Yankees Free Agency: Black Friday Deals

Max Goodman

As you search through catalogues and sale ads, hunting for the best Black Friday deals, here’s a list of three types of low-priced purchases the Yankees could make this winter.

This holiday season has the potential to be a pricey one for the New York Yankees.

With Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and several high-end, ace-caliber starting pitchers on the market, New York isn’t the only team that’s poised to write some hefty checks this winter. Brian Cashman even told reporters a few weeks ago he has no directive to stay below the luxury tax threshold…

But in the spirit of Black Friday, when seemingly everything is on sale, let’s take a look at which aisles the Yanks will be perusing for need-based purchases at a bargain -- other than the most sought after items.

Outfield Depth

As Aaron Hicks begins his rehab from Tommy John surgery -- and after parting ways with Jacoby Ellsbury, while Brett Gardner and Cameron Maybin remain free agents -- adding another outfielder to support in a part-time role wouldn’t be the worst idea.

New York got the ball rolling in this department by inking a minor-league deal with Zack Granite last Friday. The lefty receives an invitation to Spring Training attached, but all signs point to the seven-year minor-league veteran heading to Triple-A.

A reunion with Melky Cabrera would be beneficial both on and off the field. Cabrera has proven, even at 35, he can still handle the bat from both sides of the plate. Although his defense is a liability at times, Melky is a career .285 hitter and has a history producing at Yankee Stadium.

For more on Cabrera, read our analysis on why New York should take a chance and sign him, if they end up seeking outfield depth, right here:

Otherwise, with Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and Clint Frazier already on the 40-man roster, there’s no need to add an outfielder based on power numbers. A versatile defender to fill in at all three outfield spots, with the ability to get on base, is what the Yanks truly need.

Perhaps a player like Jon Jay, who has bounced around quite a bit since his six year tenure with the Cardinals, or a veteran like Adam Jones who can still perform while mentoring younger players.

Speed

New York fell one home run short from leading baseball in long balls in 2019, so there's no question their runs are typically a source of extra base hits. Their base running, however, was one of this high octane offense’s weaknesses.

The Bombers recorded a grand total of 55 stolen bases in 2019 -- which isn’t so grand when you compare that to the rest of the league. Only six teams had less steals than the Yanks.

Steals don’t necessarily equate to wins -- five of the 10 teams with the least amount of swiped bags finished with a .500 record or better. In fact, Minnesota -- the team that edged out New York in the home run race -- had just about half the steals as the Yankees (28).

Speed on the base paths does provide an additional tactic to get inside the minds of a pitcher, beyond the threat of hitting the ball over the fence. With the ability to swipe a base a little more often, as the Nationals put on full display in the World Series, it opens up more opportunities to score runs.

Billy Hamilton and Jarrod Dyson are both available via free agency this winter, both perennially at the top of the leaderboard in steals. Or why not take a chance on someone like Cory Spangenberg -- a utility player on defense with tremendous speed. Spangenberg was ninth in all of baseball, according to Statcast, with a 4.01 second home-plate-to-first base time.

Re-signing Brett Gardner also falls into these first two categories -- Gardy’s 4.06 home-to-first time was 22nd best in the bigs. He’s also the longest tenured Yankee and played 140 games in the outfield in 2019.

Relief Pitcher Depth

After going the majority of the regular season as one of the best bullpens in baseball, Yankee relievers struggled in the months of September and October.

Aaron Boone relied heavily on his pen, using relievers in 664.2 innings in 2019 -- seventh highest in the game. By the time the playoffs came around, the season’s wear and tear took a toll on several arms.

In the ALCS,  Adam Ottavino had an 11.57 ERA, Chad Green’s ERA was 9.64 and Aroldis Chapman surrendered the decisive blow to Jose Altuve in Game 6 (to go along with his 6.75 ERA). Adding another proven reliever, in a cost-effective deal, ever so slightly eases the workload on the rest of the staff during the regular season.

Further, of the 25 hurlers on the Yankees 40-man roster, only six are left-handed. Beyond Chapman and Zack Britton, who both pitch at the end of games, Stephen Tarpley is the only other lefty reliever. New York could covet a southpaw to eat up some innings during the season, with the ability to face a batter or two in crunch time come October.

Will Smith, who was arguably the best reliever available this winter, is already off the board -- now a member of the Atlanta Braves -- but plenty of options remain. New York could re-sign Dellin Betances, who played just .2 innings in 2019 due to injuries, but signing him would be pricey.

For depth from the left side, Derek Holland and Jake Diekman are available via free agency.

Tony Cingrani, Pat Neshek, Nate Jones and Brandon Morrow would be risks, coming off injuries that sidelined them for the majority of 2019, but could be inexpensive and have plenty of experience.

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