By Chris Melore
Major League Baseball’s offseason is already in full swing as all 30 teams are diving into the annual spending spree, better known as free agency. One of the winter’s biggest wheeling-and-dealing events kicks off Sunday night in San Diego with the Winter Meetings.
Despite being let down again by their lack of clutch hitting, New York has already made it known they’re planning to spend and spend big to fix the one area that’s miles behind their biggest rivals — starting pitching.
A PREMIER ACE PITCHER
New York desperately ne to hit a home run in the starting pitching market this winter — not just for their roster, but to salvage their relationship with many fans who have lost confidence in the front office’s ability to make a game-changing move.
Owner Hal Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman have failed in recent years to land the big name ace via free agency or trade. From Justin Verlander, to Chris Sale, to Patrick Corbin (all who have World Series rings now) — that simply can’t happen in 2020 if the Yanks are serious about winning a championship.
The 29-year-old workhorse struck out a staggering 326 batters in 212.1 innings this past season. It was his second All-Star campaign in a row with the Astros, who was seemingly revived after not reaching his full potential with the Pirates.
New York has no one who can match Cole’s level of greatness currently — not even starters Luis Severino or James Paxton — and the front office would appear to know that. According to reports, ownership has given their blessing to offer the prized free agent a “record-setting” deal.
A SECOND TOP PITCHER
Did you think really think there was only going to be one pitcher on this list?
The Yanks’ bullpen-or-bust strategy blew up in their face during the 2019 ALCS. The Astros continually came through in the clutch off New York’s high-paid relievers, who were forced into games earlier and earlier by the team’s lackluster starting pitching.
Aside from Masahiro Tanaka, Severino, and Paxton, there is no reason Brian Cashman shouldn’t be looking to go overboard this winter and build a super rotation.
The 30-year-old lefty’s resume speaks for itself. He’s won three championships, twice pitched a shutout in the NL winner-take-all Wild Card game, and has a legendary 0.25 ERA in five World Series games.
Bumgarner has seemingly lost some of his luster among league executives due to injuries in 2017 and 2018, but he rebounded to make a league-leading 34 starts last season and struck out 203 batters — his best total since 2016. The veteran southpaw and postseason ace is the perfect answer to replace CC Sabathia, who retired after the playoffs.
Now, instead of trading prospects, that move will only cost money.
IT’S TIME TO TRADE SOME ASSETS
J.A. Happ has no place in the starting rotation. Re-signing the 37-year-old has already proven to be another costly pitching mistake for Cashman, who passed on making a larger offer to younger lefty Patrick Corbin and gave Happ at least $34 million guaranteed. He could earn another $17 million in 2021 if he makes at least 27 starts or throws 165 innings next year.
The Cleveland ace is coming off a disastrous season, which was limited to just seven starts. The 33-year-old missed most of the season after having his pitching arm broken by a line drive back to the mound.
Before that though, the two-time Cy Young winner was one of the game’s premier workhorses, throwing over 200 innings and striking out over 200 batters in five straight seasons. The Indians picked up his $17.5 million option for next year, but the team has made it known they are trying to shed payroll. Cleveland is even reportedly open to trading franchise player Francisco Lindor.
With outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks locked up to long-term deals — and Aaron Judge under team control — keeping talented youngsters like Clint Frazier and Estevan Florial is only damaging their trade value at this point.
Trade them and get the pieces you need to win in 2020, not 2024.
LeMahieu flashed Gold Glove defense at first, second, and third base in 2019, while having a career year at the plate. Not only did the 31-year-old drive in 102 RBI (mainly from the lead-off spot), he was the league’s most clutch performer — hitting a mind-boggling .389 with runners in scoring position.
Locking up LeMahieu now would give manager Aaron Boone supreme stability up the middle of the field, with catcher Gary Sanchez, infielder Gleyber Torres, Hicks, and LeMahieu all under contract for the next few seasons.
RE-SIGN BRETT GARDNER
This deal is already reportedly in the works, but it’s something that still ne to get done and fast.
The Yankee veteran is the final member of the 2009 championship club still around and that type of experience can’t be measured in the stat columns.
The 36-year-old speter seemed like he was at the end of his career a season ago, but transformed himself into a power hitting lefty that brought a righty-heavy Bronx lineup needed balance. Gardner shocked the baseball world by slugging a career-high 28 homers and 74 RBI.
columns by Chris Melore