It’s no secret that San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik has been on the New York Yankees’ radar. A New York native and St. John’s University alum, the fit extends beyond the baseball field. In Brian Cashman’s recent press conference, he announced that Didi Gregorius will undergo Tommy John surgery and his status for Opening Day is uncertain. Gregorius has had a partial tear in his UCL since 2014 with the Diamondbacks, but now he can no longer play through it.
Panik has been a high-potential player during his tenure with the Giants but has also been limited due to injuries of his own. After an All-Star appearance in his age-24 season, Panik has struggled to regain that production on a consistent basis. In 2018, he appeared in 102 games, batting .254 with an OBP of only .307. Panik had an explosive April, but was not able to sustain it throughout the season.
Panik was completely accountable at the end of this season, saying his numbers are nowhere near where they should be. He will enter his second year of arbitration in 2019, and the Giants have to decide whether he is worth the upcoming raise. It also was reported that Panik was involved in the vetoed trade that would have landed Giancarlo Stanton with the Giants last winter. Bobby Evans is no longer the general manager, and it remains to be seen if Panik is in the new GM’s plans.
As for the Yankees, losing Gregorius is a tough blow, but there are still plenty of sources of production in the lineup. Gregorius does help the team in terms of balancing their lineup with a left-handed hitter, and Panik can do the same. By no means will Panik hit the 25-30 home runs Didi hits, but that won’t be necessary on a team that broke the record for most home runs in a single season with 267. The Yankees won’t have a leadoff hitter if Andrew McCutchen and Brett Gardner leave, and Panik has experience batting at the top of the order.
Gleyber Torres can move to his natural shortstop position, and Panik can play second during Didi’s absence. The Yankees also have questions at third base and first base, with Panik being insurance for those positions as well. Can Luke Voit keep up his play over a 162-game season, or can Miguel Andujar be the third baseman of the future with his defensive miscues.
There’s no doubt the Red Sox are better than the Yankees, and they show no signs of being any worse in 2019. The Yankees can’t afford a slow start, meaning the time Gregorius misses is critical so the team isn’t playing catch-up all year. Also, who knows how Gregorius heals from the injury which can cause him to miss more time the same way Aaron Judge sat out longer than expected. Panik will be a more steady option than Ronald Torreyes or Tyler Wade, who are better suited for bench roles.
Perhaps the Giants decide to enter a rebuild after going for it with the acquisitions of McCutchen and Evan Longoria. Madison Bumgarner will be a name discussed this winter, as the Giants might look to make significant changes. The Giants will be selling low on Panik, but with his upcoming arbitration, they might not want to wait much longer. If the Yankees were willing to offer a package similar to the one they traded for McCutchen, there could be a deal.
Cashman also indicated that Sonny Gray will most likely be traded, as it would be best for all sides to move on. Now, Gray is still a talented pitcher with great stuff, so at only 28 years old, he is a piece that could be of interest to the Giants. There is no denying that 2018 was a disaster for Gray, which led to him landing in the bullpen, but if you look at his splits, he is two completely different pitchers at Yankee Stadium and on the road. Gray had a 3.17 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 71 innings away, and an ERA near 7.00 at home.
Despite the season not going the way the Giants planned, they had success with pitchers who had low expectations entering the year. Dereck Rodriguez burst on the scene after being signed by the Giants last year. Derek Holland was once an effective pitcher, and he was signed as a flyer, mostly to eat innings. They could do the same with Gray, who performed well across town in Oakland.
The rumors are already floating that Didi’s injury leads to Manny Machado, but before the Yankees get ahead of themselves, Gregorius is still their long-term shortstop. Panik is somebody they have always monitored, and now there is no better time to bring Panik home.