It has been reported that the Red Sox and OF/DH J.D. Martinez have closed a five-year deal that will bring Martinez’s much needed power bat to Fenway. It seems after a winter-long stare down, the two sides have found common ground on a contract. After fans and writers spent the cold months demanding the Red Sox respond to the Yankees stealing Giancarlo Stanton away from Miami, the Fenway faithful can rest easy tonight knowing Dave Dombrowski and company have done exactly that.
So what does it mean for the AL East race? With the Red Sox having been relatively quiet up to this point, many pointed at the Yankees as the favorite heading into 2018. Inactivity doesn’t mean as much when you already have a fantastic team however, and the Fangraphs projected standings painted a different picture even before the Martinez signing. Without the new addition factored in, the Red Sox (92-70) were already considered the favorite over New York (90-72). Now, projecting standings is of course an imperfect science, but the Bronx Bombers weren’t necessarily as much of a shoe-in for the division crown as some may have thought.
If the Red Sox were already the favorite, the signing of J.D. Martinez widens the gap even further. What could the Yankees do to respond to this move to ensure they keep pace with Boston? And is a move even necessary?
I’m just going to start here because I feel the cries from the Bronx to sign Moose will amplify as the ink dries on Martinez’s new contract. To this point, Mike has experienced a non-existent market for his services. That figures to change some with Martinez and former teammate Eric Hosmer off the board, but there just aren’t many third base openings across the majors. Moustakas’ pull-happy left-handed bat would admittedly fit very well somewhere between Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez, but there are other obstacles to overcome here.
The first is, as you’ve likely heard, the payroll. The Yankees are trying to reset their luxury tax bracket, and only have about $10-12 million to spend before keeping the rest for mid-season additions. The second issue, Moustakas would likely have to settle for a one-year deal, and that is unlikely. The Yankees don’t want to block their prospects, and for all the talk of collusion this off-season, the last week has proven that money is still out there. It would likely take Moose’s market remaining dry into the regular season for him to consider a one-year pact. Last but not least, Moustakas was worth -8 DRS last year at third, and for all the talk of prospect Miguel Andujar’s supposed shortcomings in the field, Moose might actually be worse for New York. All these factors make it very hard to see the two sides coming together, regardless of how strong the fit looks on paper.
We’ve been hearing the Yankees connected to rotation upgrades all winter. Perhaps they will pursue arms with more urgency now that Boston has added a top bat. Problem is, there are still no perfect options out there. Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers is likely the best option potentially available, but teams league wide don’t seem to be too keen on Clint Frazier as a center piece of a deal, and I would think if Detroit was any different, a deal would have been struck by now.
Other options such as Arizona LHP Patrick Corbin, or Kansas City LHP Danny Duffy are likely available in some capacity, but the price is unclear. Free agent righty’s Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb remain on the market, but for salary reasons similar to Moustakas, a big signing seems unlikely for New York.
Luckily for the Yankees, their prospects aren’t going anywhere. They have five capable starting pitchers at the moment and can wait until mid-season to re-evaluate their needs. Perhaps a more perfect rotation fit will become available at the deadline, and the Yankees might be better holding their pieces until that perfect fit comes along.
While they wait for the right deal, perhaps the Yankees could search for bargains on the free agent market. Though big names are starting to come off the board, there are still lower-tier players to be had. Perhaps a short-term fix in the infield or added rotation depth could be the answer for now.
Available infielders of interest could include Brandon Phillips, Neil Walker, and Yunel Escobar. Walker and Escobar offer positional versatility that the Yankees would likely look for. LHP Francisco Liriano, or RHP’s Trevor Cahill and Jesse Chavez could interest the Yankees as pitchers would could either come out of the pen or fill in the rotation. Regardless, there are several options out there if the Yankees are content increasing their depth and not making another big splash at the moment.
Is it necessary?
Up until about an hour or so ago, the Yankees were seen in many circles as the favorite for the AL East crown. If not the favorite, they were considered at least neck-and-neck with Boston. Projections may have argued otherwise, but nobody was crazy for thinking either team could win the division. Now, Boston has added a significant piece that could tip the scales back their way.
Regardless of the Martinez signing, I think New York is content waiting for now. As presently constructed, they may be one infielder or starting pitcher away, but if the perfect fit isn’t available they may be better waiting and seeing what they have before making a move. It’s possible Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres will establish themselves as regulars by mid-season, and nothing more than a depth piece will be necessary to patch the infield. Perhaps Jordan Montgomery takes a big step forward, or one of their prospects comes knocking at the door, and a pitcher isn’t as much of a need in July as it seems now. Or, these plans will blow up and obvious needs will rear their ugly head early in the season, gearing the Yankees up for mid-season additions.
As previously mentioned, the Yankees have assets that aren’t going away, and they can afford to wait. Sonny Gray came to them. Giancarlo Stanton came to them. I believe they will wait until the next perfect fit comes calling, and when that time comes, they will still have all their prospect capital to cash-in on.