- The Yankees would buy themselves an extra year of control by having infield prospect Gleyber Torres spend at least 16 days in the minors this year, but that’s not going to factor into whether he earns a roster spot, according to GM Brian Cashman (via David Lennon of Newsday). “It’s not part of my evaluation process,” Cashman told Lennon. “We’re trying to win. If we feel that somebody could benefit from more time in the minors, we’ll make that decision at the end of camp. But I’ll take all the information from what I see and factor that into the evaluation. Every win for us is valuable.” Torres, one of the game’s top prospects, may well emerge as the Opening Day second baseman for the Yankees, who lack an obvious solution there. That would be especially impressive given that Torres is still just 21 and has only totaled 235 plate appearances above the High-A level. He raked over that sample size last year, with a .287/.383/.430 line between Double-A and Triple-A, before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery on his left (non-throwing) elbow in June. Torres has fully recovered from the procedure.
- Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was somewhat popular in the rumor mill during the winter, but he informed Jack Curry of the YES Network and other reporters Sunday that the team never approached him about waiving his no-trade clause (Twitter link). It would’ve been (and would still be) a tall order for the Yankees to move Ellsbury, who hasn’t delivered as hoped during his four-year Bronx tenure and still has another $68MM left on his contract. He’ll spend the spring trying to reclaim his old job as New York’s starting center fielder, a role Aaron Hicks usurped in 2017.
Some items from both of the Big Apple’s teams…
- David Wright still doesn’t know when, or even if, he’ll be able to play again, though the Mets captain told MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo and other reporters that he is still determined to return to the field. “It would be easy if I didn’t have that drive to get back out there,” Wright said. “If I didn’t love what I did, that would certainly make things easier. But I do love what I do….When it’s all said and done, I want to be able to say I did everything I could. If it works, that’s obviously the goal. And if it doesn’t work, then I’ll rest easy knowing I gave it my best shot.” Wright played 75 games total in 2015-16 and then missed all of last season due to various surgeries stemming from spinal stenosis. For their part, the Mets are fully supportive of Wright’s efforts, and manager Mickey Callaway told the third baseman that the team still values his clubhouse leadership.
- Though the Mets’ offseason lacked any headline-grabbing signings or trades, the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff is still giving the team an A (albeit “graded on a curve”) for its winter moves. Davidoff feels the Mets did well in adding quality talent and depth without committing too much in long-term salary to the likes of Jay Bruce, Jason Vargas, Todd Frazier, Anthony Swarzak, Adrian Gonzalez, and Jose Reyes. As well, all of those players were signings, so the Mets didn’t have to trade from their already-thin minor league system.
- The Yankees seem likely to save most of their remaining payroll space to address pitching needs at the trade deadline, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines. In the short term, the Yankees will look to trade for a low-cost third baseman to bolster their infield. The team is looking to be as flexible as possible given its desire to stay under the luxury tax threshold while still filling any remaining roster holes, and I agree with Sherman that the Bronx Bombers have more fill-in pitching depth than infield depth. It doesn’t make sense for the club to spend much on an infielder since Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are seemingly on the cusp of regular duty at second and third base.
- “A source with knowledge of the [Yankees’] personnel decisions” told NJ Advance Media’s Brendan Kuty that Tim Lincecum looked “fine” in his recent showcase for scouts and that Lincecum will likely receive a minor league contract offer from a team. The implication, however, was that New York wouldn’t be the team in question. The Yankees were one of between 15-20 teams who sent evaluators to watch Lincecum throw on Thursday.
Orioles infielder Manny Machado “wants to be a Yankee and the feeling is mutual,” Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes. The Yankees were among the teams that tried to trade for Machado over the winter, so it’s no surprise that they’re continuing to eye him a year before he hits free agency. Regarding offseason trade rumors, Machado said, “Thank God nothing went down and I was able to come back, and see my guys that I’ve been with for seven years.” Although the 25-year-old is content to be an Oriole for now, it seems highly unlikely he’ll remain with them past this year, considering the massive contract he’d land on the open market. And while the longtime third baseman plans to spend the rest of his career at shortstop, where New York has a quality starter in Didi Gregorius, the Yankees would find spots for both of them, Nightengale suggests.
More from the American League…
- The Indians announced Friday that right-hander Danny Salazar “experienced an onset of right shoulder rotator cuff inflammation” last month during his offseason throwing program. The 28-year-old is “a couple weeks” behind the rest of the pitchers in Indians camp, per the announcement, though he has at least resumed throwing. It certainly doesn’t appear as if Salazar is presently dealing with a major injury, but the shoulder trouble isn’t entirely insignificant. Salazar missed roughly six weeks of the 2017 season due to shoulder troubles, and he has a history of right elbow issues as well. He’s also seen his name pop up in occasional trade speculation, most frequently being linked to the Brewers, though one would imagine that ongoing shoulder issues would temper some of the interest that other clubs may have in Salazar.There’s not yet any indication that Opening Day would be in jeopardy for Salazar, whom the Indians have penciled into a rotation spot alongside Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. Josh Tomlin and Mike Clevinger are both on hand as options for the fifth spot. Injuries limited Salazar to just 103 innings last season, during which time he posted a 4.28 ERA with a gaudy 12.7 K/9 mark against 3.8 BB/9.
- Before he joined the Phillies on a three-year, $60MM contract in November, longtime Indians first baseman Carlos Santana proposed a five-year, $75MM deal to Cleveland, the player told Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com. However, “the Tribe was never seriously engaged with him at all this winter,” Castrovince tweets. Shortly after Santana left the Indians, they added replacement Yonder Alonso on a much cheaper pact (two years, $16MM).
- Texas had interest in re-signing Andrew Cashner before he accepted Baltimore’s two-year, $16MM guarantee Thursday, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels confirmed to TR Sullivan of MLB.com. However, not only did the Orioles make Cashner a better offer, but it seems he wouldn’t have been a lock to remain a starter with the Rangers. “We talked to him and gave him a range of what we were thinking,” Daniels said. “He got a better deal. We even asked him if he would pitch in the bullpen, but he got a commitment to start, a multi-year deal, a good deal from Baltimore.” In 2017, his only year with the Rangers, Cashner paced their starters in ERA (3.40) and finished second in innings (166 2/3), though his success came in spite of a league-worst K/BB ratio (1.34).
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Yankees have kept an eye on free-agent third baseman Mike Moustakas, writes Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, though he also cites people close to the team in characterizing an ultimate match between the two sides as a long shot. The Yankees would only have interest on a short-term deal and are concerned both with the financial implications and the draft forfeitures that would come with signing Moustakas. It’s not at all clear what type of market exists for Moustakas at present, as few contending clubs are looking for upgrades at third base, and rebuilding clubs generally figure to be strongly against surrendering draft picks to plug Moustakas into a lineup that doesn’t expect to contend anyhow.
- More than 10 teams are set to attend Tim Lincecum’s showcase on Thursday, it seems. Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com respectively report that the Tigers, Twins and Orioles will have scouts in attendance (all Twitter links). Heyman adds another handful of clubs, listing the Rangers, Phillies, Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Brewers, Padres and Braves as attendees (links to Twitter for the last three), in addition to the previously reported Giants. If anything, it’s perhaps more notable which clubs have elected not to attend the showcase, as there’s no real downside to at least taking a look and the showcase is shaping up to be reasonably well-attended. To that end, the New York Post’s Kevin Kernan wrote over the weekend that the Mets aren’t planning to have a scout in attendance.
Just-retired slugger Carlos Beltran turned down a front office role with the Yankees earlier this offseason, reports The Athletic’s Marc Carig (subscription link). Beltran says that only a managerial position would’ve dissuaded him from his plan to take at least a year off from the game after retiring as a player, but he would consider other roles in the future. Carig chronicles Beltran’s indoctrination to the business side of baseball, which began back in a 2003 arbitration hearing with the Royals. Now, Beltran draws praise from executives like Cashman and field staff like Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who both effused praise for Beltran’s baseball acumen and future in the game in interviews with Carig.
- In addition to the previously reported Yanks, the Mets asked the Diamondbacks about utilityman Brandon Drury at some point this offseason, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. Drury is still with the D-backs, though a deal could still come together before the season, Piecoro suggests. It probably won’t be with the Mets, though, considering they’ve signed third baseman Todd Frazier, outfielder Jay Bruce and infielder Jose Reyes in recent weeks.
The Yankees, continuing to seek help for their rotation, have “monitored” free agent right-hander Lance Lynn’s marketplace this offseason, per Jon Morosi of MLB.com. However, a Lynn signing may be difficult for the Yankees because of their desire to stay under the $197MM luxury tax threshold in 2018. They have around $15MM to spend, Morosi notes, and Lynn’s next deal could pay him somewhere near that figure on an annual basis. At the beginning of the offseason, MLBTR predicted Lynn would receive $14MM per year.
- The Yankees have also shown offseason interest in Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi, as have the AL East rival Orioles, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports (subscription required). Odorizzi would represent an affordable option for the Yankees, Orioles or any of the other teams known to be pursuing him, as the 27-year-old will earn a bit north of $6MM in 2018 – his second-last year of arbitration eligibility. Although, given that Odorizzi’s an extreme fly ball pitcher, it’s debatable whether he’d be a good fit for either New York or Baltimore – both of which play their home games at home run-friendly venues.
- Likewise, tax concerns stood in the way of a Yankees-Darvish union. New York never even made Darvish an offer, Rosenthal tweets.
- Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks says he’s coming to camp with sights set on winning a starting job in center, as Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reports. The 28-year-old unquestionably impressed in 2017, with a surprising .266/.372/.475 batting line and 15 home runs. Of course, that’s the first time the switch-hitter has posted above-average offensive production and he has still yet to top four hundred plate appearances (due to performance issues and, more recently, injuries) in a given season. Plus, the Yankees have to consider Jacoby Ellsbury, who isn’t likely to find time playing in the corners with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton on hand along with Brett Gardner. It’s certainly still possible that the Yanks will clarify the roster logjam before the start of the season. If not, though, it seems reasonable to anticipate that Ellsbury will at least take a fair amount of time against right-handed pitchers. (While Ellsbury has long thrived against righties, Hicks has traditionally been better against southpaws.)
- The Yankees have agreed to a minor-league deal with outfielder Shane Robinson, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter). He could earn at a $950K rate in the majors and will receive an invitation to MLB camp this spring. The 33-year-old Robinson has long been a reserve/depth piece, seeing action in eight MLB campaigns but compiling only 795 total plate appearances at the game’s highest level. He spent most of 2017 with the Angels’ top affiliate, slashing a sturdy .319/.370/.425 in his 385 trips to the plate.