Keeping an eye on Red Sox rivals in the Bronx this offseason

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 27: Aaron Hicks #31 and Jacoby Ellbury #22 of the New York Yankees run towards the dugout in the sixth inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 27, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 27: Aaron Hicks #31 and Jacoby Ellbury #22 of the New York Yankees run towards the dugout in the sixth inning of a game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 27, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

Baseball is a business and the Boston Red Sox pay attention to their competitors. Just what are the Yankees doing and how does it compare to Boston?

There is a sub-season for Red Sox fans and it is a direct look south to New York City and baseball other than the Mets. The New York Yankees sauntered into the division title adjudicated by Boston after three seasons. Naturally, eyes focus on just how the Bombers are doing. We may be Red Sox Nation but in the cruel world of baseball geo-politics, the Yankees matter.

Boston does have a bit of comeuppance with the recent turmoil surrounding Jacoby Ellsbury and his deletion from the New York roster. Ellsbury became one of the more dismal free agent extractions in the border war with the Yankees and now New York has the drama of attempting to vacate their last vestiges of financial obligations to Ellsbury.

The Red Sox are no novices to inflated contracts and questionable free-agent signings. We may be as giddy over this fiscal nightmare as the Yankee fans are over Pablo Sandoval for just one singular nightmare out of many.

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The reasoning behind Ellsbury is simple, as in slightly over $21 million simple. Get that off the books and it allows some freedom for New York to add what they and the Red Sox need – pitching, as in starting pitching. C.C. Sabathia has retired to work on his diet, Masahiro Tanaka made 31 starts with mixed results, Luis Severino tossed just 12 innings, Domingo German has some best defined “personal issues,” and that collectively results in a need for depth.

The Yankees undoubtedly will have a baseball flirtation with Gerrit Cole or Madison Bumgarner and not an Andrew Cashner. The problem is as it always is when discussing payroll and that is squeezing under the luxury tax. New York’s projected payroll is $215 million and supposed the desire to remain under the LT may strangle attempts at a big splash.

The segue between rotation dysfunction is a quite clear path since there is brutal competition between the two teams regarding the preponderance of question marks. A clear choice of just who is on the precipice disaster is difficult. Will Chris Sale go out via Tommy John Surgery before Tanaka or Severino? An interesting wager that maybe Bally’s Casino would take.

The Yankees offense is one of the elites in baseball and right below the sign pilfering Astros for cumulative statistical dominance. In the homer-happy environment of 2019, New York was one bomb shy of the Twins grand total of 307. That was with Giancarlo Stanton enjoying an almost season-long excursion to the Injury List and Aaron Judge playing in just 95 games.

Will they both contribute a full season? Replacement part Edwin Encarnacion is gone via buyout so the anticipation is the twin towers of home run terror will make a return. Then there is the enigmatic Gary Sanchez who has incredible power and an accompanying list of negatives, especially defensive deficiencies.

The Yankees are in the process of having two infielders have their pinstripes erased. In a past Yankee history – meaning free-spending George Steinbrenner – Didi Gregorius would be signed and stuffed somewhere in the infield. Gregorius is now a free agent and on the cusp of a significant contract and the Yankees have expressed little concern and even less interest in re-signing the capable Gregorius.

The good news is Miguel Andujar slashed .297/.328/.527 with 27 home runs and 92 RBI, but the bad news is that was 2018. Andujar suffered an injury-ravaged season and New York is reportedly open for business at the trading mart for the talented and controllable Andujar.

Joining the list of the expendable is Greg Bird whose swing was custom-made for Yankee Stadium, but whose continuing foot issues have decimated his once-promising career. Andujar, Bird, and Gregorius are exit material based on the polar opposite of Ellsbury – solid success in trades and signings.

DJ LeMahieu may be one of the best free-agent moves in recent years for New York or any team. A versatile player with excellent power numbers gets the most bang for the buck value. Add to that trades/purchases that brought in three surprises in Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, and Gio Urshela. New York can afford the luxury of finding value for Andujar.

Trades may also surface for outfielder Clint Frazier who managed a .267 average and 12 home runs in just 69 games. Another – who like Andujar – could be flipped for pitching. Of course, looking at payroll New York could pass on long-time outfielder Brett Gardner and keep Frazier. Frazier may just be a cheaper option than Jackie Bradley Jr. for the smart shopper.

One item of note from my Red Sox vantage point is New York should make the resigning of catcher Austin Romine a priority. Romine is in semi-regular status but handles the staff with a degree of efficiency lacking in Sanchez. Romaine also had a nice .281 season with occasional bouts of power with eight home runs.

This is merely an early glance at the Yankees and there are certainly parallels to what is happening in Boston regarding payroll. Both teams have a solid core of young players and both teams have rotation questions that have to be addressed. Both have players available for trade, but New York has no one of the statures of Mookie Betts being available.

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The Yankees will make moves and those moves could impact Boston decision making and that comes with a visa versa. Neither team has professed a desire for rapacious expenditures on prized free agents, but we have heard that tune before.