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Look out, world — The Yankees’ big guns are ready to swing into action

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CHICAGO — A new day is dawning on the New York Yankees‘ season.

Compared to every other day in an injury-ravaged spring that was dominated by a bevy of little-known backups, this new day will look and feel vastly different. With two of the biggest tests the Yankees will face this year looming on their schedule, the revamped look and feel is timely and necessary.

Remember the B-teamers? Well, this was their team. But now their reign is over. They’ve served their purpose. But it’s time for them to step aside. Why?

Because “Big Boy Season” is about to commence.

It will unofficially kick off Monday night in the Bronx when the Yankees, before taking on key division foe Tampa Bay, introduce a pinstripes-wearing Edwin Encarnacion to the Yankee Stadium crowd. That introduction will mark the moment the organization moves into the latest — and perhaps last — phase of its season, when power becomes a truly potent and viable weapon.

As the Rays and Astros report to the Bronx this week, the Yankees are about to let their big boys play.

“We’ve got a lot of talented guys in the room, and a lot of talented guys heading back, which will do nothing but make our team stronger,” veteran outfielder Brett Gardner said Sunday following the Yankees’ 10-3 win over the Chicago White Sox. “Anytime you can add somebody as good as Edwin, he’s a guy who’s going to make us better.”

In addition to the arrival of Encarnacion, the American League’s home run leader with 21, the Yankees will be welcoming back Giancarlo Stanton, who has been limited to eight at-bats this season but led the big leagues in homers two seasons ago. Stanton is expected to be activated from the injured list Tuesday. Another once-injured big bopper who has paced his league in long balls, Aaron Judge, ought to be back in the lineup in the coming days as well.

The arrival of all three sluggers has Yankees manager Aaron Boone eager to see where his club may soon go.

“Encarnacion, Stanton and Judge, that’s three elite power hitters plugged into our lineup,” he said. “Hopefully it’s something that over time creates a big-time advantage for us.”

One would think these additions would lead to enormously advantageous situations for the Yankees. After all, with three of the league’s best power hitters in the same lineup, no lead ought to be considered safe.

Not to mention the likes of Gary Sanchez (who ranks second in the AL in homers), the similarly powerful Luke Voit, the ever-dangerous Didi Gregorius, the strong Gleyber Torres, the steady DJ LeMahieu and Gardner, the patient Aaron Hicks and clutch Gio Urshela. Put it all together, and there are really no spots for a pitcher to catch a breather.

Remember the days when the Yankees’ offense hinged on the largely inexperienced Mike Tauchman, Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada? Certainly, the Yankees won games with those guys in the lineup, as evidenced by the 32-10 run through April and May, when all three contributed at one time or another. But still, with all due respect, who would you rather have hitting in a spot when an extra-base hit could end a game? Them, or the big boys?

Against this week’s challenging opponents, the Rays and Astros, Stanton has 13 homers and a .237 batting average in 76 games. Judge has a .263 average and 11 homers in 56 regular season games against them.

As for Encarnacion, the 36-year-old designated hitter has 43 homers in 178 regular season games against the two teams. He’s been particularly prolific against them the last two seasons, enjoying the highest home run rates against them in his career during those years.

Encarnacion homered in 9.3 percent of his plate appearances against the Rays and Astros in 2017. In 2018, he homered 8.2 percent of the time. Overall in his career, he homers 5.7 percent of the time he steps in the batter’s box.

With Big Boy Season beginning to take effect, the Yankees are already seeing the byproducts of a roster crunch. Viable options like Estrada and the burgeoning RBI machine Clint Frazier have already been sent down as the Yankees get healthier. In the coming days, Tauchman seems likely to go back to the minor leagues too.

“This is the reality of things,” Frazier said Sunday. “So guess I’m facing reality right now.”

Reality also is that Frazier himself possesses a big-boy bat, but as the odd man out of a changing outfield rotation, he was expendable in this round of roster moves.

Of course, the real roster moves the Yankees will need to make in the coming weeks will be ones that aid their starting rotation. Although they finally got quality work from opener Chad Green and his long-man reliever Nestor Cortes Jr. on Saturday, and a similarly strong outing from James Paxton on Sunday, the Yankees haven’t gotten the consistency they’d like from their rotation in recent weeks.

Currently, Yankees starting pitchers have a 4.13 ERA. Prior to June, however, they had a more palatable 3.76 ERA.

Expect the starters’ failings to be addressed by the trade deadline, but in the meantime, don’t be afraid to gawk at the power the Yankees’ new-look offense is about to showcase. This week gives them a prime opportunity to put it on display.

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Mookie Betts to the Reds (or White Sox) and more winter meetings trades we want to see

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Last year, as the baseball industry headed for the winter meetings in Las Vegas, most of the interesting action in the transaction market had taken place in the form of trades. This time around, the news has centered on an MLB offseason free-agent market that is moving much more swiftly than the glacial pace of the past couple of hot stove seasons.

However, the trade market has lagged a bit. Most deals have sprung from the need to create roster space or to move arbitration-eligible players not deemed worth the investment. The Padres and Brewers pulled off a present-value for present-value deal of sorts, with San Diego swapping LHP Eric Lauer and IF Luis Urias for OF Trent Gresham and RHP Zach Davies, and San Diego was back at it with a deal bringing in outfielder Tommy Pham from the Rays. Solid stuff, but not exactly blockbuster material.

That hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from churning out names at the usual pace, and perhaps when everyone convenes on the West Coast on Sunday, some of these rumors will turn into actual news. It has been a while since we’ve seen a true winter meetings blockbuster, but if there is anything that can be gleaned from the early offseason activity, it’s that a number of teams are actively trying to improve their short-term outlook.

With that in mind, we’ve plucked a few of the leading names from the rumor mill and asked ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield and Bradford Doolittle to play general manager. These are trades we want to see in the next few days. Well, maybe not want — trading good players is both a risky and a sensitive proposition. But these names are out there, and if their teams plan to move them, these are the deals we deem palatable. We’ll also give you a chance to weigh in on their proposed moves.

Jump to deals for …: Mookie Betts | Francisco Lindor | Kris Bryant | Starling Marte | Josh Hader

The Boston Red Sox should trade Mookie Betts to the …

Betts to the Reds for LHP Nick Lodolo, OF Jesse Winker and RHP Lyon Richardson: Let’s start with this: If you’re going all-in for 2020 — as the Reds clearly are doing with the Trevor Bauer trade in July and the Mike Moustakas signing earlier this week — then you should go all-in. Perhaps that will be the case. As Jeff Passan tweeted after the Moustakas signing, “The Reds have plenty more money to spend this winter and they see the National League Central as ripe for the taking.”

It is. The Brewers have lost 88 home runs from their roster in Moustakas, Yasmani Grandal and Eric Thames. They traded away Zach Davies, who led the rotation in ERA and innings, and might trade Josh Hader. The Cubs are apparently actively shopping Willson Contreras and Kris Bryant. The Pirates are the Pirates. Only the Cardinals look as if they’re not taking a step back, and they’re hardly a formidable powerhouse.

So go for it, Cincy. Yes, the Reds have nine outfielders on their 40-man roster. But add them all up and you don’t have one Mookie Betts. You don’t know what you’re going to get from Aristides Aquino after his wild ride from a 14-homer August to a .196 average and 34 strikeouts in September. Winker’s primary calling card is his on-base ability, but he can’t hit lefties. Nick Senzel didn’t exactly tear it up as a high-profile rookie. Enter Mookie. In fact, Mookie would probably be the team’s best outfielder, so you can play him in center, slide Senzel over to left, where he projects as a plus defender, and play Aquino in right, with Josh VanMeter and Phillip Ervin around as passable reserves if Aquino struggles.

Is this enough of a haul for Betts? With just one season and a potential $30 million salary, Betts’ trade value is more limited than it might appear for one of the game’s best all-around players. The Red Sox get Cincy’s first-round pick from 2019 (Lodolo), a staring outfielder (Winker) and an interesting lower-level arm in Richardson, a second-round pick in 2018. If you buy into Lodolo’s upside as the seventh overall pick out of TCU who should move quickly, it’s a worthwhile gambit.— Schoenfield

Chicago White Sox for OF Luis Alexander Basabe, RHP Dane Dunning and RHP Reynaldo Lopez: I feel strongly that this is the offseason for the White Sox to go in heavy to lock down the top couple of spots on their roster. They missed out on Zack Wheeler. Good! Go after Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg. Is Anthony Rendon a luxury? Who cares? Call him up. Move some future value for one season of one of baseball’s best players? Absolutely.

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Yankees GM rappels building, gets fan’s message on Gerrit Cole

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STAMFORD, Conn. — While Brian Cashman was descending the outside of a building Friday, the New York Yankees general manager came across a message taped to a 10th-floor window from a fan: Please sign Gerrit Cole.

Cashman, whose rappelling adventure has become a holiday tradition, confirmed he met with Cole in California on Tuesday and spoke with another free-agent pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, the following day.

“It was a great opportunity, clearly it was very public, that we met with Gerrit Cole and Strasburg while I was on the West Coast,” Cashman said. “At least, that’s who you all are aware of so far. Who knows who I met with?”

The Yankees have made signing Cole their clear offseason priority and have ownership-level approval to offer him a record-setting deal, sources familiar with their plans told ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Thursday.

Cole and Strasburg are the top pitchers on the free-agent market. The Yankees would like to add an ace to a rotation that already includes Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ.

Along with Cashman, assistant GM Mike Fishman, manager Aaron Boone, new Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake and former Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte made the trip to speak with both pitchers, who are represented by Scott Boras.

The Yankees’ fondness for the 29-year-old Cole, whose fantastic 2019 season with the Houston Astros set him up to smash David Price‘s record $217 million contract for a pitcher, was only reinforced during the meeting, sources told ESPN.

New York and the Los Angeles Angels, a team similarly smitten with Cole and in even greater need of pitching, are preparing for a bidding war that executives expect will reach well beyond $250 million, according to sources. The Los Angeles Dodgers‘ interest in Cole is acute as well, though they are also considering bids for Strasburg and third baseman Anthony Rendon, sources told ESPN.

Cashman offered little about possibly signing either pitcher, declining to discuss how much the Yankees might spend.

“I think it was an important part of the process for them,” Cashman said. “It sounds like they have met with many teams, and obviously I can’t predict the future or the timing of their futures; only really they control that.”

Cole was 20-5 with an American League-best 2.50 ERA and a big league-high 326 strikeouts this year for the AL champion Astros. He was originally drafted by the Yankees with the 28th overall pick in 2008, but he declined to sign a contract and opted to attend UCLA.

Strasburg was the MVP of the World Series for the Washington Nationals and was the first overall pick in the 2009 draft.

Cashman will return to California for the baseball’s winter meetings, which begin Monday. First, he’ll attend Sunday’s Heights and Lights, where he will dress as an elf and again descend the Landmark Building.

“I’ll be flying back out after this event and in the meantime staying engaged,” said Cashman, who declined to say if another meeting with either pitcher was planned.

“I’m open to do clearly whatever, as always, is important for the Yankees. If there are certain steps that need to be taken, or conversations on the phone, like any club we are fully prepared to do what’s necessary.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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What’s next for the teams that lose the Gerrit Cole sweepstakes?

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The day Gerrit Cole picks his next team will be a holiday for some team’s fan base, for some team’s front office. That team — maybe the Yankees, maybe the Angels or the Dodgers or the Giants — will have locked down a staff ace for most of the next decade, the best pitcher on the planet (currently) at the absolute apex of his career.

But the other teams will get a call from agent Scott Boras in which he says, in so many words: Gerrit is moving in another direction. That will be a hard moment, a hard day, and the losing bidders will have to quickly pivot.

It won’t be easy. As one general manager asked the other day, “Where are all these teams going to find the starting pitching they need?”

It’s not only the Yankees, Angels and Dodgers who need starting pitching. The White Sox are pushing to add two veteran starters. The Reds need help, and so will the Nationals if Stephen Strasburg doesn’t re-sign. The Phillies, Mets, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Padres and others are looking for starting pitchers.

This is where the losers in the Cole bidding could turn:

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