When the Yankees pulled off Tuesday's trade for infielder Brandon Drury, it did more than solidify the team's current roster construction. It provides the team significant advantages with how it molds the organization's structure going forward.
Drury is to be paid at a pre-arbitration rate for the 2018 season (he made $553,900 in 2017, so a fair guess is $600,000 this season), which leaves the Yankees practically all of the $15 million it has been reported they would be willing to take on before the season begins. That value provides a cushion of approximately $5 million for the club to utilize during the season, and would keep the team under the competitive balance tax threshold.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has long been interested in Drury, as the club desired to add an insurance policy for the infield. It has not been a secret that the Yankees have targeted starting pitching from all angles this offseason, again as a means to add depth. It seems they may be simply biding their time with the rotation as they did with filling the infield spot.
Though it appears the Yankees will pencil in Drury at third base to allow Miguel Andujar's defense to progress without the pressure of doing so as a major leaguer, the former Diamondback's addition does not necessarily disrupt New York's long term plans. In the same vein, the Yankees can add a starting pitcher without disturbing the path ahead of their young arms in the system.
The Yankees look to the remaining free agent market during spring training with Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn being the higher-priced targets (either would also cost the Yankees a second- and fifth-round draft pick plus $1 million in international bonus pool funds), or add a lower-cost backend of the rotation arm (though the market is barren here) that would not have added costs that could affect the farm system. They still have plenty of depth in said farm system to finagle a trade, if pitchers like Chris Archer or Michael Fulmer (high-end targets), or Patrick Corbin (low-end) remain available.
Alternatively, the Yankees could stand pat as the regular season approaches, and utilize the extra funds to trade for a starting pitcher in-season if a significant injury occurs, or as the trade deadline approaches should performance among one of the current starters be insufficient. Again, the Yankees could shoot for pitching with long-term or short-term visions for the stretch run.
Either way, the Yankees will have plenty of options, and the means to make a trade happen.
If New York adds another starter, the instant thought might be the "fairness" of shipping Jordan Montgomery - the presumed odd-man out - back to the minor leagues after a successful rookie campaign. However, the reality is that Montgomery will get starts this season, whether the Yankees shift to a six-man rotation on occasion, or in the event that there is an injury.
Further, the addition of a starter, even if the pitcher is a long-term commitment, is not a detriment to the chances of the younger arms in Triple-A to make an impact either late this season, or in 2019. Pitchers such as Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield might be ready to aid the Yankees in 2018. However, if that does not come to fruition considering CC Sabathia is on a short leash - in terms of contract commitment - there would be room for either prospect or Montgomery to jump into the starting rotation in 2019.
As good as Montgomery was at times with the Yankees in 2017, there is room for improvement, and accomplishing that at the minor league level should not be viewed as a slap in the face. The same can be said for Adams (command issues) and Sheffield (only 118 1/3 innings thrown in 2017, including his time in the Arizona Fall League). Each pitcher will still be in his early to mid-20's next season, meaning more seasoning at Triple-A is not going to affect their trajectory.
Additionally, the Yankees could conceivably assign payroll space to a position of need outside of the rotation based on injuries or performance issues. Moreover, the $20 million of payroll cushion would allow the team to add to more than one aspect of the roster.
Finally (and this may hurt some fans preconceived notions of the Yankees' future), Drury's addition could mean Andujar is used as a trade chip either mid-season, or next offseason depending on how the soon-to-be 23-year-old develops, Drury's production, or the team's desire to jump into the Manny Machado sweepstakes next offseason. The same can be said about any of the rotation depth mentioned earlier - with Montgomery and Adams more likely to be dealt than Sheffield - if a starter is added.
Drury's addition should not have been a surprise, nor should we be shocked if the Yankees make a move on a starter at some point soon, or during the season. We also shouldn't be bewildered that Cashman made certain that adding Drury was not going to limit roster construction going forward, but rather improve it.