About the Off-Season. Embracing Change
About the Off-Season. Embracing Change
By Tim Kabel
October 9, 2023
This season, the Yankees did not make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. That is not acceptable to the players, management, ownership, or fans. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that changes need to be made to this team. Otherwise, there is no reason to suspect that the results would be any different in 2024.
Many people feel that Oswald Peraza is a superior shortstop to Anthony Volpe. He probably is. The general thought is that the best combination, defensively at least, for the Yankees would be to have Volpe at second base and Peraza at shortstop. That may very well be true, but I don't know if it's realistic. First, they already have Gleyber Torres at second base. Torres has become one of the Yankees' most consistent and reliable hitters and is a very important part of the lineup. I don't know if Peraza could match his production if they were to replace him, at least next year.
The other issue is that the Yankees don't have anyone else to play third base, other than DJ LeMahieu, who may be needed at first base, and is probably better suited to the role of an all-purpose infielder, playing everywhere except shortstop.
The point is that if you don't have to replace Torres, why would you? If you can keep Torres at second base, play Volpe at shortstop and Peraza at third base, that might be the best way to go. Playing Volpe at second base and Peraza at shortstop might be the gold standard for infield defense with this team, but It might not be practical, and it might not be the best overall option, factoring in Torres.
The Yankees started to get more athletic and younger at the conclusion of the past season. That needs to continue. In addition, the team needs to be more well-balanced in regard to having left-handed hitters in the lineup. If Anthony Rizzo is able to completely recover from his concussion and play next season, he will provide solid offense from the left side of the plate. If Austin Wells becomes a fairly regular presence as the team's catcher, he should also be able to contribute offensively from the left side. When Jason Dominguez returns, he will also provide some offensive firepower as a switch hitter.
Still, the Yankees should seriously consider bringing in another left-handed bat, such as Cody Bellinger through free agency. He hit for a high average last season and had a lot of home runs and RBI. Another option would be to trade for Juan Soto of the Padres, who was reportedly on the market and may not coat as many prospects as he did when traded by the Nationals. If the Yankees acquire Bellinger or Soto, and play Wells regularly, they will have four left-handed bats in the lineup when Dominguez returns and five if Oswaldo Cabrera is playing. That will provide greater balance to this team and make the lineup much more formidable.
Another area where the Yankees need to improve is weeding the roster of over-the-hill, faded veterans in prominent roles. Getting rid of Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson was a good start in that direction. Something needs to be done about Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton has vowed that he will work very hard to resurrect his career. He has become a one-dimensional player who is not very good at that one dimension and is a mere shadow of his former self. There needs to be regular and frequent check-ins with him during the winter to see what progress is being made. If it turns out that all he's doing is bench pressing fashion models again, that won't work. If he arrives in spring training and shows that he has made adjustments and improvements, it may be enough to enable the team to trade him. I would be reluctant to invest a lot of hope in the idea of Stanton being a major offensive weapon for the Yankees next season. He is too injury prone and seemingly set in his ways to be relied upon. His streakiness is off the charts and when he is in a cold streak, he is almost an automatic out.
The Yankees also have to figure out how to better handle injuries so that they don't make bad situations worse. The way they handled Anthony Rizzo, Jose Trevino, and Jason Dominguez last season was inexcusable and damaging to the individual players and the team as well. That can't continue. I agree with the people who say that that issue alone should be enough to get Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone fired. But that is unlikely to happen, at least in the case of Cashman. So, the Yankees need to address the issue with better conditioning and training and much more open communication between the players, the manager, and the front office, particularly regarding injury and health issues.
The Yankees have declared that this season was a disaster and unacceptable. In order to rectify that, they need to embrace change. The adjustments noted above are some of the steps that need to be taken to make this team capable of making the playoffs and perhaps even winning a championship.