Utility player Enrique Hernández signed with the Dodgers earlier this week after having reported interest from clubs such as the Giants, Angels, Twins, and Padres. Hernández spoke to Foul Territory about his free agency (video link via X), adding that the Tigers were also interested but that it came down to the Dodgers and Yankees at the end.
The interest from the Tigers was not previously reported, but it seems fair to assume it came before they signed another utility infielder, Gio Urshela. That the Yankees were at the table is not something that was previously reported and would seem to suggest they are open to adding another utility player to their roster.
There are a few different ways Hernández could have been useful off the bench for the Yankees. The club is set to have veterans DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo at the infield corners, both of whom are now in the mid-30s and struggled with injuries last year. He could have given them some extra cover at those spots while also perhaps getting into the outfield mix in a platoon capacity, pairing with lefty Alex Verdugo.
Hernández hits from the right side and has a career slash of .257/.343/.458 against southpaws, good enough for a 115 wRC+, compared to a line of .228/.290/.377 and 80 wRC+ against righties. Verdugo’s career splits are .290/.346/.461 and 115 wRC+ against righties but .259/.315/.350 and 80 wRC+ versus lefties. Left-hander Trent Grisham is also in the mix but he has reverse splits.
The Yankees project to have a bench of Jose Trevino, Oswaldo Cabrera and Grisham in three spots. That leaves one spot open, which could go to Oswald Peraza, but he has an option and is probably better served getting regular reps in the minors as opposed to sitting on the big league bench.
The club’s interest in Hernández suggests they could sign a veteran to plug into their bench, though there aren’t many proven infield/outfield types unsigned. Donovan Solano hasn’t played the outfield since 2012 while guys like Elvis Andrus or Jonathan Schoop never have. Free agent outfielders like Tommy Pham, Adam Duvall or Michael A. Taylor can’t help on the infield. The Yanks just claimed Jahmai Jones off waivers, who has experience on the dirt and the grass and is out of options, so perhaps they will just turn to him or some other claimee to fill out their bench.
Elsewhere in Yankee tidbits, the club continues to be tied to Blake Snell as the lefty lingers on the market. Recent reporting has suggested Snell may follow Cody Bellinger in pivoting to a short-term deal with opt-outs and high average annual values, though this wouldn’t work well for a club like the Yankees. They are already over the fourth and final tier of the competitive balance tax and face a 110% tax on any additional spending. RosterResource puts their CBT number at $307MM, already $10MM over the $297MM top line.
Hypothetically, if Snell wanted the same $30MM salary as Bellinger this year, the Yankees would also have to pay $33MM in taxes to give it to him. Snell also rejected a qualifying offer, so the Yankees would have to surrender their second- and fifth-highest picks in the upcoming draft and $1MM of international bonus pool space to sign him. Brendan Kuty of The Athletic looked at the situation today and reported that it remains unlikely the two sides will get something done for those exact reasons.
As long as the Yankees don’t sign Snell or any other pitcher, then Clarke Schmidt projects as the number five behind Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodón, Marcus Stroman and Nestor Cortes. Kuty spoke to manager Aaron Boone about Schmidt, with the skipper highlighting the strong finish to his season. “He never lost confidence,” Boone said. “He never lost focus. Then he put together a really strong 4 1/2 or five months — after Gerrit, he was the guy we could kind of hang our hat on. Hopefully there’s another step in that.”
In his ninth start of the season, Schmidt allowed seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Rays and had a 6.30 earned run average at that point. But he put up a 4.08 ERA the rest of the way, allowing him to finish at 4.64 for the season overall. The Yanks will be hoping the 28-year-old can take another step forward here in 2024, as they traded away much of their rotation depth in the deal that brought over Grisham and Juan Soto.