The scramble is on around Major League Baseball as teams attempt to work out deals with free agents before the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday night — which is expected to set off a lockout as the league and players try to negotiate a new CBA.
Meanwhile, the New York Yankees seem to be sleepwalking.
Mass wheeling and dealing through Monday’s scramble had seen teams around MLB drop $1.455 billion (h/t Joel Sherman) in contracts — including Max Scherzer signing a $130 million, three-year deal with the crosstown-rival Mets; a team who dropped roughly $254 million over a four-day span on roster improvements.
The Yankees, on the other hand, have accounted for just $2 million of that massive number when they signed pitcher Joely Rodriguez.
This isn’t your father’s Bronx Bombers — or the Yankees from your childhood that has made this fan base one of the most spoiled and accustomed to success.
No, this is Hal Steinbrenner’s Yankees, which is a team that worked hard to get under MLB’s competitive balance tax and certainly carries the illusion that they want to stay under that number of a $210 million payroll.
That’s not easy to do with a pair of $300-million-plus contracts already on the books in Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton and another one potentially looming with Aaron Judge up for a new contract next year.
But this is a team that no longer is a lock to be the class of the American League, let alone their division, and there is still an abundance of question marks along the roster and there appears to be no urgency to answer them.
The market is already thinning, whether it be at shortstop — which the Yankees finally deciphered that Gleyber Torres isn’t the long-term answer at — or the familiar Achilles heel that is starting pitching behind Cole.
The Texas Rangers took two of the top shortstops off the market, spending over $500 million on Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. On Monday, Javier Baez’s name was taken off the market when he agreed to a six-year, $140 pact with the Detroit Tigers.
Still, general manager Brian Cashman still has top-tier options given the depth of the free-agent market at the position. Carlos Correa is still out there for the taking as MLB’s top-ranked free agent after becoming a superstar with the Houston Astros. So is Trevor Story, another power-hitting, slick-fielding option that rose to prominence with the Colorado Rockies.
But the Yankees appear to be looking much smaller as multiple reports have suggested the team is more interested in light-hitting, smooth-fielding Andrelton Simmons or the versatile Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
On the mound, Scherzer is in Queens, Kevin Gausman signed up with the Toronto Blue Jays, AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray inked a deal with the Seattle Mariners, and Jon Gray kept the Texas heat coming when he joined the aggressive Rangers.
It would be a shock to see Clayton Kershaw playing anywhere else than the Los Angeles Dodgers, leaving Marcus Stroman and Carlos Rodon as the best remaining free-agent options for the Yankees to bolster their beleaguered pitching staff. And Stroman took to Twitter himself to say that he would never pitch for the Yankees.
No rumblings, no direction — this isn’t really what this organization needed this winter after falling woefully short of World Series expectations in 2021.