Latest On Yankees’ Free Agent Targets

The Yankees are certainly hoping they’ll be able to re-sign Aaron Judge, but until the AL MVP makes his decision, the Yankees are considering several other free agents and trade targets.  In addition to some names already linked to New York in past reports, the New York Post’s Jon Heyman writes that the Yankees have checked in on the likes of Justin Verlander, Carlos Rodon, Brandon Nimmo, Cody Bellinger, Michael Conforto, and their own incumbent free agents Jameson Taillon and Andrew Benintendi.

In general, it’s pretty commonplace for the Yankees (or pretty much any team, particularly the biggest spenders) to at least get in contact with agents early in the offseason in order to gauge interest, or get a sense of asking prices for any particular player.  As such, some of these players might not necessarily be at the top of the Yankees’ target list, and Heyman notes that some could be options only if Judge signs elsewhere.  For instance, though “the Yankees seek multiple outfielders,” Heyman doesn’t think the Bronx Bombers would both re-sign Judge and also add Nimmo on a pricey contract.  Likewise, the Yankees aren’t expected to bid at the top of the shortstop market, unless a Judge departure gives them new reason to explore Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, and company.

Since Anthony Rizzo has already been re-signed to solidify the first base position, New York’s offseason plan on the position player side looks pretty set — retain Judge, then add a less-expensive second outfielder (Conforto or Bellinger are both likely candidates for one-year contracts).  Should an opportunity arise to move an infielder like Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, or perhaps even Gleyber Torres, the Yankees could pounce, but the presence of Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza, and yet-to-debut star rookie Anthony Volpe gives the Bombers some flexibility in figuring out the infield mix.  DJ LeMahieu’s toe injuries will also factor into the front office’s next decisions.

If Judge did leave the Bronx, of course, any number of new backup plans could be put into place.  However, a Judge departure may only throw the position-player scenarios into flux, since Heyman writes that “the pitching pursuits are said to be ’on different tracks’ ” than the Yankees’ interest in position players.  Though naturally adding any high-profile player has an overall impact on a roster in terms of salary or luxury-tax figures, it makes sense that adding a new pitcher isn’t necessarily tied to Judge’s situation, since Judge’s return has a bigger chain reaction on the lineup as a whole.

Putting a new starter into the rotation is a cleaner fit, especially if that new addition is an ace like Verlander or Rodon.  While the Cy Young Award winner has been a Yankees target in the past, Heyman reports that “the Yankees’ confidence level on [signing] Verlander is low,” so he might also be something of a Plan B option for the club.

The Yankees also might not necessarily be seeking an ace, since Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes are already in the fold.  Since Luis Severino, Frankie Montas, and Domingo German have their share of question marks, adding a reliable third-starter type like Taillon would help solidify the starting five.  Kodai Senga (another pitcher garnering interest from the Bronx) is perhaps something of a wild card, given how it isn’t known how well he can make the transition from NPB to the major leagues.  Senga’s stuff could make him a front-of-the-rotation arm might off the bat, or he might end up being more suited to the middle or back of a pitching staff.

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