sabathia’s heart issue would delay his arrival in Tampa.
With Zach Britton back in pinstripes pending a physical, there are a few other storylines involving the Bronx Bombers as there are just 37 days until Pitchers & Catchers are due in Tampa:
CC Sabathia‘s Health Could Delay Sonny Gray Trade
The Yankees are considering holding on to right-hander Sonny Gray because of CC Sabathia‘s recent angioplasty. Brian Cashman insisted early in the offseason that Gray would absolutely be traded prior to the 2019 season.
“Our intention is to move Sonny Gray and relocate him when we get the proper return, in our estimation,” Cashman said. “It’ll happen this winter, it’ll happen in the spring or it’ll happen sometime during the season. The CC circumstance certainly has given us pause, because we want to make sure that we’re covered and protected.”
Sabathia had a stent inserted during an emergency angioplasty in early December when a blocked artery was found in his heart. Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reported that “While the Yankees have said that they expect the 38-year-old Sabathia to report to Spring Training on time, Cashman has slowed negotiations concerning Gray until Sabathia clears an array of follow-up visits scheduled for this month.”
Per Jon Morosi of MLB.com, the San Diego Padres continue to be in touch with the Yankees about Gray, and have been connected to him all winter. As many as 11 teams have been connected to Gray at some point this offseason, though Cashman appears to be narrowing his focus.
Domingo Germán Granted Fourth Option Year
A minor housekeeping note about right-handed pitcher Domingo Germán: he has been granted a fourth option year because he spent an entire optional assignment year on the disabled list. After being acquired in the 2014 offseason alongside Nathan Eovaldi and Garrett Jones for David Phelps and Martin Prado, Germán missed all of 2015 after burning his first option because of Tommy John surgery. Cashman announced the news during the conference call announcing Troy Tulowitzki‘s signing, and also noted that fellow righty Luis Cessa will be entering 2019 out of options.
Yanks “More Engaged” on Ottavino Than Machado
The reliever market is moving, and Andy Martino of SNY is reporting that the Yankees are currently “more engaged on Adam Ottavino than Manny Machado“. Martino cited that Machado’s decision-making process appears to be “still moving at glacial pace” and that the bullpen “market is moving and Ottavino could sign soon”.
Earlier in the offseason, the Yankees weren’t included in the list of teams that were in talks with Ottavino. The most cited were the Red Sox, Rockies and White Sox. Now, even with Britton in agreement to return to the Bronx, the Yankees “are continuing to pursue Ottavino,” per Jon Heyman of Fancred.
Ottavino, for his part, turned in another fantastic season as the setup man for Wade Davis in Colorado. In 75 games, he owned a 2.43 ERA (2.74 FIP) and a 193 ERA+.
No Utility Role Discussed With Tulowitzki
It seems the Yankees will use Troy Tulowitzki exclusively at shortstop for his Yankees tenure. Andy Martino of SNY reports that the Bombers’ pitch to the former All-Star “was fully centered around an opportunity to play short”. Tulowitzki will begin 2019 suiting up at the same position as his idol, Derek Jeter, and will have the luxury of a no-trade clause accompanying his league-minimum contract. Tulowitzki has yet to record a professional inning away from shortstop, and it appears that won’t change with the Yankees.
The Yankees added to their outfield depth Friday, reportedly signing speedy 29-year-old Billy Burns to a minor-league contract. That report came via Michael Meyer of the Mets blog MetsMerized. Jon Heyman of Fancred confirmed the signing in a tweet Saturday.
Burns is a switch-hitter with experience in all three outfield positions. Of course, with his kind of speed, he’s played the majority of his big-league innings in center field. In 242 MLB games with Oakland and Kansas City, Burns owns a career .270/.308/.353 slash line with five home runs, 55 RBIs and 46 steals (75% success rate). That line is mostly buoyed by his stellar 2015, where he hit .294/.334/.392 for Oakland. Since then, he’s been a .233/.269/.293 hitter in the MLB.
The Atlanta-native played all of 2018 at Triple-A in the Royals organization, hitting .255/.314/.316 with four homers and 36 RBIs in 102 games. He saw a marked decrease in stolen base success, stealing 10 bases in 18 tries (56% success rate). Again, he saw the majority of his time in center field, with his next highest number of innings coming in left field.
Besides providing a third outfielder for the RailRiders, Burns will likely be in MLB camp as a non-roster invitee in the same role as Shane Robinson in 2018. Hopefully, he won’t be starting in a pivotal August series at Fenway Park. The Yankees showed how important outfield depth can be last year, and I would think signing Burns is just an initial step after losing their once formidable depth to trades, the Rule 5 draft and injuries. I’d imagine a plethora of similar signings
January 4, 2019: The Yankees have officially announced the Tulowitzki signing, and have designated RHP A.J. Cole for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot.
Cole made 28 relief appearances for the Yankees in 2018, mostly in a mop-up role. He had a stellar first few months, but the wheels fell off when he finished the season with a 8.40 ERA in August and September. All told, Cole finished with a 3-1 record and 4.26 ERA after his April 24 acquisition in a cash trade.
For Tulowitzki, the plan is for him to be the Opening Day shortstop should his health allow it. The Yankees internal options, namely Hanser Alberto, Thairo Estrada, Tyler Wade or a position shift for Gleyber Torres, were not deemed sufficient.
“I think the Troy Tulowitzki thing is about being open-minded and reactionary and making sure we’re exploring all options that present themselves,” Brian Cashman said during the introductory conference call. “I think this probably snuck up on a lot of people. We’re aiming high and we’re evaluating other options that present themselves, and Troy was a late entry into the available marketplace.”
For now, the Yankees will feature an all-righty infield of Miguel Andújar at the hot corner, Tulowitzki at shortstop, Torres at second base and Luke Voit at first.
January 3, 2019: According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Tulowitzki will be undergoing his physical with the Yankees today.
After his release from the Toronto Blue Jays, the Yankees attended 34-year-old shortstop Troy Tulowitzki‘s free agent workout in California. Now, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Yankees are in agreement with the veteran on a one-year, league-minimum contract, pending a physical.
Passan notes that Tulowitzki “is expected to play shortstop for the Yankees while Didi Gregorius recovers from Tommy John surgery,” and that the move does not remove the Yankees from the Manny Machado sweepstakes.
Tulowitzki was released by Toronto on Dec. 11, allowing him to become a free agent and sign with any of the other 29 teams. The Blue Jays still owe him $38 million through the end of the 2020 season, but the Yankees will be responsible for a $555K salary. He last played consistently in 2016, when he slashed .254/.318/.443 (104 wRC+) in 131 games for the Blue Jays. He managed to be a 3.0 fWAR player that year because of stellar shortstop defense. He missed all of 2018 because of bone spurs in both of his heels that required surgery.
At league-minimum, this seems to be a low-risk, high-reward move for the Yankees. They can easily cut bait with Tulowitzki if he’s unable to perform at a high enough level or if his ugly injury history shows itself again.
I’m intrigued to see what this means for Miguel Andújar. If the Yankees also sign Machado, it seems Andújar’s only path to playing time with the Bombers would come at first base, left field (unlikely) or at designated hitter. Of course, they could also use him as a trade chip to bring in a high-profile starting pitcher as well.
We’re officially into 2019, and it feels like Spring Training is right around the corner. Here are a few recent storylines to follow:
While Awaiting Machado, Yanks Weigh Bullpen Options
While star infielder Manny Machado is finalizing his decision between Chicago, Philadelphia and New York, the Yankees are working to solidify their bullpen, according to Fancred‘s Jon Heyman. Their focus is currently on top guys like former Yankees Zach Britton and David Robertson, as well as former Colorado Rockies setup man Adam Ottavino. The Yankees face competition for all three players, and Heyman noted that the Red Sox have been interested in all three as well.
Brewers, Padres Remain in on Gray; Reds “Fading” in Trade Talks
As Brian Cashman continues to weigh offers from many teams for Sonny Gray, it seems the Cincinnati Reds “have faded” in in their pursuit of Gray after acquiring Tanner Roark from Washington and Alex Wood from Los Angeles, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi.
Morosi noted in the same tweet that the Milwaukee Brewers “remain prominent” in trade discussions with the Yankees after losing multiple starters from their rotation to free agency. MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell also reported that the San Diego Padres are “very much a part of trade talks” for Gray.
It had been reported a few weeks back that as many as 11 teams had inquired with the Yankees about the right-hander. Now, it looks like Cashman is whittling down his list of teams and I would imagine Gray is traded in the next six weeks before Spring Training begins.
Machado Follows, Then Unfollows, YES Network on Instagram
Manny Machado (possibly inadvertently) started a firestorm on Twitter last night after his Instagram account followed the YES Network for a short period of time. The TV station’s account then followed Machado’s account in return. This lasted for about an hour or two before both accounts unfollowed each other.
It’s no secret that the Yankees and Machado have had mutual admiration for awhile, and the Yankees are one of the final three teams competing for the 26-year-old’s services. He had visited the three home cities of those interested teams, and is likely to announce his signing in the next few weeks.
Yankees Showed Interest in Profar Before Trade to Oakland
Before the Oakland A’s, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers linked up on a three-team deal that sent infielder Jurickson Profar to Oakland, the Yankees made one last attempt at a player they’ve been connected with for a few years now. Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News reported the Bombers were not “willing to give up much” for the 25-year-old former top prospect. The Rangers wound up receiving four minor leaguers and $750K in international signing bonus pool money for Profar, who will now replace Jed Lowrie as Oakland’s starting second baseman.
After being connected last offseason, the Yankees apparently had discussed a one-for-one swap of Profar for Sonny Gray. The Rangers, citing Profar’s extra year of control, wanted more from New York and it appears talks broke down from there.
The post-Winter Meetings period has been pretty slow, though the reliever market is starting to move and Brian Cashman has said that he wants to add two relievers before all is said and done. Let’s get into some of the storylines:
Miguel Andújar: Trade or Position Change?
This is one of the more interesting storylines that seems like it will span the entire offseason and possibly into 2019: where is Miguel Andújar‘s long-term home? Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Dec. 17 that “a number of rival executives are convinced the Yankees want to trade Andújar,” and posited that the San Diego Padres could be interested “considering their need for a third baseman and apparent willingness to settle for less defensive skill at the position.”
More recently, Jon Heyman of Fancred wrote that the Yankees like Andújar enough to move him across the infield should the team land Manny Machado to play shortstop, and when Didi Gregorius returns, third base. He suggests Andújar could move across the diamond to play first base, which seems like a natural move that would cut down on the type of awkward footwork that plagues him on defense.
Yankees “Among Lead Teams” on Zach Britton
This one surprised me a bit: Heyman reported late Friday night that the Yankees (along with the Phillies) are “among lead teams” on securing Zach Britton. I would think the Yankees would love to bring Britton back after he posted a 2.88 ERA and 77.8% ground ball rate in 25 outings in pinstripes. I would think the Phillies would blow Britton away with the chance to be a closer and a paycheck to match the opportunity. The fact that it’s close at this point either indicates the Phillies aren’t yet backing up the truck for the southpaw, or that the Yankees are aggressively looking to maintain their super bullpen for 2019.
Yankees Interested in Freddy Galvis
There’s always the possibility that the Yankees do not land Machado to play shortstop (or third base) and they’re currently connected to a few alternatives with slick defensive skills to keep shortstop covered while Gregorius recovers. One such player is 29-year-old switch-hitter Freddy Galvis, who played in all 162 games in the past two seasons for the San Diego Padres. He’s known as a very solid defender and great clubhouse personality, but with little offensive value to add. His 85 wRC+ and 0.1 BsR shows below-average offense and league-average baserunning, but his defense allowed him to still be a 1.2 fWAR player for the Padres. I’d look for Galvis, who has also generated interest from the Mets and Pirates, to sign a deal similar to that of Jordy Mercer with the Tigers: 1-year, around $5 million.
Yankees Check In on Aaron Loup
With Andrew Miller off the market and Britton likely to receive a huge contract, the Yankees are also looking at other lefty options. One of those is Aaron Loup, the 31-year-old who made 59 appearances for Toronto and Philadelphia in 2018. He was great against lefties, holding them to a .678 OPS. But, right-handed hitter smacked him around to a .935 OPS, which is well higher than his .769 lifetime mark. The Yankees typically look for lefties who don’t have such a dramatic platoon split. I’d guess Loup remains unsigned deep into the offseason, since he’s coming off one of his worse statistical years.
Yanks “Intrigued” by Troy Tulowitzki
He was Brian Cashman‘s man in 2010 before Derek Jeter was resigned. Now, Troy Tulowitzki is back on the Yankees’ radar, albeit under radically different circumstances than when the Yankee icon asked the general manager what shortstop he preferred. The Toronto Blue Jays released Tulowitzki from the final two years and $38 million on his contract, allowing him to be signed by any team for the league minimum. That led the Yankees to send “scout JT Stotts [to] watch Tulowitzki’s workout Wednesday at Long Beach State, where Tulowitzki, according to people in attendance, moved well defensively and shelved the closed stance he was working on in the cage during last spring training,” according to George A. King III of the New York Post. The Yankees could use Tulowitzki to fill their middle infield need, though I’d imagine he’s not their No. 1 priority.