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2019 1B Dilemma: Bird, Voit, or someone else?

The Yankees have failed to solidify the first base position ever since Mark Teixeira retired after the 2016 season. Over the last three seasons, New York has gotten nowhere near the production the 2015 All-Star Teixeira gave them. That year, he slashed .255/.357/.548 with 22 doubles, 31 home runs, and 79 RBI before his season was cut short to a broken leg.
Many believed 2011 fifth-round pick Greg Bird was the solution at first base as he tore up the minors in 2013-2015, leading to a mid-August call up to the bigs in 2015. Bird started 44 games in August and September amid some Teixeira injuries, and he hit .261 with 11 homers and 30 RBI.

How could the Mariners' sell-off impact the Yankees?

Flashback to July 3rd - the Mariners had just won their eighth consecutive game, putting them 20 games above .500 and in possession of the third-best record in baseball. Everything was going right in Seattle, and it surely seemed as if the M’s infamous 17-year playoff drought would finally come to an end. Just two and a half months later on September 22nd, the Mariners were eliminated from playoff contention, following a dreadful summer slump and the concurrent surge of the division-rival Athletics.

Photo Credit: Ted S. Warren/AP
On the heels of yet another disappointing season (albeit one concluding with 89 wins) and an impending uphill battle in the American League standings, General Manager Jerry Dipoto looks to be considering an overhaul. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise - Dipoto is baseball’s most active GM, and with their current status, a sell-off similar to that of the 2016 Yankees looks to be necessary. Dipoto and Cashman have connected on several trades throughout the former’s tenure, and more could be in the works very soon with the Bombers looking to fulfill several needs. 

As it appears, Dipoto is open to dealing all but three of his players - All-Star outfielder Mitch Haniger, lefty Marco Gonzales, and stud closer Edwin Diaz. Diaz is fresh off of AL Reliever of the Year honors, and Gonzales broke out as a solid back-end starter who would be of appeal to most teams in need of rotation help. The youth, talent, and team-friendly contracts of the said players, however, makes it easy to imagine why a rebuilding franchise would choose to center itself around them. That being said, let’s examine the realistic candidates to head east this winter if Scott Servais’ ballclub matches up with New York:

Photo Credit: Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
James Paxton
Of the bunch, this one stands out as the most obvious. James Paxton fits the bill as the lefty frontline man the Yankees have been so desperately searching for. The Toronto native posted a 3.76 ERA in 2018, striking out 201 and throwing one of the season’s three no-hitters. Celebrating his 30th birthday Tuesday, he is under control for two more seasons via arbitration before hitting the open market in which Paxton’s price tag would not be cheap. While Cashman could probably get away with excluding Justus Sheffield due to Paxton’s close free agency, he would almost certainly have to part with at least one of the team’s other coveted pitching prospects, be it Jonathan Loaisiga, Albert Abreu, or someone else along those lines. Seattle would also likely ask for a young hitter in return, and Thairo Estrada and Tyler Wade immediately come to mind as options. Even with CC Sabathia back in the fold and the deep ties to fellow lefty Patrick Corbin, the Yankees should be all in on the Big Maple if the price is right.

Dee Gordon
Dee Gordon certainly does not fit the picture of a typical Yankee. For starters, the power is nonexistent and he has only struck out over 100 times once in his eight-year career. With questions surrounding the infield after Didi Gregorius’ injury, Gordon is someone Cashman should at least do due diligence on. Gordon stole 30 bases in an outlying down year, which is still something that hasn’t been done in the Bronx since Jacoby Ellsbury’s 39 in 2014. He doubled his 2018 total just one year ago, leading the league with 60. Dee would provide balance to a Yankee lineup which relies almost entirely on the long ball, adding speed to either the top or bottom of the lineup, a lefty bat on a card of righties, and versatility with his experience at both second base and in center field. The financial aspect is what complicates this, as he is owed $20 million over the next two years along with a 2021 club option. This would also work as leverage against Seattle, as it stunts his trade stock on a market where Josh Harrison, Neil Walker, and potentially Scooter Gennett are alternatives. If the Mariners are willing to eat some 20% of the remaining money, Gordon turns into a valuable, buy-low asset for the Yanks.

Photo Credit: Chris Carlson/AP
Alex Colome
Alex Colome, I believe, is the most intriguing option of the trio. Colome, a former closer of the Rays, is two years removed from a stellar 1.91 ERA and one year from a league-leading 47 saves. Although he is under control until 2021 and coming off of yet another productive season, he likely wouldn’t be too expensive of a piece for the Yankees to acquire. We saw San Diego send a similar type of reliever in Brad Hand (along with Adam Cimber) to Cleveland this July for just Francisco Mejia, which spurs the idea that Colome could probably be had for just one top-10 farmhand, likely a pitcher in this case. Colome’s experience in the AL East could prove valuable, and if Zach Britton or David Robertson depart, adding a proven commodity in himself would significantly alleviate the late-inning pressure.

Players to Watch: Mike Leake, Kyle Seager
I felt as though Leake should be included despite the monetary issues, as no stone should be left unturned in the search for rotation aid. While the stats aren’t flashy, Leake has been an innings eater and put up respectable numbers over the past few seasons. Seager, although also pricey, provides steady defense at third, something the Yankees currently lack. His consistent lefty bat would balance out the lineup and he carries 20+ home run power capable of abusing the short-porch.

In short, if Jerry Dipoto indeed wants to revamp the Mariners’ roster, Brian Cashman should be making phone calls imminently. Seattle has a talented core in place, and the Yankees could reap significant benefits by picking from it. There seems to be a relationship in place between the two GMs, and a large portion of the Yankees’ offseason wish list could be resolved by exploring it.

Article by Christian DeMoro

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