The Yankees are still looking… Here, there, and everywhere.
While the franchise remains intent on landing another starting pitcher before spring training arrives in mid-February, general manager Brian Cashman has been forced to cross a few names off his holiday wish list this week.
On Tuesday, top free agent starter Patrick Corbin spurned his childhood favorite Yankees by signing a lucrative six-year, $140 million deal with the Washington Nationals. And just two days later, right-hander Nathan Eovaldi agreed to a four-year, $68 million contract with the World Series champion Boston Red Sox. Both starters drew considerable interest from the Yankees, but steep price tags ultimately prompted them to balk.
So, with two viable options now off the market, how can the Yankees still fulfill their firmly established goal?
Perhaps by calling the Cleveland Indians — their phone lines are open.
According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Indians are “increasingly motivated” to trade either Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer when baseball’s annual winter meetings take place in Las Vegas next week. Although Cleveland inked 31-year-old righty Carlos Carrasco to a contract extension on Thursday, the belief is that the club, facing market constraints, wants to shed more payroll ahead of next season.
In 33 starts this season, Kluber, 32, went 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA — fifth-best among qualifying AL starters — and he also led the league in innings (215) and finished third in strikeouts (222).
If those numbers aren’t enticing enough, in four of his last five seasons, Kluber has posted an ERA of 3.14 or less and won at least 18 games. Plus, he’s proven to be a durable three-time All-Star, as he’s averaged 32 starts per year since winning his first of two Cy Young awards in 2014.
Bauer, who turns 28 in January, finished 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA in 28 games (27 starts) this year, and he led the AL in fielding independent pitching (2.44) and fewest home runs allowed per nine innings (0.5). He also received All-Star honors.
As for the dollars and cents, both right-handers are cost-controlled. According to Spotrac.com, Kluber is slated to make $17.2 million in 2019, and the final two years of his contract (2020-21) include club options at $17.5 million and $18 million, respectively, with a pair of $1 million buyouts. Bauer is entering his second year of arbitration eligibility, and MLB Trade Rumors projects he will make roughly $11.6 million in 2019.
Although the Indians haven’t revealed their prices, they’re undoubtedly seeking a huge return for either arm. Consequently, the Yankees would have to yield major league-ready players or a package of prospects.
At the moment, three Yankees prospects are ranked inside MLBPipeline’s Top-100 prospects list. Their top-hitting prospect, 21-year-old outfielder Estevan Florial, hit .255 in 75 games with High-A Tampa in 2018, and top-pitching prospect Jonathan Loaisiga, who turned 24 in November, appeared in nine games (four starts) for the Yankees this past summer.
The Yankees’ first big splash of the winter came on November 19, when they acquired Seattle Mariners’ left-hander James Paxton in exchange for a three-player package headlined by 22-year-old Justus Sheffield.
Of the remaining free agent pitchers available, 36-year-old veteran J.A. Happ appears to be the best-fit from a group that includes Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, and Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi. Happ, who was traded from the Toronto Blue Jays to New York in late July, went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts with the Yankees.
“There’s trade opportunities that exist in the marketplace, as well as free agents,” Cashman told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com on Friday. “If we can find the right matches, we’re willing to act on it.”