About the Off-Season: Adding the Final Pieces
By Tim Kabel
December 17, 2022
On Thursday, the Yankees signed Carlos Rodon to a six-year, $162 million contract. We have all speculated about this move for weeks. It was the move the Yankees had to make. They needed to bolster the starting rotation, and they were not interested in getting someone to fill out the back end. Now, the Yankees have arguably the best starting rotation in baseball. I anticipate some arguments on that, that's why I said, arguably. I actually read a few pieces in which the authors criticized the move. Some people felt it was something the Yankees should have avoided. I don't feel that way. I don't believe most Yankees’ fans feel that way. Could it be a bust of a signing? Absolutely. Every signing could be.
At this point, the Yankees have addressed the starting rotation. The bullpen could use a little tweaking, and I'm sure they will pick up some arms that we haven't heard about, as they always do. Wandy Peralta and Clay Holmes were only household names in their own households before they came to the Yankees. I'm sure Brian Cashman is scouring the rosters of all the other teams in an effort to find the next dominant relief pitcher. The bullpen is just one area that needs some work.
The starting lineup has some deficiencies. Hal Steinbrenner has stated repeatedly that he wants Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe to get shots to make the opening day roster in the middle infield. If that happens, Gleyber Torres and Isaiah Kiner-Falefa will not be regulars. Most likely, one or both of them, (probably Torres), will be traded. He could be exchanged for one or two relief pitchers. Kiner-Falefa might stay but, in a backup role. Otherwise, he would be expendable as well.
The main remaining area to be addressed is leftfield. I would feel confident playing Oswaldo Cabrera there, because he showed an ability to play the position very well and his bat seems like it would come along nicely. Unfortunately, if he plays left field, the Yankees are essentially locked into Josh Donaldson playing third base. There is no reason to suspect that Josh Donaldson will have a rebirth offensively next year. I would suspect his struggles would not only continue but intensify. He may wind up being an extremely highly paid and dissatisfied bench player. That is a recipe for disaster. I believe the Yankees are trying to trade him, without much success but, they need to keep trying.
So, if Oswaldo Cabrera is not going to play left field, who will? I thought the most likely candidate was Andrew Benintendi, who could simply be re-signed and would just cost the Yankees money, as opposed to prospects. They already traded prospects for him last year. Assuming he is healthy, he would have been a tremendous asset to this team. He could have batted second, behind Bader, and in front of Judge, giving Judge even more RBI opportunities. The fact that Benintendi hits for a high average, gets on base, and is left-handed, all worked to his advantage.
One thing is clear, Aaron Hicks will not be the starting leftfielder for the New York Yankees next year. That would be a tremendous step backward and, in some ways, would nullify a lot of the progress the team is making.
Donaldson and Hicks need to be removed from the roster. They will contribute nothing positive, and if they are in the lineup, they will kill rallies and fixate on their occasional flashes of talent.
Gleyber Torres is not in the same category as Donaldson and Hicks. He could be a serviceable major leaguer, as he was this year. Unfortunately, he is very streaky both from season to season, and within each individual season. I think it is time to see what Volpe and Peraza can do on a regular basis.
If the Yankees do manage to trade Donaldson and sign a leftfielder, then Oswaldo Cabrera could play his more familiar position of third base. I know there are a lot of Yankees’ fans who want him to be an all-purpose utility man but, if he can play third base well defensively and contribute offensively, why not play him regularly. If DJ LeMahieus' foot is healed, he can work into the mix at first base, second base, and third base.
Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman have done a very good job so far. However, they are not done. They need to finish off the team. Right now, it's like a Christmas tree, missing some ornaments, and the star on top. It looks nice but, it's not finished.