The Yankees may have had 100 games, but their season was still a disappointment. After losing to the rival Red Sox in the ALDS, New York is going all in for a World Series run in 2019. They can’t be counted out on anyone.
Current State: World Series Contender
Yankees acquire SP James Paxton In Exchange for SP Justus Sheffield, OF Dom Thompson-Williams, RHP Erik Swanson
The Yankees have acquire starting pitcher James Paxton from the Mariners in exchange for pitching prospects Justus Sheffield and Erik Swanson, and outfield prospect Dom Thompson-Williams. Paxton, 30, had a 3.76 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and a 3.23 FIP. He has two years left of team control, but he has never come close to reaching 200+ innings and has dealt with injuries. He has the talent to be a frontline starter, but he’s yet to put it together. He induces more fly balls than ground balls, so he also isn’t a terrific fit for Yankee Stadium. Sheffield has the stuff to become a front line starter and is one of the game’s top pitching prospects, and the Yankees gave him up for a pitcher who’ll likely have an ERA around 3.50. This is an understandable trade for the Yankees, who needed to upgrade the rotation. However, Paxton isn’t the right fit, and he isn’t worth the price the Yankees paid.
Yankees Sign SP JA Happ
The Yankees have resigned JA Happ to a two years, $34 million contract. Happ, 36, had a 3.65 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and a 3.98 FIP between the Blue Jays and the Yankees. With the Yankees, he had a 2.69 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP and a 4.21 FIP. That success with the Yankees is encouraging, and may have been what made the Yankees want to resign him to this deal. Still, it’s not encouraging that Happ’s FIP was so high and that he induced more fly balls than ground balls. Still, his contact rate was a career best, while his strikeout to walk ratio remains solid (3.78). Happ is a consistent starter, who can be a perfect middle of the rotation arm for New York. Going to a third year for the 36-year-old would have been risky, so getting him on a two year deal makes this deal an even better one. I’m not sure Happ completely matches this value due to his age and the few red flags, but he’s a safe bet to come close to matching it. This is the definition of a decent, but not great contract.
Yankees Sign SS Troy Tulowitzki
To possibly fill in at shortstop, the Yankees have signed Troy Tulowitzki to a one year deal for the league minimum. Tulowitzki, 34, was released this offseason by the Blue Jays. Therefore, they’ll be on the hook for his $20 million salary, while the Yankees get him at the league minimum. Injuries prevented him from playing in 2018, but in 66 games in 2017 he posted a .249/.300/.378 slash line with 7 home runs and a 0.1 WAR. In his past full season in 2016, he posted a .761 OPS and a 3.4 WAR. The Yankees will be banking on Tulowitzki to come close to that 2016 season in terms of production, as he may be asked to be the team’s starting shortstop until Didi Gregorious returns after having Tommy John Surgery, which is expected to happen in late July. Considering that Tulowitzki hasn’t played a full season in two years and wasn’t great then, the Yankees may want to look at adding another shortstop. Luckily for them, Manny Machado is still available. This is a good deal in terms of adding depth, but even then Tulowitzki is a short stop only. Still, it’s a gamble at the league minimum, which eliminates the risk of it. As long as Tulowitzki isn’t asked to start next season, he’s a fine addition to the Yankees at a cheap price.
Yankees Sign RP Zach Britton
The Yankees have brought back reliever Zach Britton, signing to a three-year, $39 million in a unique deal. After the second year, the Yankees have the decision to exercise a club option for the fourth season at $14 million. If they decline it, Britton would then have the choice to enter free agency immediately or play out the remaining year on his deal. Britton, 31, was traded from the Orioles to the Yankees midseason, and he posted a 2.88 ERA with a 1.16 WHIP and a 4.08 FIP with them. He’s no longer the dominant closer he was for Baltimore, as evidenced by his decreased strikeout rates, but he still has the same deadly sinker that made him so hard to hit. Still, Britton seems to be regressing. His hard contact rate allowed jumped up from 21.9% in 2017 to 28.8% in 2018, and although that’s not an issue as of now, it could become one down the line. His batting average balls in play was down to just .241 despite this, which means that he was the beneficiary of luck just to have a 3.10 ERA in 2018. If he regresses to somewhere near where his 4.22 FIP between the two teams, than Britton won’t be able to live up to this deal. New York already had a stellar bullpen, and didn’t need to make such a risky deal, especially when Manny Machado is waiting in free agency. If New York had to acquire a reliever, they could’ve looked at bringing David Robertson back, or could’ve looked to acquire lefties Will Smith or Tony Watson from the Giants. This is one of the biggest overpays on the market, though it could make the Yankees’ bullpen unstoppable if the signing works out.
Yankees Sign 2B DJ LeMahieu
In a shocking move, the Yankees have signed second baseman DJ LeMahieu to a two-year, $24 million deal. LeMahieu, 30, has regressed the past two seasons since a breakout 2016 campaign in which he posted a .911 OPS. Since then, he’s posted just a .766 OPS and a 91 OPS+, which is concerning to say the least. This inconsistency to along with the fact that he’s played half of his games at Coors Field is what has made LeMahieu such a polarizing free agent. At the very least, LeMahieu is a three-time gold glover at second baseman who posted 18 defensive runs saved last year. Still, there’s encouraging signs that his offense could breakout soon as well. Despite posting a nearly identical hard contact rate of 35%, LeMahieu’s batting average balls in play of .298 was .90 points lower than it was in his breakout 2016 season. Furthermore, if there is any stadium that can be as favorable for hitters as Coors, it’s Yankee Stadium. LeMahieu’s notorious line drive, opposite field approach fits the stadium well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he had his first 20 home run season this year. At the very least, the Yankees are acquiring a 3.0 WAR player for just $12 million over the next seasons, which is great value. This move shores up their infield for this season, even if it means Manny Machado won’t be signed, as Gleyber Torres can now move from second base to short stop while New York waits for Didi Gregorious to recover after undergoing Tommy John Surgery. It’s underrated moves like these that could lead to the Yankees overthrowing the Red Sox in the AL East this season.
Yankees Sign RP Adam Ottavino
To bolster an already lethal bullpen, the Yankees have signed reliever Adam Ottavino to a three-year, $27 million contract. Ottavino, 33, picked the perfect time to have a breakout season. He posted a 2.43 ERA with a 0.99 WHIP and 2.74 FIP in 77.2 innings for the Rockies. He struck out batters at a stellar rate (13 K/9), was at times nearly unhittable (4.8 BB/9), and limited the amount of home runs he gave up (0.6 HR/9) despite playing at Coors Field. While it may seem strange that it took until his seventh season for him to become one of the league’s best relievers, Ottavino became a completely different pitcher this season. After throwing his fastball 29.9% of the time in 2017, he threw it just 4.6% of the time and raised his sinker usage to 38.5%. He also threw his cutter, which was rarely utilized in 2017, 10.1% of the time while also continuing to throw his devastating slider on nearly half of his pitches. All of his pitches registered a positive runs above average in 2018 as a result, and this change in pitch usage also allowed Ottavino to utilize the movement and filthiness that makes him so domiant. I’m buying into the new Ottavino, and there’s no reliever I would’ve rather had in what is a stacked free agency class for relievers. A three year deal is risky for the 33-year-old given his age, but he hasn’t pitched as many innings as other relievers his age, so he should remain effective for all three seasons of this contract. New York now has the best bullpen in the majors, and I’m not sure it’s even close.
Yankees Acquire OF Josh Stowers, LHP Reiver Sanmartin, and a Competitive Balance Pick In Three Team Trade With Reds and Mariners
The Yankees have finally traded Sonny Gray, sending him to the Reds in a three way trade that also included Seattle. New York will recieved a Competitive Balance Pick (#39), and Shed Long from the Reds, who will also recieved minor league pither Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees. Long will be flipped to Seattle in exchange for outfield prospect Josh Stowers. Stowers, 21, was rated as the Mariners’ tenth ranked prospect, according to MLB.Com. After being drafted in the second round by Seattle in 2018, he posted a .790 OPS in the Class A Short-Season Northwest League. His most impressive tool is his plate discipline, as evidenced by his .380 on base percentage. He also stole 20 bases, and was described by MLB.Com as a line drive hitter. He profiles as a typical lead off hitter, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was apart of New York’s outfield by 2021, where his line drive swing will likely succeed in Yankee Stadium. He fits New York better than the second baseman Long, who would have been blocked by Gleyber Torres and now DJ LeMahieu. New York didn’t have a lot of leverage in a Gray trade, and although they probably could’ve done a little better with so much competition, this isn’t an awful return.
Yankees Extend SP Luis Severino
The Yankees have signed starting pitcher Luis Severino to a four-year extension worth $40 million. This buys out at least one year of Severino’s free agency, and has a $15 million club option for a fifth year. Severino, 25, is one of the league’s best young pitchers. He was absolutely dominant in the first half last season, posting a 2.31 ERA. However, in the second half, he regressed to a 5.57 ERA, causing concern that Severino’s development may have taken hit. That concern is unnecessary, however, as all of Severino’s underlying numbers remained constant and elite. A .379 BABIP likely fueled those struggles, and still overall, Severino’s 3.39 ERA with a 2.95 FIP is impressive. He looks ready to take the next step to become the Yankees’ ace, and New York will be rewarded with controlling him at below market value as they continue to push for World Series title #28.
Yankees Extend OF Aaron Hicks
Continuing to extend their key players, the Yankees have signed outfielder Aaron Hicks to a seven-year contract extension worth $70 million. The contract contains a club option for an eighth season, and will be under contract through his age 35 season. Hicks, 29, is coming off of a season in which he posted an impressive .833 OPS and a 4.9 WAR. Notably, he improved his hard contact rate drastically to 39.5%, and walked at a stellar 15.5% rate. Yet, his .264 BABIP doesn’t reflect that, meaning we likely haven’t seen the best of Hicks yet. Hicks is a solid fielder (9 drs last two seasons), but most of his value comes from his plate discipline and offensive production, making him a very complete player. Therefore, he’s unlikely to hit the regression that a center fielder who relies on speed such as Lorenzo Cain will. Considering Cain signed a five-year, $80 million contract as a free agent last offseason, it’s likely Hicks would’ve recieved a contract similar. It’s incredible that they are paying him just $10 million; he’s arguably worth twice that. Signing Hicks to such an affordable contract gives them neccesary flexibility to continue to extend their young core, or make a significant splash via trade or with free agency next offseason. There’s no aspect of this deal that I don’t love, making this arguably the best move made by a team this offseason.
*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Yankees MakeHic