Another day with much ado about nothing for Major League Baseball and the Yankees. As such, let’s turn back the clock to 2017 in what’s now our second edition of the old RAB staple: Revisting the MLB Trade Rumors archives. In case you missed it, I wrote about December 2016’s rumors and news last month.
The Yankees were pretty quiet this month five years ago too, but at least there were some rumors. Let’s get to them:
January 4, 2017: Yankees Still Looking At Starters
The Yankees remain engaged on Quintana and other pitchers even as the organization says it is content with its pitching mix, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports. “We benefited from [the high prospect costs to swing a trade] at the Trade Deadline, but now, obviously, on the acquisition side of it, it’s very costly to do business as well,” says GM Brian Cashman. “We’ll continue to evaluate it and stay engaged, but we’re prepared to go to Spring Training with the team we have currently if need be.”
Free-agent righty Jason Hammel has drawn at least some interest from the Yankees, Hoch adds.
The Yankees were window shoppers for starters all offseason. They didn’t bring in anyone new in spite of connections to José Quintana and others. Hammel, mentioned here, had just completed his second good season for the Cubs (3.79 ERA in 337.1 innings) and had earlier AL East experience. The Yankees dodged a bullet with Hammel, though, as the righty faltered for Kansas City over the next two seasons (5.59 ERA in 307.1 innings).
January 4, 2017: White Sox Maintaining Daily Trade Talks Regarding Jose Quintana
The White Sox have maintained daily trade talks centering around ace Jose Quintana, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The Astros, Pirates and, to a much lesser extent, the Yankees remain involved in talks, though the Yankees are less willing than other interested suitors to part with the requisite prospects to pull off a Quintana deal. Rosenthal characterizes the Yanks as a “long shot,” noting that the White Sox are steadfast in their asking price on Quintana and could look to move him at the deadline if no suitable offer arises this winter.
December’s Quintana rumors spilled into January, only for the White Sox to hold on to the southpaw until the trade deadline. There’s more to come on Quintana in today’s post, including Cashman’s commentary on Chicago’s ask. It certainly explains why the team didn’t appear likely to add Quintana.
January 6, 2017: Yankees Looking At Lefty Relievers
Heyman further notes that there remains robust demand for left-handed relievers. He lists the Mets, Yankees, Indians, and Blue Jays as teams still looking at southpaws. Jerry Blevins, Boone Logan, Travis Wood, and J.P. Howell are among the established left-handed options that remain available.
Ah, the time before the three-batter minimum rule. LOOGYs still existed and signed for pretty decent money. The Yankees did not sign any of the four names mentioned here. Logan would have been a reunion (he pitched for the Yankees from 2010 through 2013), but instead signed with Cleveland. Meanwhile, Blevins stayed with the Mets, Wood signed with the Royals, and Howell joined Toronto.
January 9, 2017: Cashman: Yankees Likely Done Adding To 2017 Roster
Yankees GM Brian Cashman suggested in an appearance on the YES Network that his organization is all but done with its offseason roster moves, as Jack Curry of YES reports (Twitter links). Though he’s still checking in on available free agents, Cashman says it’s 99.9 percent likely that there won’t be any significant new additions.
Does Chris Carter count as a “significant” new addition? As it turns out, the Yankees did make one more major league roster move by signing the first baseman in February. Carter led the National League with 41 homers in 2016 and was brought in to compete with Greg Bird and Tyler Austin. As we know now, Carter really struggled in ’17 and was let go midseason.
There’s been no talk of a new contract between the Yankees and Masahiro Tanaka, general manager Brian Cashman tells Mike Mazzeo of the New York Daily News. Tanaka is, of course, technically under contract with the Yankees for another four years, but he also has an opt-out clause in his contract following the 2017 season, which will allow him to re-enter the free agent market if he performs well.
Mazzeo adds that Cashman said he’s “not in active trade talks at all” regarding veteran Yankees like Brett Gardner, Chase Headley or any of his position players.
2016 was Tanaka’s best season in the majors (140 ERA+) and he finished 7th in American League Cy Young voting. He had just turned 28 and looked to be right in the heart of his prime. All of this made the opt out a legitimate concern. Alas, Tanaka took a step back in 2017, posting a 4.74 ERA (95 ERA+), and decided to not enter the free agent market.
Considering that Gardner and Headley garnered little interest in trade talks in the prior months, this was no surprise. By mid-January, there was little reason to move two of the team’s incumbent starters.
January 15, 2017: Yankees To Attend Craig Breslow Showcase
Also from Gammons, he reports that the Mets, Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox will be among the 12-20 teams watching Craig Breslow’s showcase on January 23. Breslow has adopted new pitch-tracking technology in order to reinvent his throwing habits, with input from training partner Rich Hill (who revived his career in spectacular fashion).
A “Craig Breslow Showcase” is definitely not a phrase I expected to read while combing through the archives. Nonetheless, Breslow fit the lefty specialist mold that the team had previously been connected to. He took a minor league deal from the Twins, made the Opening Day roster, but didn’t last there all season.
January 16, 2017: Yankees Agree To Minor League Deal With Ji-Man Choi
The Yankees have agreed to a minor league contract with free-agent first baseman/outfielder Ji-Man Choi, his agency in Korea told Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency (h/t: Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.net, on Twitter). Choi will be invited to Major League Spring Training and will compete for a roster spot. If he makes the big league club, he’ll earn a $700K base salary.
Before Choi blossomed into a solid first base/DH type for the Rays, he got an opportunity in the Yankees’ organization. He was bad in his rookie campaign for the Angels (66 wRC+ in 129 PA), but the Yankees essentially had an open competition at first base. Choi absolutely destroyed Triple-A pitching, hitting .288/.373/.538 (149 wRC+) in 338 plate appearances for the RailRiders, but only received 18 major league plate appearances for the Yankees (he hit two homers in 18 PA, for what it’s worth). Choi went on to Milwaukee to start the 2018 season before being dealt to the Rays, and overall, the first baseman has a 121 wRC+ since leaving the Bombers.
January 19, 2017: Yankees Intend To Go To Hearing With Dellin Betances
The Yankees will go to an arbitration hearing with right-hander Dellin Betances, general manager Brian Cashman tells MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (Twitter link). Betances filed for a $5MM salary in arbitration, while the Yankees countered at $3MM, so there’s a sizable gap between the two sides.
This was merely the weigh in before Randy Levine threw punches in Dellin’s arbitration hearing in February. Betances had just completed another excellent season in relief and owned a 1.93 ERA and 40.3 percent strikeout rate since 2014, but the Yankees were ready to go to war for some reason.
January 21, 2017: Yankees Talked Multi-Year Deal With Dellin Betances
The Yankees discussed a multi-year deal with Dellin Betances, GM Brian Cashman tells Dan Martin of the New York Post. The two sides didn’t reach an agreement prior to the arbitration deadline, however, and thus they will go to an arbitration hearing to determine Betances’ 2017 salary. “Based on all of our discussions, it was clear our different perspectives were at such a wide bridge, that we’ll go out and basically have a polite discussion about market value and history of where the marketplace sits versus attempts for a new market creation,” Cashman said.
“New market creation” was one of the team’s salvos against Betances. This Cashman quote also foreshadowed what was to come the following month.
January 22, 2017: Brian Cashman On What Acquiring Chris Sale Might Have Cost Yankees
Noting that “all of a sudden, you’re tearing down when you start to build up,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman unsurprisingly expressed an unwillingness to give up potential superstar catcher Gary Sanchez for Sale (via Randy Miller of NJ.com). Regarding auxiliary pieces, Cashman said, “Is it (a touted pitching prospect such as James) Kaprielian or Chance Adams or Justus Sheffield? It would probably be (Luis) Severino right now. So those are the two primers just to get the ball rolling with the other two players yet to be named to try to match up for Sale.”
Boston traded Yoán Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Alexander Basabe, and Victor Diaz for Sale. Moncada and Kopech were the headliners, though Moncada was Baseball America’s number one prospect worldwide. As incredible as Gary Sánchez was in his 2016 debut, I don’t think the Yankees had the ability to match what the Red Sox sent to Chicago in the previous month. Maybe Gary, Severino, and more could have moved the needle, but it seemed like Dave Dombrowski was determined to land the lefty.