It’s time to find some bargains.
There’s a time and a place for a healthy debate on the Yankees’ aversion to the luxury tax and whether or not this franchise is doing whatever it takes to win a World Series in 2021. But the Steinbrenner family money is not mine or yours, so the payroll likely won’t budge no matter how illogical it seems.
As the team tries to bring back DJ LeMahieu at its number, there may not be much more room for the Yankees to add anything else before the start of spring training. Unless, of course, general manager Brian Cashman plays the game of supply and demand to land solid veterans on below-market deals. And when you look at just how many good free agents are still out there, that strategy just might work.
Introducing Yankees Insider: Get exclusive news, behind-the-scenes observations and the ability to text message directly with beat writers
Here are five available free agents that would make sense as the Yankees try to stay under the luxury tax for 2021.
Stats from across 2019 and 2020 are used to give a better representation of the player after the shortened, 60-game campaign last summer.
Jose Quintana, LHP
2019-20 stats: 4.67 ERA, 94 ERA+, 3.75 FIP, 3.35 SO/BB
Why he makes sense: I’m not sure what’s more remarkable about Quintana’s nine-year big league career: The fact that he’s only 31 years old (doesn’t it feel like he should be older?) or his remarkable consistency. Before 2020, Quintana had reeled off seven consecutive seasons of 30-plus starts, averaging 193 innings per season. In a sport that’s trended away from allowing starting pitchers to go deep into games, Quintana stands out. From 2013-2019, here’s a full list of pitchers to throw more inning’s than the ex-Cub and White Sox lefty: Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Jon Lester. That’s it. Once upon a time, Quintana was a Yankees trade target. He’s at a different stage of his career now, but can still help in the Bronx.
Rick Porcello, RHP
2019-20 stats: 5.55 ERA, 84 ERA+, 4.40 FIP, 3.28 SO/BB
Why he makes sense: Before you yell and scream about that ERA, remember what we’re doing here: Finding some value at a very low price. It’s probably the only way the Yankees can bring back LeMahieu and add three or four more good players to the team while staying under the tax. We know the Porcello story, from New Jersey prep arm, to first-round pick, to AL Cy Young award. But his brief 2020 stint with the Mets may have been a bit of a misleading year thanks to poor luck and defense behind him. Porcello’s 3.33 FIP (fielding independent pitching) was his lowest since 2016, the year he went 22-4 and won the Cy Young. Put him in front of a competent defense and a bargain would emerge.
Nick Markakis, OF
2019-20 stats: .278/.346/.414, 94 OPS+
Why he makes sense: The former Yankees rival is still chugging along as his age-37 approaches. But after nearly sitting out the 2020 campaign, it may take the perfect situation to lure Markakis back to the field and away from his family for a 16th big league season. A shot at a Brett Gardner-type role with the Yankees and chance at a World Series win could do the trick. The Yankees always have outfield injuries, and Markakis could be the veteran, capable left-handed bat ready to go off the bench.
Brad Miller, INF/OF
2019-20 stats: .247/.343/.510, 123 OPS+
Why he makes sense: If we’re judging this list on the likely bang for the buck, no one will top Miller. Since the start of 2019, Miller’s adjusted OPS (sorted by hitters with at least 250 at-bats) ranks in the top 65 of baseball. Some names behind Miller on that list include Paul Goldschmidt, Gleyber Torres and Max Muncy. Miller, a former Triple-A member of the Yankees organization, can really hit, plays multiple positions and would be more than capable as a part-time DH and utility player. Plus, he’d rake with the short porch in right field in the Bronx.
Freddy Galvis, SS
2019-20 stats: .252/.299/.431, 91 OPS+
Why he makes sense: Don’t get caught up in Galvis’ offensive statistics across the board. This isn’t a complete player. But what Galvis does, he does very, very well. Let’s start with defense, and there’s no denying this: Galvis is a wizard at shortstop. I’m not trying to put the guy in the Hall of Fame, but it’s over the top to say this has been one of the best fielders at his position in the sport for years. That hasn’t changed, even at age 31. Add in increased pop (30 HR since the start of 2019), durability and an improved approach (less than 20 percent strikeout rate in 2020) and there’s a useful role player here.
Get Yankees text messages: Cut through the clutter of social media and text during games with beat writers and columnists. Plus, exclusive news and analysis every day. Sign up now.
Please subscribe now and support the local journalism YOU rely on and trust.
Joe Giglio may be reached at [email protected].