Free agent third baseman Mike Moustakas and the Yankees have been in occasional contact in recent days, though Yankees people suggest the signing of any star remains unlikely at this moment due to concerns over the luxury-tax threshold and potential loss of a draft pick.
Moustakas would enhance and balance what’s arguably baseball’s most dangerous and dynamic lineup (the Astros and Nats have a case there, too), but people close to the team continue to suggest a Moustakas signing remains a “long shot.”
While Moustakas would give them another big left-handed hitter along with Greg Bird and Didi Gregorius to go with right-handed slugging stars Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez, the Yankees seem more focused on pitching options that would be less expensive and more easily fit into their budget at the moment.
They have been talking to teams about trades, though the likelihood of a deal with the intra-division rival Rays, the team with the most/best pitchers for trade (Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi) seem remote.
Yankees people do like Moustakas, and they could surely see big production with their short porch in right field (Moustakas set a Royals record with 38 home runs playing home games in pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium), but they do seem to be spending more time on rotation help, at least at the moment. Speaking about the seemingly small Moustakas chances, one Yankees-connected person said, “It has nothing to do with the player, it’s the money.”
If they can work it out, the Yankees would be interested in a short-term deal. Everything points to the Yankees wanting to do only short-term deals with a third baseman; they are staying below the threshold for a presumed run at superstar shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado, a star of next year’s mega free agent market. The Yankees would have been willing to sign their own Todd Frazier on a one-year deal, though Frazier wound up going crosstown to the Mets on a two-year deal.
The third base market has been rough for a couple years. Even Justin Turner, a major star, only had the Dodgers’ offer last year when he signed back with Los Angeles for $64 million over four years, Turner himself has said.
The Yankees have considered free agent pitcher Alex Cobb, as well, but for the moment are looking at potential trades that could more easily fit into their budget. The Yankees are said to be between $16 million and $22 million under the luxury-tax threshold of $197 million at present, with interest in keeping some extra money for possible trade-deadline deals.
That would seem to inhibit the chances for Moustakas, Cobb or anyone seeking $15 million-plus annually unless they are able to deal a high-priced veteran such as Jacoby Ellsbury, who makes $22 million a year. As reported by FanRag Sports, the Yankees are thought to be willing to pay about half of Ellsbury’s salary if they can find a taker. Ellsbury also has a full no-trade clause, complicating matters, and he’s shown little interest in going elsewhere (unless it’s the Giants) to this point.
If something can be cleared up in that regard, the chances for a Moustakas deal might be enhanced.