Yankees “Monitoring” Rather Than Pursuing Top Free Agent Shortstops?
The Yankees have a stated need at shortstop and have already been in touch with several of the biggest names in the free agent shortstop market, and yet it isn’t yet clear if the Bronx Bombers are actually planning to make such a big signing. The New York Daily News’ Matthew Roberson wrote earlier this week that the Yankees were planning to focus on other needs rather than spend big at shortstop since prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza are a year or two away from the majors, and Joel Sherman of The New York Post offers a similar sentiment today, though with a caveat.
According to agents and rival executives, Sherman says the Yankees are less full-on participating in the shortstop market than they are “monitoring” the situation and “waiting to see if a market collapses, in which case they might still swoop in to try to sign one.” For instance, in the event of a league-wide transactions freeze following the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement on December 1, free agents would be in limbo until the freeze was lifted, possibly leading to a sudden surge of deals during Spring Training. This could create a rushed scenario where one of the top five free agent shortstops can’t find an acceptable long-term deal and could be open to a one-year deal from the Yankees — perhaps akin to the one-year, $25MM pact the Bombers offered Justin Verlander before he re-signed with the Astros.
Even if none of the “big five” shortstops are available at such a price, waiting until later in the offseason might also open up more trade possibilities for the Yankees at the position, Sherman notes. In any sense, it doesn’t appear that New York is willing to make a long-term commitment at shortstop, and if a multi-year mega-deal is struck, it might be a contract extension for a known quantity like Aaron Judge.
If the Yankees did extend Judge and add prominent names to the rotation or at other positions (i.e. first base or center field), Bronx fans might be satisfied with the team opting to acquire a lesser shortstop than any of Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Marcus Semien, Javier Baez, or Trevor Story. Then again, for a fanbase used to their team splurging on premium talents, sitting out this star-studded market when shortstop is such a clear need probably won’t be received all that well no matter what other players join the roster. It also puts extra pressure on Volpe and Peraza to produce, as while the duo are highly-regarded minor leaguers, Sherman notes that the Yankees haven’t gotten consistent results from many of their top homegrown position players in recent years.
The December 1 CBA date has added plenty of extra uncertainty and urgency to this year’s offseason market. Last week, ESPN’s Jeff Passan wrote that Seager and Semien could be among the players more eager to get a new deal finalized before the CBA expires. In in the nine days since Passan’s report, there hasn’t been any inkling that Seager or Semien are particularly close to a contract, though multiple teams (including the Yankees) have been known to be interested in both players. Of the prominent free agents who have already signed contracts, the majority have been pitchers — Brandon Belt is the only position player within MLBTR’s top 50 free agent list that has already put pen to paper, accepting the Giants’ qualifying offer.
One or more of the top shortstops leaving the market would certainly have an effect the Yankees’ plans to wait out a freeze, but even all of the five big names signing elsewhere might not do much to impact what ultimately might be something of a “plan B” for the team. If anything, a February signing flurry might allow New York to obtain a stopgap shortstop (their bridge to Volpe and Peraza) at a lesser price, since non-elite free agents are likely to be more heavily affected by a freeze than the names at the top of the market.