While the Yankees have so far sat out the chase for Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, general manager Brian Cashman has made no shortage of moves — several of them involving former Rockies.
First, the Yankees signed Troy Tulowitzki with the idea of making him the everyday shortstop in Didi Gregorius’ absence.
That addition comes with little risk, since the Yankees are only paying Tulowitzki the veteran minimum of $555,000.
And the Yankees made two of their most significant offseason signings with players who have spent most of their careers in Colorado: DJ LeMahieu and Adam Ottavino.
All three were either signed by, traded for or claimed by former Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd and were teammates from 2011-15.
Now with the MLB Network, O’Dowd said while he always roots for his former players, he won’t be paying special attention to the Yankees this season, despite his growing connections to this year’s team.
Of course, O’Dowd, who was the Rockies’ GM from 2000-14, remains a fan of all three of the newest Yankees, and he believes they all have a chance to thrive in The Bronx even though their teams in Colorado never won more than 74 games in a season.
From Tulowitzki, the seventh-overall pick by the Rockies in 2005, telling O’Dowd he always had a “strong desire” to play for the Yankees, to LeMahieu’s self-confidence and Ottavino getting away from Coors Field, O’Dowd thinks the three will benefit from being in New York.
O’Dowd said Wednesday he still thinks LeMahieu is best-suited to being a regular second baseman, where he’s won a pair of Gold Gloves, but he also acknowledged that when LeMahieu didn’t make the team coming out of spring training in 2013, he played extensively at shortstop with Triple-A before being recalled for good that May after Josh Rutledge struggled and LeMahieu moved back to second base.
But that wasn’t O’Dowd’s only recollection from LeMahieu’s last stint in the minors.
“He didn’t make the team that spring and he should have,” said O’Dowd, who traded for LeMahieu from the Cubs in 2011. “We had a conversation, and you could tell he thought we were making a mistake, and he was 100 percent right.”
LeMahieu, who signed a two-year, $24 million deal to serve in a utility role, won’t be asked to carry much of the load in the lineup. That’s a good thing, since he hasn’t been a standout offensively throughout his career, although the Yankees hope his ability to put the ball in play will help offset some of their high strikeout totals elsewhere in the order.
As for Ottavino, O’Dowd agreed with the right-hander, who said after he signed a three-year, $27 million deal to join the Yankees’ bullpen, that getting away from Coors Field will make his job less challenging.
Ottavino pointed to the fact he spent time “calibrating” his pitches while he adjusted to pitching on the road or in Denver’s high altitude.
“He had to take two approaches with his breaking ball,” said O’Dowd, who claimed the right-hander off waivers from the Cardinals in 2012. “Especially with the late action on his pitches, everything he threw played differently depending on whether he was pitching at home or on the road. Now that’s not an issue.”
O’Dowd also drafted Nolan Arenado in the second round in 2009. The third baseman is another potential Yankees target, especially if they don’t end up with Machado. But he won’t be a free agent until after this season, so O’Dowd politely declined comment when asked how the 27-year-old might fit in with the Yankees.
But if this offseason is any indication, Arenado might see some familiar faces soon enough.