NASHVILLE, Tennessee – Brian Cashman was quiet. Wearing a blue button-up shirt, a black half-zip and thick, amber-rimmed glasses, the New York Yankees general manager spoke casually to reporters Tuesday, occasionally leaning against the wall behind him. He didn’t appear to be on the verge of making a splash at the winter meetings.
But between trading with the rival Boston Red Sox for Alex Verdugo later that night and executing the biggest move of the offseason so far, when the Yankees acquired superstar Juan Soto from the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night, Cashman Did the same.
“Finally,” he said. “I think we have a chance to be a really good team with some good steps forward. So that’s the goal.”
But what now? Yes, Cashman not only addressed the Yankees’ biggest need in the outfield — it looks like Aaron Judge could shift from right field to center field, with Soto in right and Verdugo in left. But in Verdugo and Soto, they also added a pair of lefty bats that the Yankees desperately needed to balance out a lineup that was heavily right-handed and finished only 25th in runs scored last season . The weak offense, made worse by several injuries, was a major reason the Yankees went 82–80 and missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years.
The Yankees aren’t finished yet. Here’s what could happen next.
The Yankees have made it clear that they are going to bet squarely on Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto, widely considered the best pitcher (not named Shohei Ohtani) on the free-agent market. Yamamoto, 25, has won the Eiji Sawamura Award – Nippon Professional Baseball’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award – for three consecutive seasons. In seven seasons, he has a career 1.72 ERA, and has strikeout stuff (9.2 K/9) and limits walks (2.0 BB/9). athleticJim Bowden has predicted that Yamamoto will end up with a seven-year, $211 million deal, but with such intense interest in him, that number could skyrocket.
The Yankees are expected to meet with Yamamoto on Monday, according to a person with knowledge of the club’s personnel decisions, and it is believed that team representatives will visit him in Southern California. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. General manager Brian Cashman and one of his top advisers, Omar Minaya, went to Japan in August to watch Yamamoto pitch, and Wright threw a no-hitter in front of them. Cashman said the Yankees dominated Yamamoto in every start last season, and he made the trip himself because he wanted to make the Yankees’ interest clear.
“It was in this perspective that he could be posted,” Cashman said, “and leaving no stone unturned I wanted to go there and pay my respects and let him know we were there.” It was covered widely. I think a lot of teams went there with their officials and I was definitely not going to make the mistake of not being one of the officials to go there. I think it all plays a role. … I’d rather do my best every day than just sit here and say what’s our offer and leave it at that.’
The Yankees did not give Yamamoto his favorite uniform number – No. 18 – last season, saving it for him. Additionally, Cashman said he had saved the ticket stub from Yamamoto’s no-hitter, which he would definitely present to the right-hander when the Yankees contingent met him.
If the Yankees are confident they can sign Yamamoto, it would be much easier to trade Michael King in a Soto deal.
Identifying Trade Chips
While Gleyber Torres’ name has been floating around in rumors for the past two seasons — and even though he’s owed about $15 million next season through arbitration — Cashman said the Yankees have second base “covered.” It seems the Yankees will not want to trade Torres, who was probably the team’s second-best hitter last season.
That would probably leave shortstop Oswald Peraza as an attractive trade chip. Peraza, 23, was ranked as the Yankees’ No. 3 overall prospect last season. athleticKeith Law. He’s a smart infielder who has shown pop in the minors but hasn’t hit much in the majors. He has not got much opportunity to play in big matches every day. The Yankees could make Peraza their utility infielder, or they could consider moving him.
Another potential trade candidate: Everson Pereira, a 22-year-old outfielder. He was the No. 51 prospect in the game in Law’s midseason update. He has impressive bat speed, power and athletic ability, but he plays very poorly on offense and hit just .151 in his first 27 games last season. With Soto and Verdugo out, there is little room for Pereira, although he could serve as a strong replacement if either one gets injured.
Other potential trade chips include utility man Osvaldo Cabrera and highly regarded pitching prospects Chase Hampton, Will Warren and Clayton Beater, though the Yankees will need all the pitching depth they can get, considering they added four in the Soto deal. The pitchers have surrendered.
On Tuesday, Cashman said the Yankees have also finalized third base internally. On Wednesday, manager Aaron Boone said that job will be handed to DJ LeMahieu. But what about the catcher? The team talks enthusiastically about Jose Trevino, and he seems to be a potential Opening Day starter. But will catching prospect Austin Wells, a lefty hitter, serve as his backup/platoon partner?
Without King, the Yankees have four rotation spots confirmed: Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, Nestor Cortes and Clark Schmidt. When Cashman was asked about a possible Frankie Montas reunion he said he has been in contact with agent Scott Boras. The team will certainly bring in more swingman-type depth. Perhaps if the Yankees fall out of the Yamamoto sweepstakes, they can turn their attention to Corbin Burns, who the Brewers likely have on the trade block.
The Yankees have also been in contact with the agent of lefty reliever Wendy Peralta in case of a possible reunification. The team will also look for other bullpen upgrades. Although Scott Efros will return after missing all of 2023 due to Tommy John surgery, they will likely look to upgrade the back of the bullpen that currently consists of Ron Marinasio and Matt Kruk.
(Top photo of Juan Soto: Duane Burleson/Getty Images)