Yankees sign Corey Kluber
One of the consolations for the slow Red Sox offseason has been that most other teams have been just as slow, and that includes the Yankees. As long as the Yankees are also not giving their fans reason to celebrate. the anxiety here is pushed down at least to some extent. Well, that changed on Friday as New York made a couple of moves. We’re going to start with the one that is not as impactful for them, because it is more so for the Red Sox. We’re starting with New York coming to terms with Corey Kluber on a one-year deal worth $11 million.
Before we get into the Red Sox of it all, it’s worth remembering the Yankees lost Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ from their rotation, at least for now. All three remain unsigned as of this writing. Kluber now slides in behind Gerrit Cole. They’ll likely add another pitcher at some point before the season, but also remember they have Luis Severino on the way back, likely on a similar timeline to that of Chris Sale after both underwent Tommy John around the same time of last year. So, it’s not hard to see the motivation here for New York, who definitely needed some rotation help.
This is the first move that has really felt like a blow to the Red Sox, though. There have been other potential fits who have signed elsewhere, but none of them seemed to represent the mix between known interest and potential fit as Kluber. The upside, the fact that it was just a one-year deal, the AAV was not totally limiting for the rest of the offseason. It checked all the boxes. So for him to not only not land in Boston but go to their biggest rival is disheartening, to say the least. It’s impossible to know how much of this is on the Red Sox not being aggressive enough and how much is that he just wanted to be in New York. It’s worth noting Eric Cressey worked closely with Kluber through his rehab and also is employed by the Yankees, which certainly had to help matters.
But whatever the reason and whatever extent the Red Sox are to blame versus what percent was simply out of their control, it doesn’t really help the gut punch that it feels like. As we’ve said with other pitching signings, there are still options out there. But this was one of the best and one of the ones that makes the most sense, and now it feels like they’re in a position where it’s Jake Odorizzi or bust. That doesn’t feel like a great place to be, if we’re being honest with ourselves.
Yankees sign DJ LeMahieu
This was obviously the bigger deal for the Yankees, both in terms of impact and size of the deal itself, but it didn’t have the same effect on Red Sox fans. But the Yankees did indeed agree to terms with their top infielder DJ LeMahieu, who got a six-year deal worth $90 million.
At first blush that contract certainly seems long, and it is. LeMahieu is going to be 33 years old midway through next season, so six years is a big commitment. But these contracts don’t occur in a vacuum and the Yankees needed to make this happen. They’ll have a good lineup no matter what, but LeMahieu is an important factor that takes the whole group to another level, and as a team that is trying to win a World Series and win one now, they couldn’t afford to let that go. So they extend the deal out a bit for a lower AAV, which lets them build this year’s roster up a bit more without worrying as much about the luxury tax. They are willing to take a couple bad years on the back end for a better chance at a World Series in the short-term. And really, they’re the Yankees. They can afford to carry that deal not being great for a couple years at the end.
There was a point earlier this week where it looked like, for the first time, LeMahieu may actually end up elsewhere, with the Red Sox even being brought up in the rumor. That turned out to likely be a negotiating ploy, though. The Red Sox never seemed particularly likely, before or after that rumor, to get involved in this market. It does seem like they’re going to get some help for second base, but not this high on the market.