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Brett Gardner and the Yankees Agree to Another Reunion

The Gardy Party will keep going for at least one more year. Earlier in the day, Jon Heyman and Mark Feinsand reported talks had once again resumed between the outfielder and the Yankees. It seemed inevitable that the two sides would be able to land on an agreement. A few hours after the initial reports, the Yankees and Brett agreed to a deal. Here are the details:

The options allow the Yankees to lower the salary cap luxury tax hit for the 2021 season. As we all know, the team’s main offseason goal was to field a championship-caliber team while staying under the $210 million threshold. Their most recent deals bring in solid veterans while allowing themselves some wiggle room to potentially add pieces at the deadline. The Justin Wilson and Darren O’Day contracts have similar option structures. We’re not thrilled with the decision to stay under the luxury tax number, but credit to GM Brian Cashman for finding savvy ways to build out the contracts while acquiring good talent.

We all know what we’re getting with Gardner. He will bring plus defense in left and center, provide some thump from the left side, and continue his role as a clubhouse leader. There really is no downside to bringing him back for that money at this point in the offseason.

The bigger question now is bench construction. A few days ago, Aaron Boone said publicly that Clint Frazier is his starting left fielder. I don’t see any reason why Gardner’s return would change that. Brett was a late offseason addition and took a pay cut. His best value comes as a fourth outfielder who most likely pushes Mike Tauchman off the Opening Day roster. With spring training soon to hit full swing, we can currently project the Yankees four-man bench as Brett Gardner, Kyle Higashioka, Tyler Wade (whoo hoo!), and one of Jay Bruce or Derek Dietrich. There is a chance Robinson Chirinos could take Higgy’s spot, but he may start as AAA catch depth, for now, a la Eric Kratz.

The bench looks much better than it did even a week ago. Brett Gardner’s return plays a pretty big part in that.

Report: Yankees have deal with Darren O’Day, pending physical

Just a couple of days after shipping out Adam Ottavino, the Yankees have nabbed a replacement. I think everyone was anticipating a bullpen addition at some point soon, just not Darren O’Day. Rather, someone like Trevor Rosenthal or Shane Greene, who we briefly discussed on the latest podcast episode.

Earlier this offseason, Atlanta rejected its $3.5 million option to retain O’Day for 2021. Now, O’Day gets $2.5 million for one season from the Yanks. That’s a remarkably cheap deal for a guy with the fifth-lowest ERA since 2008, minimum 500 innings. Impressive as that stat is, he’s still limited in that he’s a righty specialist thanks to his sidewinding motion. That makes him slide right into the role that Ottavino vacated. Righties have a .193/.262/.287 line against O’Day all-time.

O’Day, 38 years of age, had some of his best years with Baltimore but just finished a strong campaign with Atlanta. In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the righty had a 1.10 ERA in 16.1 innings pitched plus a terrific 32.8 percent strikeout rate.

The Yankees have two 40-man spots open, but they will need to open up one more for O’Day since the DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber signings aren’t official yet.

Report: Yankees trade Adam Ottavino to Red Sox

Here’s something you don’t see too often: the Yankees and Red Sox have struck a deal. Adam Ottavino has been shipped out to Boston in what assuredly is a salary dump. Ottavino is due $8 million in 2021 and a $3 million signing bonus in 2022, of which Boston will pay all but $850,000. For doing the Yanks this favor, the Red Sox also acquired prospect Frank German, a right handed pitcher.

This move subtracts $8.15 million from the Yankees’ payroll for luxury tax purposes (Ottavino’s hit was $9 million, now reduced by the $850k). You have to figure that this is a precursor to more activity coming, such as a reunion with Brett Gardner.

Additionally, this trade clears up another 40-man spot. The Yanks now have two open, so the DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber deals will likely become official in short order.

Ottavino initially signed a three-year, $27 million contract with the Yankees ahead of the 2019 season. The righty posted a 2.76 ERA in 84.2 innings with the Bombers, his hometown team. He was often inconsistent and didn’t have complete trust of his manager Aaron Boone, as evidenced by sparse usage in the last two postseasons.

German, 23, was the Yankees’ 4th round pick in 2018 and is Rule 5 eligible this winter. He last pitched in High-A in 2019 and recorded a 3.79 ERA and 4.19 FIP in 76 innings. He was the club’s 24th-best prospect per MLB Pipeline.

This is the first trade between the two sides since the Stephen Drew for Kelly Johnson swap in 2014. Before that, the last trade between the Yanks and Boston occurred in 1997.

Yankees Acquire Jameson Taillon from Pirates

Friends, it is a done deal. After a few writers on both the Pirates and Yankees beats reported a deal was done, Jeff Passan came in with the details. The trade involves Miguel Yajure, Roansy Contreras, Maikel Escotto, and Caanan Smith on the Yanks side:

I like this trade a lot. First, the package feels right for a pitcher of Taillon’s caliber with injury concerns. It’s a quantity-over-quality package, really. I don’t mean to take anything away from them, some of whom I liked a bit, but they’re mid-level prospects. For what it’s worth, MLB’s Pipeline ranks Yajure 15th, Contreras 19th, and Smith 21st without ranking Escotto in the Yankees system. Feels fair to me.

Second, it starts to clear a very real 40-man backlog. As I noted earlier today, Yajure and Contreras are each on the 40-man. The Yankees will still need to clear one spot, but Taillon is a smart use of 40-man consolidation. None of them were likely to help the Yanks in 2021. Taillon, of course, will. I’ll have detailed thoughts on this shortly, but I love Taillon as an acquisition. For more on him, check out what Derek wrote on him back in December for a quick refresher.

This is a very exciting move that has the potential to really shore up the rotation. Good stuff, Yankees.

Report: Yankees, Pirates in Talks Over Jameson Taillon

Friends, the stove is hot once again. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports that the Yankees are currently “emerging as the frontrunner” for Pirates starter Jameson Taillon:

Joel Sherman seconded the report, noting that the Yankees are “strongly pursuing” him. There has been smoke here earlier this offseason, remember, and I’m inclined to think that there is fire here. I almost expect a deal to happen in the next few hours, given how this sort of thing goes for the Yankees.

Still, while this is just a rumor, it is an exciting one: Taillon, if healthy, exactly what the Yankee rotation needs. Trading for him would make me pretty satisfied with the Yankee offseason overall. He is a very good pitcher who would be an instant upgrade to the rotation, posting a 3.67 ERA (3.55 FIP, 89 ERA-) in 466 career innings. Taillon has good velocity and spin on his pitches. Though he doesn’t generate a ton of strikeouts (21.5%) , he really limits walks (6%) and keeps the ball in the yard.

The big concern, of course, is his health, as the former first rounder has twice undergone Tommy John surgery and hasn’t pitched since 2019. Derek covered Taillon earlier this winter, so check that for a full refresher on his arsenal.

The big question will be the sort of package the Yankees surrender. Taillon is a pretty big question mark due to his history, so I don’t think the package will be overwhelming. If they get it done, maybe the Yankees send back some high-upside prospects like Estevan Florian or Albert Abreu? Who knows. It’s always a fools game to try and predict this stuff. We’ll see if it even happens.

In the meantime, we’ll keep this post updated with any new info.

UPDATE (1/24, 11:27 am): Not a ton has moved on this since last night, but there is definitely still smoke here. First is this report from the Post-Gazette’s Jason Mackey, which confirms that the Yanks are the front-runner and that a deal should happen today:

Mackey’s follow-up story notes that the Rays are also in on him, for what it’s worth. Ken Rosenthal also joined the fun, confirming the Yanks are in on Taillon. (It turns out Rosenthal, like the rest of us, reads Twitter.)

Finally, a few more notes on the sort of package that’s potentially at play here. Mackey notes that Cherington will want a “haul”, but it’s unclear what that means. Here is what has been reported so far:

  • The Pirates are seeking a “young catcher with upside.” (Chris Cotillo)
  • They also want “prospects with upside,” much as every team does in every single trade. (Jon Heyman)

Not super helpful! That said, the Yanks have two catchers in Anthony Siegler and Josh Breaux who might fit the bill for Pittsburgh. There is also the 40-man backlog, which the Yankees will need to clear to add Kluber and LeMahieu, plus Taillon if a trade were to happen. As BA’s Josh Norris notes, there are plenty on the 40-man with upside from the lower minors:

By my count, this includes 5 SP (Yoendrys Gomez, Roansy Contreras, Luis Gil, Alexander Vizcaino, Luis Medina), 1 SS (Oswald Peraza), and 1 OF (Estevan Florial). Florial, obviously, did make his MLB debut in 2020 but I’m not sure we should count that. I’m sure the bulk of this package would be made up of guys like this, plus possibly Miguel Yajure, Albert Abreu, or Brooks Kriske.

In general, I like this strategy. Removing a 40-man backlog to improve the current team in a contention window is a smart approach. So what do we think the package will ultimately look like?

Peraza probably stays put, as Pittsburgh has a few SS in their system already, so it’s probably some combination of the others. If Cotillo is right, I’d bet Breaux is included in any final Yankee package. Of the rest, I’m partial to keeping Gil, Medina, Gomez, and Abreu, but as they say: there is no such thing as a pitching prospect. (Also, I doubt Frazier or Andújar is moved here, but who knows.)

We’ll keep updating if anything else comes up.

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