John Harper, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Much is still to be determined, but if D.J. Lemahieu winds up being a glorified utility infielder in the Bronx, which seems to be a distinct possibility, then wouldn't it be fair to suggest the Yankees -- with the questions surrounding CC Sabathia -- may have been better off spending that money on, say, Gio Gonzalez?
Or better yet, Wade Miley?
It's too late in the case of Miley, who signed the bargain deal of the winter with the Astros -- one year, $4.5 million -- apparently because nobody believes the story that he re-invented himself with a cutter, despite his 2.57 ERA over 18 starts with the Brewers last season.
But Gonzalez is still out there on the free-agent market, and you have to believe he'd sign for less than the $24 million over two years it took the Yankees to bring Lemahieu on board.
The point is, after Aaron Boone announced Wednesday that Sabathia will begin spring training later than normal as he eases his way back after heart surgery in December, suddenly you again have to wonder if the Yankees have enough starting pitching.
Even as the No. 5 starter, Sabathia is an important piece of the starting rotation, in part because the Yankees have little depth in that area other than largely unproven pitchers such as Jonathan Loisaga or Domingo German.
And considering Sabathia's age -- he'll be 39 in July -- and his bad knees, the big lefty's stamina was already a significant concern for the 2019 season. Now there's no telling how he responds to the heart procedure over the course of the season.
Meanwhile, there's also no way of knowing how quickly Jordan Montgomery will be back from last year's Tommy John surgery. And, don't forget, Justus Sheffield was dealt for James Paxton back in November, leaving the Yankees without any blue-chip pitching prospects at the top of their farm system, at least in the eyes of minor-league talent evaluators.
As it is, the Yankees were hit hard by injuries to some of their top pitching prospects, including Albert Abreu, Freicer Perez, Clarke Schmidt, and even Chance Adams, whose stock has fallen far since Brian Cashman was raving about him a couple of winters ago.
They still have a lot of highly-regarded pitchers in the low minors, but that won't help them in this win-now 2019 season if they are hit by injuries.
And while the Paxton trade was a good gamble, he has never thrown more than 161 innings in a season because of various injuries over the years, which furthers the case the Yankees could use a little more insurance for that starting rotation.
That's not to say Cashman didn't make the necessary moves, trading for Paxton and re-signing J.A. Happ. He just elected to bulk up more in the bullpen, where the Yankees are now more loaded than ever, no doubt believing that type of depth and dominance will ease the burden for the starters.
Ok, that makes sense, and taking a flyer on Troy Tulowitzki at minimum salary (he's still being paid big by the Blue Jays) is understandable, despite his notorious injury history and failure to produce offensively since leaving Colorado.
But adding Lemahieu was a head-scratcher, since he's an excellent defensive second baseman who isn't likely to play much at that position as long as Gleyber Torres is there.
If the Tulowitzki experiment doesn't work, the Yankees believe Torres could move over and handle shortstop, his natural position. In that case, Lemahieu's second-base skills woud pay off nicely…at least until Didi Gregorius returns to shortstop.
However, there's no guarantee Gregorius' return from Tommy John surgery will go smoothly, especially considering the arm strength he'll need at short.
Anyway, the bottom line is the Yankees had no qualms about paying a significant price to be covered in the infield.
So why weren't they willing to do the same with the starting rotation, especially after Sabathia's heart surgery in December?
"It's a little puzzling," an executive from a rival AL team told me on Wednesday. "Their rotation is solid but there were some short-term options on the market that could have been a good fit and made them a little less vulnerable to injury."
There are still at least a couple of good fits. And while it may still take a four or five-year deal to get Dallas Keuchel, the prevailing opinion among baseball people is that Gonzalez, the 33-year old left-hander, could be had for no more than a two-year deal.
"I'd say two for $20 million would get it done," the exec said. "He walks too many hitters, which is why he can be so inconsistent, but there are days when he can dominate. And he was great for Milwaukee (after being traded by the Nationals) down the stretch last year."
It doesn't sound like the Yankees are considering such a thought. More likely they're thinking they have enough depth to at least get them to the trading deadline, where Madison Bumgarner may or may not be available.
And indeed it could all work out just fine in the Bronx. But if Sabathia winds up missing significant time and Lemahieu turns into little more than a bench player, the Yankees may wish they'd spent more money on starting pitching and less in other areas.