USA Today Sports

Yankees aggressively seek to close gap on Red Sox with pair of high-profile targets

John Tomase
November 30, 2018 - 1:17 pm

The Red Sox won 108 games and then romped to a World Series title, which it makes it easy to forget the other 100-win team in the AL East that’s intent on getting better.

Whereas the Red Sox project to return largely the same roster pretty much everywhere except closer, the Yankees are wheeling and dealing in an attempt to close a manageable gap between the two clubs. If Gary Sanchez catches a shaky Craig Kimbrel offering about an inch lower on his bat in Game 4, the two clubs would’ve played a winner-take-all Game 5 with every ounce of pressure squarely on the Red Sox in the division series.

He didn’t, and the Red Sox eventually won it all. Yankees GM Brian Cashman immediately began plotting an aggressive offseason that has already netted burgeoning left-hander James Paxton from the Mariners, with more pitching help on the way.

The latest rumor would benefit the pitching staff as a whole, with the Yankees reportedly talking to the Marlins about a catching swap of Sanchez and prospects to the Marlins for J.T. Realmuto, per Jon Heyman of Fancred.

Miami’s All-Star is the most athletic catcher in baseball, with Statcast data ranking him No. 1 in speed on the basepaths and No. 2 in pop time to second base. He’s also an emerging offensive star who earned his first Silver Slugger in 2018 after hitting .277 with 21 homers and 74 RBIs despite playing his home games in an extreme pitcher’s park, production which contributed to a league-leading OPS-plus of 131 at his position.

Realmuto is just one target, however. The Yankees are also hosting All-Star left-hander Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks for a free agency visit. Corbin finished fifth in the NL Cy Young voting after going 11-5 with a 3.15 ERA while striking out a career-high 246 in 200 innings.

The Red Sox didn’t have too many weaknesses last season, but left-handed pitching gave them a lot more trouble than right-handers -- their team OPS dropped nearly 100 points, from .817 to .719. And that’s against all lefties, not ones as good as Paxton and Corbin, who led their respective leagues in shutouts last year (OK, OK …. with 1 apiece).

If Corbin ends up elsewhere – the Nationals and Phillies are reportedly in the mix – the Yankees could make a play for former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber in Cleveland or former World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner in San Francisco.

Either way, they’re going to keep making upgrades to a team that’s breathing down Boston’s neck.

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