It’s no secret that the New York Yankees have been in search of rotation upgrades this offseason. The team made a serious run at landing Yoshinobu Yamamoto before the Japanese ace landed with the Dodgers and was linked to just about every arm on the market — Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, Dylan Cease and more — before signing Marcus Stroman to a deal last month.
But Brian Cashman refuses to let New York’s need for pitching compromise his sense of what is and is not good value. The Yankees bailed on Snell after hearing the lefty’s lofty contract demands, and a recent report suggests that Cashman was also unwilling to go the extra mile for another big fish: former Brewers right-hander Corbin Burnes, acquired by the Orioles in a blockbuster deal earlier this month. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the Yankees were also in the bidding for Burnes, but talks stalled after Cashman refused to include the team’s top prospect, outfielder Spencer Jones.
The Yankees’ first-round pick out of Vanderbilt back in 2022, Jones’ 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame and ability to absolutely murder a baseball makes it easy for fans to dream on the second coming of Aaron Judge. Jones slashed .267/.336/.444 with 16 homers and 43 steals in 117 games across High-A and Double-A last season, and he should be able to stick in center fielder in the Majors. Combine that with the obvious offensive upside, and you can see why Cashman values him so highly. (Nightengale also added that Jones’ inclusion was also a sticking point in negotiations regarding Cease earlier this winter.)
Whether it makes sense to hold on to the outfielder so tightly, however, is another matter. It’s hard to overstate how desperate the Yankees are to contend in 2024, with Juan Soto around for just one year and Gerrit Cole and Aaron Judge not getting any younger. And New York still very much needs pitching after how badly Carlos Rodon and Nestor Cortes struggled with injuries and ineffectiveness last season. Plus, we’ve seen the ways in which Cashman’s reticence to part with young talent can backfire; just go back a couple of years, when his refusal to include Anthony Volpe resulted in Luis Castillo heading to Seattle instead. Cashman pivoted to A’s righty Frankie Montas, a deal that blew up spectacularly and immediately.
Maybe Jones will blossom into a young star that helps ease the burden on Judge as he ages into his 30s. Maybe Burnes starts to wobble a bit as he ages, as we’ve seen with pitchers over the years. But if the O’s take off with their new ace, and the Yankees stumble again, it’ll be easy to go back and question whether Cashman should’ve been a bit more aggressive in adding to his roster ahead of a must-win season.