The vast majority of Yankee fans are fixated on the team’s quest to re-sign the reigning AL MVP Aaron Judgebut the Yankees are also looking into potential pitching upgrades. Andy Martino of SNY reports the Yankees recently requested Jacob deGrom‘s medical records, and MLB.com’s Jon Morosi tweets that they’ve been in touch with NPB ace Koudai Senga’s representatives.
Neither development is indicative of an all-out pursuit, of course. The Yankees have the financial wherewithal to sign any free agent in any given offseason, so it only stands to reason they’d make sure to be keenly aware of the potential market/asking price and the current medical status of any market’s top targets. At present, there’s no indication the Yankees have actually had a formal meeting about either pitcher.
The Yankees currently project to have a five-man rotation of Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino, Frankie Montas and Domingo Germanthough righty Clarke Schmidt and prospects Johnny Brito and Randy Vasquez could also pitch their way into the mix before long. German, 30, was solid through 15 games (14 starts) last season but was limited to 92 2/3 innings — minors and big leagues combined — while battling a shoulder impingement. Montas, acquired this summer with the expectation he’d be a key rotation piece down the stretch in ’22 and all season in ’23, struggled to a 6.35 ERA in eight starts with the Yankees. He also spent a little more than two weeks on the injured list due to shoulder inflammation.
As things stand, the Yankees project to carry a $206MM bottom-line payroll, per Roster Resource, although their luxury-tax bill is already north of $222MM. Judge alone could push the Yankees into the second tier of luxury penalty, and both Senga and (especially) deGrom would come with notable average annual values, further ballooning the team’s luxury bill. Signing both Judge and deGrom seems like an extreme long shot, but speaking purely theoretically, that duo alone would likely push the Yankees into the newly created fourth tier of the luxury bracket.
As with the early stages of any offseason, a lot of this groundwork amounts to little more than due diligence. Requesting deGrom’s medicals does not serve as a clear portent for concurrent, all-out pursuits of the two-time Cy Young winner and the current AL MVP. The Yankees have already made an updated offer to Judge, GM Brian Cashman indicated last week, and both Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner have voiced on multiple occasions that Judge is the team’s top priority. However, no front office would simply presume a free agent is a lock to remain in place, and no team wants to be blindsided and unprepared in the event their homegrown star departs. The Yankees are no different and are surely gauging the entire market accordingly.
As far as the luxury tax is concerned, it bears mentioning, too, that if the Yankees do add a notable starter — whether as one of several additions or as their primary offseason pickup — doing so could enable Cashman and his staff to deal from the current group of in-house candidates. Montas and German, projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz at respective salaries of $7.7MM and $2.6MM, could be shipped elsewhere and slightly alter the financial outlook, speculatively speaking.
Both deGrom and Senga are among the most coveted pitchers on the market, although both come with red flags. Although he’s a two-time Cy Young winner and arguably the best pitcher on the planet when healthy, deGrom has missed considerable time in each of the past two seasons. Senga, of course, is still entirely untested against MLB opponents — dominant as his numbers in Japan may be. To this point, the Rangers and Mets have been the teams most prominently linked to deGrom. Senga, meanwhile, is hoping to pitch for a win-now club in a big market, agent Joel Wolfe recently said in an interview with NBC Sports’ Gordon Wittenmyer. In addition to the Yankees, he has been tied to the Giants, Mets, Padres, Red Sox, Cubs and Rangers. Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic reported over the weekend that Senga recently visited Texas brass.