|Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic (Michael Chow)|
Please, stop with the Judge & Drury jokes…
Yankees fans were waiting for some news but Tuesday’s announcement that the Yankees had acquired 2B/3B Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks brought, surprisingly at least to me, mixed reactions.
The news first broke late afternoon that the Yankees had sent 2B prospect Nick Solak to the Tampa Bay Rays. There were a few minutes of no updates so I tried to speculate. I didn’t think Solak alone would be enough to entice the Rays to move starting pitcher Chris Archer so I figured it had to be a middle or corner infielder. The only players that came to mind were infielders Christian Arroyo, acquired in the trade that sent Evan Longoria to San Francisco, and Matt Duffy, also a former Giant. Arroyo would have been a decent option but I didn’t think the Rays would move him so soon since he is the favorite to replace Longoria at third. While starting to worry that a potential trade might involve Duffy, word came that the Yankees had acquired Drury from Arizona, with Solak going to the Rays and reliever Taylor Widener headed to the Desert. The D-Backs acquired Steven Souza Jr from the Rays, while Arizona sent pitcher Anthony Banda and two players to be named later back to the Rays. To make room for Drury, the Yankees designated outfielder Jabari Blash for assignment. Blash, acquired from the San Diego Padres in the salary-dumping deal that sent Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to Southern California, seemed like an odd fit from the start with a team full of talented outfielders.
Personally, I like the move. Nothing against the rookies (Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar) but I’ve felt all along the Yankees would bring in a veteran to help ease the transition for them. Earlier in the off-season, I had hoped that guy would be Todd Frazier but it was not meant to be as the Toddfather ended up in Queens with the Mets as their new third baseman. Many, including this blog, were starting to talk about free agent 2B Neil Walker as a possibility.
Although Drury played more second base last year (114 games versus only one at third), he is considered a natural third baseman who was blocked by D-Backs starting third baseman Jake Lamb. During his MLB career, the 25-year-old has played 41 games at third so he does have experience.
|Photo Credit: The Arizona Republic (Tom Tingle)|
Drury is not arbitration-eligible until next year and under team control for four years. He’ll make no more than $700,000 for the 2018 season. He played 135 games in 2017, hitting 13 home runs and 63 RBI’s. His batting line was .267/.317/.447 with an OPS of .764. He hit 16 dingers in 2016 so he clearly has some pop in that bat.
The nice thing about Drury is that he won’t block Andujar and/or Torres when they are ready. But he’ll help with the transition and will remove some of the pressure off the younger players. I can see the scenario where both Andujar and Torres start the year at Triple A, with Tyler Wade or Danny Espinosa heading north to the Bronx as the starting second baseman while Drury takes third. But regardless of what happens, we will see both Andujar and Torres in the Bronx this year and at least one (or both) of those guys will be the starter at some point in the not so distant future. I think Torres is closer to the bigs than Andujar but the gap is probably not that great.
|Photo Credit: NorthJersey.com (Chris Pedota)|
Eventually, I think the odd man out could be Ronald Torreyes. Drury is incredibly versatile. During his short three season MLB career, he’s played every position except center field, catcher and pitcher. The Grants Pass, OR native is very excited about the opportunity that awaits him. Drury told the New York Post on Tuesday night, “Oh man, I am pumped and can’t wait to get there. I am thinking about the opportunity I have. Playing for the New York Yankees is a dream and I have to take advantage of it. I was a Yankee fan (as a kid).” He is expected to arrive in Tampa today.
I saw free agent Neil Walker as the most obvious choice for veteran help after Frazier signed with the Mets. But Walker’s age (32), and limited experience at third, concerned me. The Yankees have multiple options at second behind Torres. Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes, Danny Espinosa, and Jace Peterson are the most notable. At third, there really wasn’t much standing behind Andujar. Torreyes was probably the most experienced but he’s not an ideal starter. For me, I’d much rather have the youth and upside with Drury who knows how to play third versus an aging middle sacker. Alright, 32 is not old but Walker, at least to me, is starting to show signs of decline with his recurring back problems.
I will admit that there was a part of me that wanted the Yankees to find a way to sign free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas. I really wanted to see one year of Moose Tacos taking his shots at the short right porch in Yankee Stadium. I loved the idea of mixing his lefty bat into the lineup with fellow lefties Didi Gregorius and Greg Bird to break up the right-handed hitters. But signing Moustakas would have required a trade (most likely either Brett Gardner or David Robertson) if the Yankees are committed to staying under the $197 million luxury tax threshold as we’ve been led to believe. It also would have eliminated the possibility of adding a quality starter to the rotation. There was one Kansas City Royals blog yesterday (before the Drury trade) that pitched a trade idea to acquire Jacoby Ellsbury (along with Miguel Andujar and $27 million in cash) for a Royals prospect as a way to open up salary space for the Yankees to add Moustakas. No idea if Ellsbury would consider waiving his no-trade clause for that idea but the Royals do train in Arizona and he would have to clear path to the starting center field job since last year’s starter, Lorenzo Cain, recently signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.
I know, every time the issue of trading for or signing a free agent starting pitcher is mentioned, many of you get defensive. Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Jordan Montgomery represent a quality staff, I know. But, I am concerned about the depth. At this point, we simply do not know if Chance Adams is ready and capable for the Major Leagues. We think he is but we don’t really know for sure until he takes the mound at Yankee Stadium. Justus Sheffield is perhaps the best arm in the system but he’s never played above Double A. At the moment, neither Adams nor Sheffield are on the 40-man roster. I like Luis Cessa but he does not excite me as a starter. We’ve been down that road enough to tell me that I don’t want to pin replacement rotation hopes on Cessa. I certainly would not want to pull Chad Green from his valuable bullpen role to start. I’d prefer to add a quality starter and push Montgomery to Triple A for a few starts. Even adding a starter, Monty is almost certain to get more than 20 starts for the big league team this year. I like Monty as the insurance card so much better than Cessa. Later in the year, perhaps Adams or even Sheffield can become options. The likelihood that all of the starters remain healthy this year is slim. The Yankees are in position to add either Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn now if the price is right or wait until the trading deadline to add reinforcements. Options, I love options.
|Photo Credit: St Louis Post-Dispatch (Chris Lee)|
At the end of the day, the Drury trade simply shows us that GM Brian Cashman has a plan (as if we needed to be reminded). He is not going to overpay and is not afraid to walk away from “his” guy if necessary. But, he will be diligent to ensure that the moves he does make will improve the team. He understands that the stakes now are as high as they’ve been during his 20-year career as the team’s GM. He has a very talented Major League team, backed by a tremendously strong farm system. Rare is the organization that has that deadly combination.
The Yankees chief rival significantly improved themselves over the weekend when the Boston Red Sox signed free agent slugger J.D. Martinez (Drury’s former teammate). The Red Sox Nation were back to puffing out their chests this week after a winter of feeling inferior. So, I really like the timing of the “we’re not done” message that Cashman sent out to American League competitors. Going back to TV/Radio personality Casey Stern’s words, “Prospects are cool, parades are cooler”. Brian Cashman is not done nor should we expect him to be. He has his sights set on the 28th World Championship in franchise history. Trust the Master.