Yankees News/Rumors: Keep an eye on Tomoyuki Sugano, Brett Gardner return

Tomoyuki Sugano, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees are in the market for starting pitching, but with free agency developing slowly this year due to COVID-19, we shouldn’t expect general manager Brian Cashman to make any expedited moves. He’s waiting to see how valuable players are after an abbreviated 2020 season, which subsequently drove valuations to polarizing ends of the spectrum.

However, there is one foreigner that could be intriguing for the Yankees, and they have prioritized Japanese stars in the past. This time around, it is Tomoyuki Sugano of the Yomiuri Giants.

Sugano has been phenomenal in the Japanese league, posting a 1.97 ERA this past year with 14 wins and 2 losses. Over 137.1 innings, he struck out 131 batters and earned 8.6 strikeouts per nine.

While the Bombers are usually the team that pursues star Japanese players, the New York Mets could be in the market for Sugano this time around with new owner Steve Cohen.

Here’s the latest from Joel Sherman of the New York Post:

“The Mets are, at minimum, looking into Tomoyuki Sugano, and one outside executive said, ‘Watch the Mets on this. I think they have as good a chance as anyone.’”

“If the Mets were to land Sugano, it would provide another symbol of a shifting dynamic in New York baseball with Steve Cohen now owning the Mets. The Yankees have been the New York team that has landed mega-stars from Japan in Hideki Irabu, Hideki Matsui and Masahiro Tanaka. The Mets’ biggest foray was an ill-fated, three-year, $23 million accord with Kazuo Matsui, who was a star in Japan, but not to the same level as those the Yankees secured.”

Are the New York Yankees looking to bring back Brett Gardner?

The Yankees are a bit thin in the outfield as well as pitching, and while it is expected they will start Clint Frazier in 2021, they must have quality depth behind him. They do have Mike Tauchman, but Giancarlo Stanton is unable to play defense after consistent injuries the past two seasons.

With the lack of depth in the infield, bringing back veteran Brett Gardner makes a ton of sense, as long as it’s a cost-efficient contract. A one year, $5 million deal might get the job done, as the Yankees previously rejected his club option for 2021.

Gardner’s agent stated on a potential comeback, via NJ.com:

“I indicated to Brian, as Brett has always indicated, that Gardy would like to be back there. Brian said, ‘We’ll see how all this plays out and we’ll be in touch.’ I talked to him briefly just to get an update one day last week, and Brian basically said nothing changed in terms of their situation of figuring things out. So that’s where it all stands.”

Gardner still offers plenty of value, despite being 37 years old. In 2019, Brett hit a career-high 28 homer and 74 RBIs, thanks to juiced baseballs. His statistics took a nose-dive this past season, but he remains a competent defender and can fill in at any of the three outfield spots. It should be a no-brainer for Cashman to keep Gardner around, as long as he’s willing to accept a team-friendly deal.

“I love Brett Gardner,” Cashman said on ESPN radio a few weeks ago. “He’s been everything you could ever want since he was drafted and he’s as tough as they come. He’s great in that clubhouse. I’d love to partner back. Just like DJ LeMahieu and Tanaka and the rest of them, it just remains to be seen how things play out. But certainly he can still play. Without a doubt. He impacts in a positive way. It just has to play itself out, but in a general vacuum I’d love to have Brett Gardner back.”