Yankees lose elite baserunner to Twins after being claimed off waivers

mlb: texas rangers at baltimore orioles, bubba thompson, yankees
Reggie Hildred-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, the Yankees struggled significantly with base running. In an attempt to address this issue, they brought in Greg Allen, who served as a late-game pinch-runner to help the team score. However, their shift towards more productive hitters is proving to be a more effective strategy than relying on speed-focused players who occupy a roster spot primarily for specific situations.

Reevaluating Speed and Roster Decisions

Greg Allen’s departure marked a change in the Yankees’ approach. The team explored the possibility of using Bubba Thompson in a similar role. Thompson, known for his exceptional speed (ranking in the 100th percentile in sprint speed and stealing 22 bases in 92 MLB games), seemed like a potential fit. However, his slash line — a .242/.286/.305 average with one home run, 13 RBIs, and a 30% strikeout rate — indicated limitations in his overall game.

Thompson was not expected to make the active roster, but the Yankees considered keeping him in Triple-A as a base-running asset. Ultimately, the team decided to move in a different direction, evidenced by their recent moves including the outrighting of Thompson, Oscar Gonzalez, and Jeter Downs. These changes suggest that the Yankees are preparing for other transactions during spring training.

One such move involved creating a roster spot for Marcus Stroman, who recently signed a two-year, $37 million deal. While the Yankees are making progress, there are still questions about the strength of their starting rotation and its ability to support a World Series run.

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Yankees’ Cautious Approach in Free Agency

General Manager Brian Cashman is focused on avoiding overspending on older players in free agency. This cautious approach is exemplified by the Yankees’ stance on Blake Snell, a 31-year-old pitcher coming off his best season.

Despite the allure of signing Snell, his age and recent peak performance suggest potential risks. The Yankees did offer Snell a six-year, $150 million deal, but it was quickly rejected as he seeks more than $200 million on the open market.

Similarly, the Yankees are hesitant about committing to Hector Neris, a 34-year-old bullpen arm seeking a two-year deal worth over $7 million annually. The Yankees have historically extracted significant value from lesser-known, more affordable bullpen arms, making a costly investment in Neris potentially disadvantageous.

The team’s strategy involves conserving financial resources, potentially to absorb a contract at the upcoming trade deadline or to prepare for future investments, such as Juan Soto’s extension in 2025.

While adding high-profile players is enticing, the Yankees are prioritizing long-term value over immediate spending. This approach aims to prevent committing to contracts that may not yield sustained benefits, aligning with their strategic vision for the team’s future success.