About the Off-Season: Let the Roster-Building Begin
By Tim Kabel
November 19, 2022
The off season is underway, and the Yankees have already begun shaping their roster for 2023. Stephen Ridings was claimed off waivers by the Mets. Tim Locastro has been released. Isiah Kiner-Falefa was signed to a one-year contract. Anthony Rizzo re-signed with the Yankees for two years and an option for a third year. Yesterday, the Yankees claimed relief pitcher Junior Fernandez off waivers from the Pirates.
Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner have reportedly been in regular contact with American League MVP Aaron Judge and his agent. The Yankees state they made him an offer. I have not seen or heard any stories of other teams making Judge an offer at this point. That doesn't mean that other teams have not made him an offer but, nothing has been reported.
I have written about the need for the Yankees to clean out the roster. Tim Locastro really served no purpose on this team. With the influx of young, speedy players, he was not someone who was truly needed. Clearing him off the roster frees up space for someone else.
Many fans wanted to see Stephen Ridings have a shot at making the team in 2023. That won't happen. However, claiming Junior Fernandez might have been another of Cashman's stealth moves, in the same vein as acquiring Wandy Peralta and Clay Holmes. Fernandez is a hard throwing, sinker-slider pitcher. The Yankees seem to have a lot of success with that type of hurler. Fernandez is actually two years younger than Ridings.
The Yankees avoided arbitration by signing Kiner-Falefa to a one-year, $6 million deal. That does not guarantee anything for next season. He could easily be traded. He could be a backup or, perish the thought, he could be the starting shortstop again. I don't think the last option will be the case.
Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman have both talked about Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Anthony Volpe being given opportunities to make the team in 2023. I have been advocating this for a long time and so have many others. These young guys are on the roster because Cashman avoided trading them. He didn't sign any of the big shortstops last year. Now is the time to see what the kids can do. Injecting youth into this team Is the right move. There are reports that DJ LeMahieu's foot injury may have lingering effects and surgical options could put him out for the beginning of next season. Mixing young, energetic, and athletic players with the rest of the team could help the Yankees advance further in the playoffs.
Bringing Anthony Rizzo back was the right move for many reasons. He adjusted his swing perfectly to Yankee Stadium over the last year and a half. He is a solid left-handed hitter with power, who fits perfectly between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Assuming the Yankees do go with young players in the infield, Rizzo will be a steadying influence for them. He is an outstanding fielder and has tremendous leadership ability. In addition, if the Yankees didn't sign him, there was a distinct possibility he may have gone to the Astros. That would have been devastating to the Yankees. Furthermore, if Rizzo wasn't on first base, who would be? There were not many great options. Bringing Rizzo back at a slight raise over last season’s salary was a tremendous move.
The fact that the Yankees are actively engaged in negotiations with Aaron Judge is wonderful news. It seems that Hal Steinbrenner has met with him or spoken to him on multiple occasions. He reportedly told Judge he wants him to be Yankee for life. They have also indicated to Judge that they will make other moves to improve the team. Bringing Anthony Rizzo back was the first step in that direction. The Yankees seem to be focused and deliberate. They are following a plan. They are working on bringing back Judge but also on improving the team around him.
So far, it seems as if the Yankees know what they are doing, Other than re-signing Rizzo, they haven't made any huge moves. But not all important moves are huge moves. I anticipate many more transactions, including signings and trades over the next few weeks.
Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner have taken the first few steps, most of them small, in shaping and building the roster for next season. So far, you have to be pleased as a Yankees’ fan.