Yankees GM Talks Quintana Rumors, Roster, Chapman Deal Concerns

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made an informative appearance on MLB Network’s “High Heat” Thursday afternoon. In his interview, Cashman discussed where the organization stands, talked rumors, and what fans should expect from the front office.

It’s been mostly crickets surrounding the Yankees hot stove since the Winter Meetings. Aside from acquiring a new DH in Matt Holliday and reuniting with superstar closer Aroldis Chapman, the Yanks signed infielder Ruben Tejada to a minor-league deal.

Those names have largely been their offseason additions thus far.

A few sizzles have come from rumors linking the Yankees to talented White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana, who was a former farmhand for both New York teams. These whispers were just one of a few intriguing concepts Cashman addressed in Thursday’s segment.

The Yanks’ re-tooling:

The Yankees’ front office has made concerted efforts to avoid a full-scale rebuild in the Bronx. It’s something they’re in no position to do, Cashman says, given their market.

“We’re certainly not ever going to be in a position to — at least intentionally — drive off the cliff and live to fight four or five years later,” said Cashman.

“We’re obviously trying to do the rebuild at the same time as competing. I’m really happy about the trajectory we are on. I think our fans are excited by it.”

Cashman praised the successful age-26 seasons of middle infielders Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro. Slugging phenom Gary Sanchez has been awarded the starting catcher role following his historic rookie season. And the first base job sounds like it’s Greg Bird‘s to lose, with Tyler Austin next on the depth chart.

That leaves Chase Headley, 32, as the only projected regular infielder to be older than 28 on Opening Day. Aaron Judge, 24, and Aaron Hicks, 27, will enter Spring Training competing for right field.

Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder, Bryan Mitchell and Luis Severino are all young hurlers looking to deal their way onto 2017s pitching staff. None of them are over 26 years old.

Last year’s trade deadline deals brought in Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier, Heller, Justus Sheffield and Dillon Tate to improve a Yankees system that already boasted Jorge Mateo, Miguel Andujar, Blake Rutherford and James Kaprielian.

Balancing player development and experience:

The Yankees have a dynamic roster in which complimentary veterans are coexisting with an energized, youthful core. If this relationship gels in the way that Cashman hopes, he’s expecting a competitive product on the field.

“What we saw last year in the second half, we were competing,” Cashman said about the new-look Yankees, headlined by Sanchez during the prospect infusion.

“That gives us great hope because a lot of these younger players we have haven’t reached their ceilings yet … At the same time, I think it goes both ways. We’re going to have growing pains.”

The Yankees hope Matt Holliday‘s leadership will aid in the maturation of their younger players. In the meantime, bringing back Chapman is a win-now, win-later move that strengthens the team’s bullpen. Ideally, if both Holliday and Chapman remain healthy and meet expectations, the Yanks could stay afloat in the postseason race.

However, all indications point to 2017 being a season that the Yankees primarily devote to player development.

Jose Quintana rumors/acquiring a starter:

Cashman doesn’t sound like a man eager to trade his top prospects. But if he were to do so, a pitcher like Quintana fits the description of what he’s interested in acquiring.

“I think the most important currency to have nowadays is high-end prospects, and I think we, by everybody’s evaluation, have collected a number of those. So I think we can easily do that (trade prospects for a starter), it’s just: Will we do that?

“We’re very protective of the work we’ve done thus far, and we don’t want to do anything at the expense of just a short-term gain. We want to make sure it’s for our long-term efforts as well.”

In the aftermath of the White Sox trading Chris Sale to Boston, Quintana has been the most coveted pitcher on the trade market. And just like his former teammate, Quintana won’t come cheap.

The Red Sox parted with blue-chippers Yoan Moncada (MLB.com’s No. 1 overall prospect) and Michael Kopech to get Sale. Quintana has put up similar peripherals to Sale, albeit less gaudy strikeout totals. The 27-year-old comes with four years of control at a team-friendly $36.85 million, including club options for 2019 and 2020.

The Yankees will balk at Chicago’s asking price for Quintana if it’s anywhere near what Sale’s was. Cashman is comfortable entering next season with his current starters should the right deal never come along.

Masahiro Tanaka will lead a staff that also features a reinvented CC Sabathia and bewildering Michael Pineda. Severino, Cessa, Green, Mitchell and Adam Warren are slated to compete for the final two vacancies.

Concerns about Aroldis Chapman‘s deal:

The Yankees spent big by outbidding the Marlins to bring Chapman back to New York. (Read that sentence over until it sounds normal.)

Chapman has been promised $86 million over five years unless he exercises his opt-out after the 2019 season. Should he remain a Yankee for the entire contract, durabilithttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIlWtLtIA3oy concerns will be raised over Chapman’s explosive arm, which topped out at 105 mph last season. If significant regression occurs, the Yankees will be footing an expensive bill for a 70-innings-per-season reliever.

“No question about it, history is not kind to those types of deals on the back-end,” Cashman acknowledged. “We’re certainly hoping that Aroldis Chapman, who has been a freak of nature in terms of his abilities thus far, can also be a freak of nature in terms of his durability as we move forward, despite the inherent risks with a deal like that.”

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In Chapman, the Yankees snagged their ticket-selling closer. Dellin Betances will pitch the eighth inning, Tyler Clippard the seventh, and Warren the sixth, should he be relegated to the ‘pen. With a roster loaded with question marks, the Yankees must again rely on their bullpen to grasp at contention. Making the playoffs is not impossible, but in Cashman’s final year under contract with the Yanks, it has taken a back seat to player development.

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