While the owner-implemented lockout that's been in place since Dec. 3 snuffed out the hot stove, the New York Yankees were active in doing their due diligence on some high-profile free agents before the labor stoppage. According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees "requested and received" medical reports on shortstop Carlos Correa, and left-handers Carlos Rodón and Yusei Kikuchi.
It's already known that the Yankees checked in with Correa prior to the lockout, but the request for medicals suggests their interest in the All-Star goes beyond the cursory. Thanks to Correa's combination of exceptional plate production and strong defense at the premium position of shortstop, the 27-year-old is our No. 1 ranked free agent for the 2021-22 offseason.
In addition to a heart-of-the-order bat and skilled fielder like Correa, the Yankees could also use pitching help. Thus, their interest in lefties Rodón and Kikuchi. Here's what our R.J. Anderson wrote about Rodón in ranking him the No. 31 available free agent coming into the offseason:
"Rodón bet on himself last winter after he was non-tendered by the White Sox. Despite coming off a run of injury-ravaged and otherwise disappointing seasons, he refused to consider offers from teams who intended to use him in the bullpen. Rodón's stubbornness paid off. He returned to the White Sox rotation throwing harder and with better control than he had exhibited in 2020. He subsequently enjoyed his finest season to date, as well as his first All-Star nod. Rodón's fatigue issues late in the year may limit his market, but he won't have to worry about the bullpen anytime soon."
And here's his write-up of Kikuchi, our No. 43-ranked free agent:
"Kikuchi had a labyrinthine contract that called for different terms and pay scales based on whether or not the Mariners exercised their portion of an option. When they declined to do so, he opted out of what amounted to a one-year deal worth $13 million to seek greener pastures. He should make for an interesting target for teams willing to tinker with his pitch mix. Kikuchi has a mid-90s fastball that plays quicker because of his deep release point; a slider that mirrors the heater's spin; and a couple of other pitches, including a low-90s cutter that served as his primary offering versus left-handed batters. Agent Scott Boras tends to know what he's doing, so we assume he'll find comparable money to what he walked away from."
While the Yankees are poised to welcome back Luis Severino to the rotation this season, they still could use reinforcements behind ace Gerrit Cole. In terms of engaging the fan base and moving the needle when it comes to the quality of the roster, though, nothing compares to a possible Correa addition.