According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees don’t plan on issuing anymore major league contracts this offseason. This is typical for mid-February, but with Stephen Drew still on the board, there is no doubt that many Yankee fans are scratching their heads at their reluctance to pick up another free agent infielder. In fact, last week I wrote about how how the team ought to just spend the money, as Drew’s contract will look like a drop in the bucket compared to the half a billion they’ve already spent. Despite some major issues with their 2014 infield, and the middle infield depth in their entire system, the Yankees refuse to deal with a desperate Drew. But Brian Cashman isn’t exactly ignorant of their infield, he acknowledges the team’s weaknesses in Sherman’s article.
“In some cases we are still looking for positions if we can. The second and third wave is a developing storyline. I don’t have obvious answers for this. We had a lot of problems to fix [in the offseason]. We didn’t fix all of them and we are still in problem-solving mode.”
The current infield starts with Mark Teixeira, who’s recovering from his wrist surgery, then Brian Roberts who’s faced a tremendous amount of issues with his concussions and legs, Derek Jeter who’s 40 years old and coming off a number of leg problems, and Kelly Johnson, who’s shown to be one of the most volatile bats in baseball. Backing up these guys is Scott Sizemore, who’s also seen his fair share of leg problems, and Brendan Ryan, who doesn’t have a bat. This is an infield that could click quite well if everyone stays healthy, but after watching 2013, there’s little chance of that.
With Drew out of the realm of possibility, the next best option could be a trade, but I’m more interested to see what happens over the next couple of days. At this time last year, Aledmys Diaz, a cuban shortstop, tried to become a free agent, claiming that he was a few months older than he was. At 23 years old, Diaz could have entered the free agent market unrestricted in 2013, but after investigations, the MLB found that he was lying and suspended him for 1 year. A year later, Diaz will now be eligible to sign tomorrow, February 19th, at 23 years old.
We’ve discussed Diaz quite a few time here, but recently the Yankees have also taken a liking to the shortstop. The Yankees attended one of his showcases last week, and he makes a ton of sense for a club with such needs. The team has shown a draw to the international market this offseason, signing Masahiro Tanaka and supposedly designating more than $15 million to the July 2nd crop of international prospects. With big needs in the infield in 2014, and further major league needs in the coming years at second base, shortstop, and possibly even third base, Diaz could be capable of filling those spots. Some scouts believe that he’s major league ready at the moment, but even if he’s not, the Yankees’ minor league depth is abysmal, and playing him in Trenton or Scranton for sometime until the inevitable injury is more than likely.
Diaz won’t come cheap. There’s been mixed scouting reports on his fielding, but his hitting ranked in the top 20 in Cuba at the ages of 20 and 21 when he hit .315/.404/.500 with 12 home runs 26 walks and 25 strike outs. For a 23 year old shortstop that can hit, a bidding war is easy to imagine. The consensus is that he’ll receive around $20 to $30 million, but if one scout sees something they really like, it’s not hard to imagine that he could receive Yasiel Puig-type money. But even at that price, Diaz would be much needed talent infusion. Adding him along with Tanaka and the crop of young pitchers in Michael Pineda, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances could make up for their lack of major league ready top prospects. After watching injury after injury, young position players are a must need for this club, which could be why the Yankees are skipping on Drew and waiting for Diaz. Over the next couple of days, we’ll likely see Diaz come off the board, and I expect the Yankees to be heavily involved.