Viva, Las Vegas!
The Yankees struck quickly this offseason, acquiring James Paxton in a trade with the Mariners, but failed to lock down their perceived No. 1 free agent starting pitcher target in Patrick Corbin. However, a splash in Sin City could punctuate the team's offseason and indicate long-term direction of the organization.
Here are three things that should be on the Yankees' Winter Meetings checklist.
Nail down a top-flight starter, THEN backfill rotation
The Yankees should be all over the trade market looking to acquire pitchers like Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer, both of whom would transform a good rotation into one of the better collections in the game.
Most of the talk is about the Yankees falling back to J.A. Happ after losing out on Corbin, but the Yankees are in a position that necessitates creating a strong front three in the rotation. Kluber or Bauer make that happen. Entering the season with a middling rotation basically puts the Yankees at a disadvantage when measured against the Red Sox and Astros.
The Yankees work won't be done concerning the rotation if they secure Kluber, Bauer or Happ. The club has continuously entered the last few seasons with little to no depth in the starting rotation. The Yanks counted on inferior Triple-A arms, none of whom was ready to step straight in and contribute consistent positive production.
The Yankees could change this by adding another starting pitcher. A hurler like Lance Lynn, who the Yankees have already been in contact, makes sense in a role that might see innings in relief and as a spot starter. With the injury histories of Paxton, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees will most likely have innings to go around. Luis Cessa and Domingo German are not the answer.
Is Manny the Man or is Harper the prize?
The rotation remains the main priority, but deciding if and how the organization will pursue Manny Machado (and yes, Bryce Harper) is right behind it. While it is expected to be a drawn out process, the groundwork begins at Mandalay Bay.
Machado fits the roster better in that there is an immediate spot for him to take on the field, where Harper is not a clear fit. The Yankees tried to trade for Machado in the summer, so we know there is a serious level of interest and it has not waned too much despite his antics in the postseason. Both Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman have talked about Machado being a special talent and while they want to discuss his actions in the playoffs, they would not let those instances define the player. As such, we should expect the Yankees to minimally conduct their interview process with Machado and potentially make an initial offer.
I'll believe the Yankees are out on Harper when he signs elsewhere or when the Bombers come to terms with Machado. Until then, the Yankees could maneuver players if they really want to add a necessary left-handed power presence. Like Machado, Harper is a generational player, so moving hell or high water to make space shouldn't be something considered difficult to overcome IF the Yanks want the 26-year-old outfielder.
Both players have monster price tags and lengthy commitments attached, but beyond the anticipated All-Star level production, each player puts butts in seats and faces in front of television sets. That is why both fit and admit it, that's the Yankee way.
Begin work on restocking bullpen
The Yankees might not sign any relievers during the Winter Meetings, but they will certainly discuss them. With David Robertson and Zach Britton at least temporarily out of the picture, the Yankees need to find two elite relief arms if they want to replicate the deep and dominant bullpen that has become customary in the Bronx.
The Yankees cannot rely solely on Aroldis Chapman, who has battled injuries in each of the last two seasons and only Dellin Betances and Chad Green represent the remaining high-performance relievers on the roster. Robertson, Britton, Adam Ottavino, Andrew Miller and Joakim Soria have all been tied to the Yankees so far this offseason. It would not be surprising if two of these relievers are eventually signed after getting into more in depth discussions in Las Vegas.