The Yankees are targeting star free agent closer Aroldis Chapman, but they’ve checked in on several relievers, the top free-agent starters and a whole host of hitters as they try to improve on their rare off year of 2016.
In addition to the previously mentioned Chapman and Kenley Jansen as Yankees targets, plus hitting stars Carlos Beltran, Edwin Encarnacion, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Bautista, the Yankees have called upon several more top free-agent hitters, including Dexter Fowler, Matt Holliday, Mike Napoli and Brandon Moss, and are believed to have checked in with the better starting pitchers on the market, including Rich Hill and Jason Hammel.
The Yankees did well to save $23 million of the $34 million remaining through 2018 (while adding two pitching prospects) in the deal that sent catcher Brian McCann to the Astros, and they are said to be fielding interest in Brett Gardner and Chase Headley now in hopes of creating more flexibility for their free-agent and other trade pursuits. While one rival GM opined that the Yankees might not have the same luck with Gardner and Headley (they tried to move Gardner previously), Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that “there’s interest in our players.”
The Yankees’ interest runs all over the board, though Chapman appears to be at the top of their list, with him getting the edge over another top free-agent closer, Kenley Jansen, at least for the Yankees, because they had Chapman last year and especially because their trade of Chapman means he wouldn’t cost the signing team a draft choice. Chapman expressed interest in a return in an interview with New Sportsday that was done by Ray Negron, who also happens to be a longtime Yankees employee. Cashman said he read the piece but assumes most free-agent deals come down to the contract anyway, which seems to be a pretty fair assumption. Jansen also remains of interest to them, too, though.
The Yankees were reported to have checked in with right-handed starter Jason Hammel by MLB.com, and sources suggest they’d also have interest in Hill, who may be the top free-agent starter even though he can’t match Hammel’s reliability and consistency.
Beltran could hold particular allure since they Yankees have had him, and he also wouldn’t cost the Yankees a draft choice for the same reason, but there’s word that the Astros and rival Red Sox are also in that game, with the incumbent Rangers believed to be less involved. The Yankees also have shown real interest in Encarnacion, who interests those same teams, plus his old Jays team. But the search doesn’t end there.
While one person familiar with the Yankee thinking suggested Encarnacion might be higher on their list than even Cespedes, Cashman said he doubted anyone but he would know that, and word is that Cashman and Cespedes’ agent Brodie Van Wagenen have spoken as many as five times. The cross-town Mets are obviously interested in re-signing Cespedes, with the Giants, and possibly Nats and Dodgers seen as other potential landing spots for the multi-talented star.
Napoli, who has actually hit better in his career at Yankee Stadium than he has at Fenway, Progressive Field or the Ballpark at Arlington, is an interesting new entry who is believed to have interest from the Indians, Mariners, Jays, Orioles and others. Holliday, Moss and Fowler are more new names, though it isn’t clear whether they expect to add just one hitter or perhaps two, including an outfielder.