Yankees Rumors: Team Could Add Top Bat if They Clear Payroll Space

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman revealed the team could have interest in adding a free agent bat, but would need to clear payroll room first.

GM Brian Cashman budged ever-so-slightly from his position that the New York Yankees would be going with their internal options in the outfield and designated hitter at the annual General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona, telling the media that, “Things could change if we move money.”

Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reports that Cashman has acknowledged checking in with the representatives for the top free agent sluggers on the market, including Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Bautista. It isn’t unusual for a big market team like the Yankees to explore all of their possibilities during the offseason, but the fact that Cashman was so specific about the circumstances in which he’d be interested is notable.

When Cashman refers to moving money, it seems likely he means trading away some of the veterans currently in their outfield/DH mix, including Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brian McCann.

Gardner has been rumored to be a trade candidate since last winter. The Yankees currently have defense first players at traditionally offense-oriented positions like left field and third base.

If New York moves the $26 million owed to Gardner the next two years (including the $2 million buyout on his 2019 option), that could go towards a more typical slugging left fielder like Cespedes or Bautista, who could eventually slide into a DH role when Clint Frazier is ready to take over a full-time gig.

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Another possibility is moving the $34 million owed to McCann through 2018 and replacing him with a more productive veteran bat. Much of McCann’s value comes from his defensive ability behind the plate, so making him an every day DH is kind of a waste.

Cashman confirmed Wednesday that he had received considerable trade interest in McCann and had even gone so far as to discuss the possibility of a deal with the veteran catcher’s agent. The Astros and Braves look like the primary suitors in the early going, although many other MLB clubs have a need behind the plate going into next season.

With Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka both more than capable of holding down the backup catcher job, it may make sense to swap out McCann for Cespedes, Bautista, or Encarnacion, depending on their contract demands.

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