Contrary to the traditional Yankees way of spending in the offseason on top talent to shore up holes on the roster, the coronavirus pandemic may force New York to be conservative while also thinking about the luxury tax threshold. Hal Steinbrenner also gave Brian Cashman the go to sign Gerrit Cole last season at whatever it took to land the bonafide ace, and $36 million per season until 2028 is what was agreed upon.
So Trevor Bauer, this year’s top starter on the market, might not be on the Yankees’ radar if they’re looking to save some cash in this uncertain free agency period. Of the top players out there, DJ LeMahieu should actually be the Yankees’ top priority to hammer out a deal that will keep the 2020 AL batting champion in the mix for years to come.
Other than that, where else could the Yanks look? Here are some under-the-radar free agents that they could pursue this winter…
RHP Taijuan Walker
Walker was a hot topic at the trade deadline this past regular season, and someone that the Bombers reportedly had on their radar. He would eventually land with the Toronto Blue Jays, but the Jays knew that they might lose him in free agency.
For those teams looking for less-expensive options to bolster their rotations in 2021, Walker will be one of those players at the top of the list. The Yankees should look his way considering Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ are all free agents as well. They do have younger options they could take a shot on like Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt.
But after posting a 1.37 ERA with the Jays in six starts and a 2.70 ERA total over 11 starts this season, the 28-year-old is someone the Yankees could certainly get back on their radar.
C James McCann
J.T. Realmuto will likely garner the bigger contract on the market this year. He’s a franchise catcher that deserves the money he is about to make.
The Yankees don’t need to go that big, but they do have a catching situation now that Gary Sanchez has flopped the past couple of seasons and Kyle Higashioka took over the starting role in the postseason. Cashman said it himself that the Yanks are now forced to reevaluate at catcher because of Sanchez’ struggles.
If they’re looking into the market, McCann is a solid two-way catcher that has good framing rates and a bat that is above-average. He slashed .289/.360/.536 with seven homers and 15 RBI in 31 games during the shortened 2020 season, while posting a .273 average with 18 homers and 60 RBI in 118 games in 2019 – an All-Star campaign.
RHP Alex Colome
Add another White Sox player to this list. Colome has been Chicago’s closer since they acquired him in 2019, and he’s had a ton of success with 30 saves that year and 12 this season. He has a career 2.95 ERA, and Yankee fans might remember him from his earlier days with the Tampa Bay Rays. He was an All-Star in 2016 with them.
The Yankees have Aroldis Chapman, yes, but there is still some need for bullpen help with Adam Ottavino showing that he didn’t have his stuff this season and his contract up after 2021. Chapman is also a free agent after the 2022 season, so why not bolster up that bullpen again with someone as consistent as Colome that can serve in a back-end role.
RHP Shane Greene
An old friend could find his way back in pinstripes. Greene was a 15th round pick by the Yanks back in 2009 and made his major league debut with the team in 2014. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers, though, where he eventually was converted to a reliever.
Greene really found his stuff in 2019, an All-Star year that saw a 2.30 ERA between the Tigers and Atlanta Braves. He owned a 2.60 ERA for the Braves this past season, and could be another solid bullpen arm that wouldn’t break the bank.
LHP Justin Wilson
Keeping the reliever train rolling, Wilson is someone familiar with the Big Apple, having spent the past two seasons with the Mets. He was great in 2019, owning a 2.54 ERA over 45 appearances and finishing nine games for them. He had 23 appearances (19.2 innings) in this past season with a 3.66 ERA.
He does have injury history and will turn 34 in the middle of next season. However, Wilson is another veteran lefty the Yanks could use to split up the righties in the ‘pen. He shouldn’t also cost too much on the market either.