By Sweeny Murti
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Here are a few Yankees thoughts to chew on with your Thanksgiving feast this week:
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There are a few tangents off last week’s Brian McCann trade.
First, I think the Yankees have shown not only faith in Gary Sanchez to be their everyday catcher, but it also shows a great deal of faith in Austin Romine, who got his first extended look last season in the backup role.
We always knew Romine could catch. This year he proved capable at the plate, too, including in RBI spots when he batted .364 (16-for-44) with runners in scoring position.
Romine’s glove and bat made opposing scouts I spoke to during the season take notice, and now the Yankees also have taken notice.
Second, there is some pressure now on Sanchez. He entered last spring with odds in his favor to make the Opening Day roster as the backup catcher to McCann. But Sanchez sputtered in the spring, and Romine won the job.
It worked out better for the Yankees that Sanchez didn’t make the team in April, because his continued development and strong season at Triple-A made his August promotion and the Yankees youth movement a reality.
But now the historic start to his career is in the rearview mirror and a new reality takes shape with Sanchez being counted on in a big way. His maturity was in question a couple years ago. Now he appears ready. And the Yankees need him to be ready.
And finally, the increased financial flexibility has increased speculation that the Yankees are gearing up for a big-money free agent. While that’s never to be ruled out, it feels more like a wait-and-see situation depending on the market for guys such as Yoenis Cespedes or Edwin Encarnacion. The Yankees are likely to back away if the price tags go too crazy, but they should always be considered lurking until those guys sign elsewhere.
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It’s nice to be left-handed and throw a baseball. Brett Cecil’s four-year, $30.5 million deal with the Cardinals stands to be the jumping-off point for some other free agents, including former Yankees Mike Dunn and Boone Logan. They were actually traded for each other once — Dunn was a piece of the trade with Atlanta that brought Logan to the Yankees with Javier Vazquez in 2009.
Cecil is a couple years younger than those two, but the durability of both Dunn and Logan is intriguing. The Yankees have expressed interest in both. We’ve seen Logan recently. Perhaps Dunn gets a little more play from the Yankees this time around.
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Carlos Beltran would make an excellent addition to the Yankees in 2017. With the loss of McCann, they have room to add someone to take DH at-bats, and they have shown interest in bringing back Beltran, who I still enjoy pointing out led the Yankees in home runs (22) last season despite being traded to Texas on Aug. 1.
The Yankees lost a pair of switch-hitters with power in Beltran and Mark Teixeira. That flexibility is vital to the Yankees’ lineup. Remember, they boasted Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada, and Melky Cabrera on the last championship team in 2009. Switch-hitters, especially those with power, can wreck an opposing skipper’s bullpen management. The Yankees currently have only Chase Headley and Aaron Hicks to bat from both sides.
Beyond that, Beltran is a veteran presence whom some of these Baby Bombers look up to. He had a very positive impact last spring on both Aaron Judge and Jorge Mateo, and that continued during the season. Beltran’s leadership could be a key ingredient with the younger players on this team going forward.
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I also wouldn’t sleep on Mike Napoli as a possible DH/first base platoonmate with Greg Bird. The Yankees’ lineup is still lefty-heavy, and Napoli is a big righty bat to plug in if the price is right.
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The Yankees have been listening to offers for both Headley and Brett Gardner. No indication yet that will actually happen, but I’m curious about a couple potential landing spots.
The Giants had some interest in Headley as a free agent two years ago. And the Indians had interest in Gardner a few years ago.
I haven’t heard that either situation is even being talked about. But those possibilities crept back into my head recently.
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Gleyber Torres drew raves during the entire Arizona Fall League season, and then he took home MVP honors. It’s the second time in three years that a Yankees prospect was MVP of the AFL. Greg Bird won it in 2014.
Torres is still a good bit away from the major league roster. He’s expected to start the year at Double-A Trenton. At the time the Yankees acquired him in the Aroldis Chapman trade with the Cubs last July, a member of the Cubs organization told me Torres, who turns 20 next month, will be in the big leagues within two years.
While Mateo is still a top prospect as well, Torres could be the one who pushes Didi Gregorious to third base. One member of the Yankees organization told me recently that Didi could make a nice transition there because of his strong arm and quickness on reaction plays.
Have a great holiday, everyone. And if you happen to be near the Pinedale Shopping Mall, please watch out for falling turkeys!
Follow Sweeny on Twitter at @YankeesWFAN