Despite the trade of Brian McCann yesterday, the Yankees are not looking to tear down what they’ve built going into 2017. On the contrary, according to Jon Heyman, they are seriously interested in Edwin Encarnacion, the best pure hitter on the free agent market, or former Yankee Carlos Beltran to play DH. Meanwhile, they’re also looking at add to their rotation, according to Buster Olney:
Yankees' primary focus now turning to pitching, according to sources; Rich Hill in the mix. And they'd like to bring back Carlos Beltran.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 17, 2016
Encarnacion is looking for a five-year deal according to reports that’s worth around $25 million per season. That’s a potentially huge commitment for a player who is limited defensively and who is going to be 34, and the Yankees are just freeing themselves from their long term commitments to aging sluggers Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.
But Encarnacion has hit 193 homers over the last five seasons, with a career high 42 last year to go with 127 RBI and a .263/.357/.529 batting line. The Yankees could undoubtedly use that kind of reliable power in the middle of their lineup. And, as the Yankees, they have money to spend, especially with McCann now gone. Indeed, their Opening Day payroll projects to be almost $50 million lower than it was last year, and they could clear more room by dealing Chase Headley and Brett Gardner as well.
Beltran, who will be 40, would be a riskier bet to produce for the Yankees, but he would be cheaper. And he would be returning as the prodigal son, after hitting .304/.344/.546 last year before being traded to Texas for the stretch drive. The Yankees would be dealing with the devil they know, and would guard against the kind of long-term handicap that Teixeira and Rodriguez wound up becoming.
Hill, when healthy, would serve as a capable #2 starter behind Masahiro Tanaka, and would allow the Yankees to bring along Luis Severino more slowly. The trouble with Rich Hill, of course, is the risk of injury. While arm problems haven’t held him back since his return to prominence, blister problems limited him to just 20 starts last year. His body seems constantly on the verge of betraying him, and he’ll be 37. But for three years, and $45 million, he very well could be a risk worth taking; especially if he’s healthy and rested going into October.
Since the Trade Deadline, Brian Cashman has reminded all of Baseball why he’s such a dangerous GM, stocking the Bombers with a massive amount of young talent, some of which is ready to contribute right now. And mixing a few extra veterans into that roster might give them what they need to leapfrog the Red Sox, Orioles, and Blue Jays, back into the driver’s seat in the AL East.