While the Yankees have made only one major move in recent weeks, James Paxton's trade has sparked rumors. The rumblings of Sonny Gray are commonplace now. There are constant references to Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Justus Sheffield would have been offered for Paul Goldschmidt and Jacoby Ellsbury for Robinson Cano would have been discussed.
We can relate some of these rumors in interesting ways. The offer for Goldschmidt, the Ellsbury / Cano exchange and Harper's first-goal debates, considered as a group, make one wonder: are the Yankees looking for an upgrade to first base?
Reports on Harper playing first base have multiplied over the past month. The Yankees seem to have discussed this possibility. Harper did not play the job last season, but he prepared for it at one point to ease a possible stalemate in the Championship attack. If the Yankees signed the 26-year-old superstar, the first goal would be a plausible landing point, with Judges Aaron, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner already present.
The Yankees have offered Sheffield to the Diamondbacks for Goldschmidt in recent weeks, before eventually sending it to the Mariners for Paxton. Goldschmidt is 31 years old and one year of freedom, and may not fit the Yankees' or the young Harper's and Machado's chronology. He also finished fifth in the last five years in terms of a corrected offensive according to Parkings and Ligues, which will help him open the window for the Yankees title this year.
The Ellsbury Conference for Cano was reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required) just a few days ago. Cano could play second base as Gleyber Torres move closer to a short stop while Didi Gregorius would recover from an elbow operation and then go to first base, which could be imminent, no matter how old Cano is ( he turned 36 in October).
Every rumor on its own does not prove anything about the Yankees' strategy this winter. Even together, they do not prove anything definitively. Taken together, however, the fact that the Yankees have clearly stated their openness to the first goal upgrade suggests that they see the job as a potential need.
In truth, the first goal is a very delicate position for the Yankees. Greg Bird was considered the base player of the future just six months ago, but after running a .199 / .286 / .386 slash in 2018, he had three consecutive lost seasons. Last year, Luke Voit was a real revelation and his play, a .333 / .405 / .689 line with the Yankees, was remarkable enough to deserve a second review. Still, Voit 'lack of credentials seems to leave the Yankees uncomfortable by writing his pen name as the first baseman of 2019.
Teams discuss all kinds of moves and permutations, so it's not crazy to hear a lot about their basic situation. Even then, it's hard to ignore that the Yankees have no idea what they want to do to fill this position. The addition of a high-end, well-established bat to the cold corner seems to be one of the possibilities for winter.
It should be noted that even though the Yankees have made offers for Goldschmidt, it does not seem that they are actively seeking it. The latest news from Rosenthal indicates that the Yankees are not tackling Goldschmidt for the moment, and that the first base is not a priority at the moment.
It's as if the Yankees have turned away from the first goal and are right, because they still have a hole in their rotation that needs to be filled. Yet the Yankees have apparently spoken of Harper, Goldschmidt and Cano as potential first-mover players. This suggests that the likes of Patrick Corbin and Machado are not the only top players on their radar. The first goal is right, and although it does not seem likely that the Yankees will go there, it is clearly something that has been and will be taken into account. Some may consider it a vote of no confidence for Bird and Voit, but it might be best if the Yankees are open to any creative way to improve the team in 2019.