By George A. King III
Outfielder Aaron Hicks won’t be the only Yankees offseason acquisition, but with the team comfortable sitting out the free-agent market and not wanting to part with prospects, general manager Brian Cashman likely will do a lot more listening than dealing at the Winter Meetings, open officially on Monday.
After repelling down the side of a Stamford building Sunday to ring in the holiday season, Cashman will arrive at Nashville’s Opryland Hotel and Convention Center that evening.
From Sunday to Thursday morning Cashman will be available for meetings with agents selling expensive flesh and executives attempting to acquire Babe Ruth for Garrett Jones.
The baseball universe doesn’t have to gather for days under one massive roof to understand the Yankees aren’t throwing big dollars at free agents or interested in using prospects to acquire a starter such as the Braves’ Shelby Miller.
Cashman is the front man protecting prospects Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Jorge Mateo as well as Luis Severino and Greg Bird. Nevertheless, Hal Steinbrenner is as enamored with the young players as he is adamant that he doesn’t need a $200-million plus payroll to at least have the Yankees participate in a postseason series, which is something they haven’t done since 2012.
“Everybody’s waiting for [Zack] Greinke to sign and [Jason] Heyward to sign and [Darren] O’Day to sign,’’ Cashman said of the free-agent market. “I’ve had so many conversations, it seems like more this winter than any winter. But I’ve only made one move, Hicks for [John Ryan] Murphy. Because every conversation, my opponent or myself, it hasn’t been good enough to match.’’
While Scott Boras promotes the value of having Wei-Yin Chen in somebody’s rotation and Chris Davis adding muscle to a lineup, Cashman will engage teams and possibly deal Ivan Nova for a younger and less expensive arm.
With the prospects off limits, unless the Marlins decide to shop Jose Fernandez, and the free-agent parade not stopping in The Bronx, the Yankees still have people to deal.
Chatter about the Yankees moving Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller has subsided but could rekindle.
“I think it’s more likely that we keep them than move them. I say that recognizing that if someone wants to ring a bell that I’ve put out there, that could happen as early as [Saturday],’’ Cashman said. “If I’m predicting anything, I’d predict that they’d be here.’’
As for second base, Cashman said Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder are the plan. Yet, the Yankees don’t have blinders on when it comes to that pair’s faults. Defensively, they are below average. Ackley’s upper-cut swing from the left side is made for Yankee Stadium, but he is a career .244 hitter in parts of five big league seasons. And there are questions if Refsnyder will hit enough even against lefties in a platoon situation.
— Additional reporting by Ken Davidoff
1. Trade Ivan Nova: Getting a younger and cheaper starter is ideal.
2. Find an upgrade at second base: Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder are short defensively and questions at the plate remain.
3. See what the actual market is for Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller: Would be crazy to deal Miller.
— George A. King III