There is no hot stove to speak of right now, so let’s roll things back five years. I’m bringing back an old RAB classic: Revisiting the MLB Trade Rumors Archive series, with Mike’s blessing. We’ll keep this coming on a monthly basis.
The Yankees were in the midst of rebuilding (retooling?) following the 2016 season. For the first time in my memory, they were sellers at the deadline and replenished the farm. There was no appetite for tanking, but the Yankees clearly were headed toward the start of a youth movement, though contention began perhaps sooner than anticipated in 2017.
Similar to this winter, the owners and MLBPA needed to re-negotiate the CBA for the 2017 season (and beyond). Unlike this year, the two sides struck a deal by the end of November and the offseason proceeded as usual. The Winter Meetings were held in National Harbor, Maryland from December 4th through 8th, and thus there are plenty of rumors to sift through:
December 1, 2016: Yankees Still In on Edwin Encarnacion
The Astros continue to strive to add another bat, with the team confident it will land either Edwin Encarnacion or Carlos Beltran, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (Twitter link). Still, the Yankees, Blue Jays, and a “couple others” remain involved on Encarnacion, Heyman tweets. All three of those teams, along with the Red Sox, are in on Beltran, Nightengale adds on Twitter.
EE had just completed a 42 homer, 136 wRC+ season for Toronto and the Yankees were looking to solidify the first base and/or designated hitter slot. The team was in the midst of a transition from Mark Teixeira (retirement), Alex Rodriguez (retirement), and Carlos Beltrán (traded at the deadline) to up-and-comers Greg Bird and Tyler Austin, but a veteran addition was still an offseason priority. As we know now, the Yankees traded for Encarnación during the 2019 season.
December 2, 2016: Yankees Notes: Encarnacion, Headley, Gardner
The Yankees have spoken to other teams about third baseman Chase Headley and outfielder Brett Gardner but received minimal interest in that pair.
The Yankees never found a taker for Headley, who hit .251/.329/.383 (92 wRC+) in 2016, at least not until the following winter via the salary dump plus Bryan Mitchell trade. Headley opened 2017 as the team’s starting third baseman and had a better year than I recall: .273/.352/.406 (105 wRC+), though the team acquired Todd Frazier midseason to bolster the hot corner anyway.
There were a lot of Gardner rumors in the 2016-2017 offseason. He had a rough ’16, posting a 96 wRC+, and was signed for $13 million annual through 2018. At 32 years-old, it looked like decline was setting in (nope). Good thing the Yankees held on to him: Gardy hit a (then) career-high 21 home runs in 2017.
December 2, 2016: Latest on Yankees’ Efforts To Add Power Bat
The Yankees have their eye on four possibilities for a big bat, per Heyman (via Twitter): Edwin Encarnacion, Matt Holliday, Mike Napoli, and Carlos Beltran.
The Yankees eventually signed Holliday, but had cast a fairly wide net to add a power hitting DH-type.
December 2, 2016: Yankees Non-Tender Jacob Lindgren
The Strikeout Factory never lived up to his moniker. He was the team’s top pick in the 2014 draft (2nd round, 55th overall) and reached the majors in 2015. That’s still the only big league action he’s seen. Injuries, including Tommy John surgery, stalled his career leading to the non-tender. He was in the White Sox system this season, so he’s still looking for an opportunity. Lindgren is now 28 years old.
December 5, 2016: Bullpen Rumors: Melancon, Marlins, Lefties, Diamondbacks
The Nationals, Marlins, Cubs, Dodgers, Yankees and Giants are all in on Kenley Jansen, per ESPN’s Jim Bowden.
The Yankees, Mets, Blue Jays, Indians, Dodgers, Rockies and Diamondbacks are all in the market for a bullpen lefty, putting names like Mike Dunn, Boone Logan and Jerry Blevins in a good position, Heyman tweets.
Dellin Betances became the team’s de facto closer once Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller were traded away. Betances was a terrific option to remain in that role! Nonetheless, the Yankees planned to reinforce the bullpen following the season with Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon as top closer free agents. Jansen, who had just completed a masterful 2016 and was only 28, wound up returning to the Dodgers.
December 5, 2016: Cashman Acknowledges Pursuit Of Chapman
You already know how this story ended.
December 6, 2016: Yankees Rumors: Encarnacion, Valbuena
The Yankees are one of “several” teams engaging in “ongoing” dialogue with free agent infielder Luis Valbuena, his agent, Steve Schneider, told Joel Sherman of the New York Post
Consider this a bullet dodged. Valbuena had batted .238/.329/.446 (115 wRC+) in his two seasons with Houston, but was pretty awful thereafter. He signed a two-year deal with the Angels and proceeded to hit .199/.277/.390 (77 wRC+). Valbuena wasn’t a distinct possibility without trading Headley, anyway.
December 6, 2016: Yankees Interested In Several Free Agent Relievers
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is in touch with the representatives for free agent relievers Greg Holland, Koji Uehara, Brad Ziegler and Mike Dunn, report George A. King III and Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
A group of relievers a tier (or two) below the likes of Jansen and Chapman.
December 6, 2016: Four To Five Teams Interested In Brian Dozier
The Yankees have checked in on Dozier, though it’s unclear how serious they are about acquiring him, reports Heyman.
On the contrary, the Yankees aren’t involved in the Dozier sweepstakes, general manager Brian Cashman told MLB Network Radio on Monday (Twitter link). “I haven’t had any dialogue with the Twins about Dozier. That’s a false report,” Cashman said.
Starlin Castro was the team’s incumbent second baseman, so there didn’t seem to be room for Dozier barring a separate move. That could have been dealing Headley and moving Castro to third. It could also have been trading Castro. Either way, Dozier was a very attractive option though as Cashman indicated, discussions never happened. He was signed through 2018 on a team-friendly deal and had a hell of a year in 2016 (132 wRC+, 42 HR, 6.3 fWAR), which he followed with another in ’17 (126 wRC+, 34 HR, 5.1 fWAR).
December 7, 2016: Aroldis Chapman Reportedly Has $92MM Offer
It’s unclear which team offered Chapman $92 million, if even true. He’d eventually agree to an $86 million contract with the Yankees.
December 7, 2016: Cashman Doesn’t Expect To Add Starter
Yankees GM Brian Cashman doesn’t expect to add a starting pitcher at the Winter Meetings, telling reporters (including George A. King III of the New York Post) that “it’s a tough market and the price tags are extremely high. We could play on a lot of things because we have a lot of prospects people desire and we desire them, too. I would say it’s less likely for us to acquire a starter.”
Turns out Cashman was right. There are some José Quintana rumors that I’ll get to shortly, but the GM did not acquire any starters in the 2016-2017 offseason (unless you count Jon Niese’s minor league deal in February). Instead, Cashman waited until mid-2017 to pick up Sonny Gray and Jaime García.
December 7, 2016: Yankees Sign Matt Holliday
The Yankees made it official after reports trickled in at the start of the winter meetings a few days earlier. St. Louis declined a $17 million option after he hit .246/.322/.461 (109 wRC+). Holliday got off to a tremendous start in New York, hitting .275/.379/.536 (143 wRC+) into late June before a brutal finish (27 wRC+ in final 163 PA!) cost him significant playing time down the stretch. One more amusing thing to note: Holliday’s deal included a no-trade clause to Oakland, and apparently no one else.
December 8, 2016: Yankees Re-Sign Joe Mantiply To Minors Deal
This was Mantiply’s first stint in the organization. He tossed 70 innings in Scranton, signed with the Reds the following offseason and had Tommy John Surgery, then was traded to the Yankees in 2019 where he pitched in one major league game for the club.
December 8, 2016: Brewers Trade Caleb Smith To Cubs
Three Yankees minor leaguers were taken in the Rule 5 draft, which took place on this date. Smith, Tyler Webb, and Luis Torrens. The first two were returned, but Torrens is the one who got away. The Cubs apparently were looking at Smith as a reliever before returning him to the Yankees in spring training. Smith made two starts for the Bombers in 2017, and was later dealt along with Garrett Cooper for Michael King.
December 8, 2016: Yankees To Sign Aroldis Chapman
Rosenthal had this one late on the 7th. Supposedly, the Marlins had made a slightly better offer for the closer, but Chapman wanted to return. This marked the completion of the Yankees’ arbitrage of Aroldis Chapman’s domestic violence incident in which he allegedly choked his girlfriend and then fired a gun multiple times in his garage. Remember, they bought low on him from the Reds prior to 2016, he served a 30 game suspension, and then they traded him for a better return (Gleyber Torres and more), only to re-sign him in the offseason. It was not a good look, to put it mildly.
December 9, 2016: Padres To Acquire Rule 5 Picks Miguel Diaz, Luis Torrens
The Reds drafted Torrens but sent him to San Diego, where he was stashed on the team’s bench for all of 2017. Sigh. Torrens was a big bonus signing as an IFA in 2012 and has come around at the major league level over the past two seasons (now with Seattle). Torrens hadn’t played above A-ball before the Yankees left him unprotected. The Padres sent Torrens back to the minors for the 2018 and (part of the) 2019 season before he resurfaced again.
December 12, 2016: Yankees Agree To Minor League Deal With Ruben Tejada
Tejada, the former Mets shortstop, received in an invite to spring training as infield depth. He began the year with Triple-A, but eventually made his way to Baltimore where he received a major league opportunity.
December 15, 2016: Yankees Designate Nick Goody, Announce Aroldis Chapman Signing
The Yankees eventually traded Goody to Cleveland, where he broke out as a solid reliever in 2017 (2.80 ERA in 54.2 innings). Goody was back in the Yankees’ organization this year, pitching just over 33 innings in Triple-A.
December 19, 2016: Latest On Yankees, Jose Quintana
The Yankees have yet to add a starting pitcher to their rotation this winter, but MLB Network’s Jon Morosi tweets that they’re still interested White Sox ace Jose Quintana.
Chicago held onto Quintana into the 2017 season, and continued discussions on him with the Yankees that summer. They wanted Clint Frazier, as I wrote recently. At the time, Quintana was a coveted starter not just because of good numbers (3.41 ERA and 3.47 FIP in 951 innings through his age 27 season), but also because of a very team friendly contract. The White Sox eventually dealt Quintana crosstown to the Cubs, where he was still solid for a couple of seasons before things started going south in 2019.
December 22, 2016: Yankees Receiving Calls On Michael Pineda
The Yankees have fielded several buy-low offers for Michael Pineda this winter, ESPN.com’s Andrew Marchand reports.
Big Mike was tantalizing in his time with the Yankees. He constantly posted terrific strikeout-to-walk ratios, but never was able to live up to his peripherals. In 2016, Pineda tossed 175.2 innings with a 4.82 ERA, but had a markedly bettered 3.80 FIP. He didn’t fare much better in 2017 (4.39 ERA, 4.66 FIP) and eventually succumbed to Tommy John surgery.
December 22, 2016: Bird In Line For Significant Role In 2017
The Yankees “appear content” with Matt Holliday serving as the major offensive addition to their roster this winter, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, which increases the importance of Greg Bird to the team’s 2017 roster.
Bird missed all of 2016 due to shoulder surgery and was never the same. He hit .190/.288/.422 (87 wRC+) in 2017 across 170 PA, but at least he hit that big ALDS home run against Andrew Miller. His 137 wRC+ and 11 dingers in 178 PA in 2015 was nothing but a tease.
December 27, 2016: Latest On Jose Quintana, David Robertson
As the Yankees and White Sox continue to explore trade arrangements involving highly valued southpaw Jose Quintana, the organizations have now also “expanded” their discussions to include Chicago closer David Robertson, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). The Sox would keep part of the remaining $25MM left on Robertson’s contract in any agreement.
But it’s still far from clear whether there’s any real reason to believe there is anything approaching a serious negotiation at this stage. In fact, sources tell Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link) that the Yankees aren’t currently working on any deal to land Quintana and Robertson.
Forget Quintana here. Talks about Robertson in the offseason may have been a foundation for the deal that went down months later. D-Rob came along with Todd Frazier and Tommy Kahnle in July 2017.