The Yankees have had discussions about signing second baseman Joe Panik, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney tweets, as New York continues to look for ways to both add infield depth and add left-handed balance to a lineup that is loaded with righty swingers. Panik is a left-handed bat, though he is coming off a pair of subpar years at the plate — the veteran has only a .249/.311/.334 slash line over 883 plate appearances since the start of the 2018 season. These struggles prompted the Giants to part ways with their longtime second baseman last summer, though Panik hit better after catching on with the Mets for 39 games in 2019. The 29-year-old Panik also has the bonus of being a native New Yorker, born in Yonkers and a product of St. John’s University.
With Gleyber Torres likely to shift from second base to shortstop, the keystone could be occupied by DJ LeMahieu if the Yankees don’t prefer to use LeMahieu primarily as a first baseman. Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada are the top in-house options for the utility infield or part-time second base jobs if LeMahieu is indeed slated mostly for first base work, though the Yankees could prefer to be as flexible as possible with LeMahieu based on matchups. In this sense, Panik’s lack of defensive versatility could be a detriment to his chances at a Yankees deal; Panik has played all but one of his 682 MLB games as a second baseman, with the lone exception being one game at first base for San Francisco in 2018.
Here’s more from around the AL East…
- The Rays’ two-year, $12MM contract with Yoshitomo Tsutsugo wasn’t the highest offer received by the outfielder, though the team’s strong courtship of the Japanese slugger eventually convinced him to come to Florida, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes. The Rays were the first team to contact Tsutsugo after he was posted by Yokohama, they provided him with a thorough 20-page booklet about the club and the Tampa area, and a six-person crew that included manager Kevin Cash and GM Erik Neander visited Tsutsugo in person prior to the Winter Meetings, while Tsutsugo was working out in Los Angeles. All of the wooing paid off for the Rays, who now welcome a player with 185 homers over his last six seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball.
- The Blue Jays made a similar big push to land Tanner Roark, as the right-hander told reporters (including Kaitlyn McGrath of The Athletic) that Toronto was the first team to get in contact with his representatives as free agency opened. “They knew what they wanted, and they wanted me and it’s exciting to have someone want you like that,” Roark said. Pitching coach Pete Walker also told McGrath that he and Roark “just seemed to hit it off” during a 25-minute phone call. Roark ended up inking a two-year, $24MM deal with the Jays, and is looking forward to being a veteran leader within Toronto’s young clubhouse.
- The Orioles had several conversations with Fernando Abad before the left-hander signed with the Nationals, MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko reports. With Abad now off the board, the O’s will continue to look for low-cost experience for their bullpen.
- Also from Kubatko, the Orioles have hired Darren Holmes as their new bullpen coach. Holmes worked in the same role with the Rockies for the previous five seasons. A veteran of 13 MLB seasons, Holmes’ playing career included a brief five-game stint as a member of the Orioles in 2000.