This was a pretty intense week in baseball, and that’s because the Winter Meetings did not disappoint this year. At least not in the bigger picture. This was a week full of player movement. There were blockbuster trades and massive free agent signings, and each night in San Diego seemed to include some sort of plot twist.
The Yankees, though, stayed quiet throughout.
“I honestly can tell you that we’re patient,” Brian Cashman said. “We’re not going to do something that we don’t feel comfortable with. … We got the Cervelli thing done with Justin Wilson, and there was a long period of quiet. We got Chris Young a month after we put an offer out on him, and eventually he came back after he went through the circuit and felt comfortable with where we were at. We made a little adjustment to get it done. And then the Didi thing took a while. Some things may take longer than others in terms of solving every need that we desire, but we’ll see.”
Clearly there’s still work to be done. The Yankees have only three starting pitchers in place (plus a handful of back-end rotation possibilities). The don’t have a clear closer (though they have a few options they could choose from). Their infield is still uncertain with second base and third base possibilities still on the market (while Rob Refsnyder remains in place as an internal option).
The Yankees took some small steps forward early this offseason. They added a left-handed reliever and a right-handed fourth outfielder. They added a little bit of pitching depth with one free agent signing and a few players added to the 40-man roster. They made their first major additions by finding replacements for Derek Jeter and Dave Robertson.
This hasn’t been a silent winter for the Yankees, but this past week was full of noise, and the Yankees didn’t make any of it.
“We’ve got meetings with a lot of people,” Cashman said. “We’re still obviously trying to affect some trades or potential free agent signings. We’ll just stay at it.”
• The Winter Meetings move that most directly impacted the Yankees was the White Sox four-year deal with Dave Robertson. Cashman had created the impression that the Yankees might sign Robertson to former a super-bullpen with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, but that was all about creating a false impression. The Yankees never made an offer, and Robertson’s fate was sealed as soon as Miller was signed.
• Speaking of Miller, he made it clear during a conference call that he doesn’t care about his role in the Yankees bullpen. He didn’t ask the Yankees to name him closer, and he’ll be happy if the Yankees sign a closer this offseason. Last season, Miller and Betances proved the value of a dominant multi-inning middle reliever, and there’s a chance those two will be used the same way next season if the Yankees sign another reliever to handle the ninth. Cashman has said that’s still a possibility.
• Another former Yankees pitcher who landed elsewhere: Brandon McCarthy agreed to a four-year deal with the Dodgers. The Yankees left no doubt that they wanted to bring McCarthy back to add some rotation depth, but four years is a massive and risky investment for a guy who’s had such trouble staying healthy (this season was the first time McCarthy ever reached 200 innings, or even got particularly close). The Yankees weren’t willing to go four years, and so McCarthy landed in Los Angeles during a flood of rotation signings.
• Cashman said the Yankees have put their coaching staff openings on the back burner while focusing on player movement. Still no new hitting coach, and no new first-base coach, and Cashman shot down a report that Marcus Thames had been hired as an assistant hitting coach. Cashman said he hasn’t interviewed Thames and hasn’t decided whether the Yankees will have an assistant hitting coach next season.
• Also still unknown: the status of Hiroki Kuroda. The Yankees have not been told whether he wants to pitch next season.
• Strength coach Matt Krause went to Miami to check on Alex Rodriguez. Cashman said Rodriguez is making progress this winter — he’s moving closer to the weight he’s expected to reach before spring training — but it’s still far to early to have any idea how well Rodriguez will handle full baseball drills.
• The build up to the Rule 5 draft always seems more significant than the draft itself, and that was certainly the case this year. The Yankees picked four eligible players to protect, and that seems to have done the trick. The Yankees didn’t lose anyone in the Rule 5 draft — in either the major league or the minor league portion — and they didn’t add anyone either. Cashman said he preferred keeping the three open roster spots open.
Associated Press photos