About the Off-Season: Meanderings Of My Mind
By Tim Kabel
December 11, 2023
Over the weekend, I didn't provide my usual Saturday article, so today I will be bouncing from topic to topic like Santa going from stocking to stocking.
The Yankees will be meeting with Yoshinobu Yamamoto today. A lot has been made about the fact that the Mets owner, Steve Cohen, flew to Japan and had dinner with Yamamoto and his family. Well, the Yankees Brian Cashman and Omar Minaya were on hand to watch Yamamoto pitch a no-hitter in September. In addition, the Yankees have been following him very closely for quite some time. If the Yankees do sign him, they will have an extremely impressive starting rotation. I agree with Dr Semendinger that Carlos Rodon could have a very big year next year. If Nestor Cortes is healthy, that would give the Yankees a very solid quartet. Clarke Schmidt would be more than adequate as a fifth starter.
Trading for Juan Soto was a tremendous move but, it cannot be the last move. The Yankees have too many areas that need improvement. It was a major step but only if there are more steps to come.
I do not believe the Yankees are done making moves in the outfield. I love the trade for Soto and although i have some questions about Verdugo, I think he can be a very solid role player. I do not believe they will open the season with Aaron Judge in centerfield, Verdugo in rightfield, and Soto in leftfield. Two things need to happen. The Yankees need to acquire either Cody Bellinger or Jung Hoo Lee to play center field. Then, they need to free up the designated hitter spot by trading Giancarlo Stanton. They could then use the DH spot to rotate their outfielders. Soto could get the bulk of playing time there.
Jung Hoo Lee is three years younger than Cody Bellinger and has historically hit for a very high average. He would also be cheaper, presumably. The major advantage that Bellinger has is that he can also play a very credible first base, which would allow him to take over for Anthony Rizzo when Jasson Dominguez returns from his injury.
The addition of Trent Grisham to the roster essentially guarantees that Estevan Florial's days as a Yankee are numbered.
I don't believe that both DJ LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton will be starters in the Yankees' lineup next year. If they are, the team will not be as good as we hope it will be.
Of the Yankees regulars, I suspect the most likely to be traded are Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, and Alex Verdugo.
I believe Anthony Volpe will have a much better year in 2024. If he hits to all fields and uses his speed more, I can imagine him stealing well above 30 bases and hitting for a much higher average.
I believe Austin Wells will wind up becoming the primary catcher next year. Jose Trevino will get his opportunities as well but, the offense that Wells can provide as well as his better-than-expected catching abilities will push him to the forefront. I think it's extremely important that he catch Gerrit Cole as early as possible in spring training to see if they work well together.
I believe Oswald Peraza will be a starter on the 2024 New York Yankees. I do not know if that will be at second base or at third base. If they trade Gleyber Torres, it will be at second. That will then leave the question of who will play third base. I do not believe that DJ LeMahieu, if he is here next year, will or should be the starter. He has been declining steadily over the last few years, and is better suited to be a utility player rather than a regular.
Even Aaron Judge suggested the Yankees have a couple more moves to make. I imagine one of those will hopefully be the signing of Yamamoto. Once that is done, the Yankees could turn their attention to other areas. However, I would not be surprised if they make a move before they sign Yamamoto to send him a message as to how serious they are about being contenders. I think the Juan Soto move certainly did that, but acquiring another major piece to the team could be an important step toward landing Yamamoto.
One of the best aspects of the acquisitions of Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo is the fact that they are both well under 30 years old. This isn't the Yankees acquiring Matt Carpenter or someone else at the tail end of their career.
The Yankees need to either find or develop a young third baseman. Oswald Peraza could potentially be the answer, but he may be more suited to second base. I don't think signing Matt Chapman is the answer. He will command a very high salary and does not hit for a lot of contact or, really, all that much power for what the team would be paying.
I find it hard to believe that some people are critical of the Juan Soto trade. He is an amazing offensive player who could help the Yankees make it to the World Series this season. If they want to re-sign him and he enjoys being here, that should not be an issue.
I bet John Sterling has been lying awake the past few nights, thinking about what his home run calls will be for Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo. Any thoughts? I'm thinking he will say something that plays off "Juan" for Soto. The Verdugo one will be a little trickier and may involve some obscure reference from the 1800's or an off-Broadway production.
If the Yankees do acquire Jung Hoo Lee, John's home run call for him could be quite fascinating. I imagine something involving Jung Hoo and some variation of the word "who". Perhaps something about all the Who's down in Whoville.
The Yankees are a much better team right now than they were a week ago. However, it is not unreasonable to hope they will be even better next week than they are today. Or if not next week, by the end of the month.
With the trade of Michael King, Jhony Brito, and Randy Vazquez this week, Will Warren and Clayton Beater are moving up the ranks as prospects for the Yankees. They could conceivably both be on the team at some point in 2024. Beeter may be more suited to a role in the bullpen.
It would be nice if the Yankees picked up a solid bullpen arm in the next few weeks but, that is not their highest priority. They have multiple possibilities in the minor leagues and have always demonstrated an ability to find underachieving relief pitchers on other teams whom they could develop.
Before last season, we heard a lot about how the Yankees would have a lot more stolen bases because they would have speedier players on the team and the combination of the larger bases and the limited number of disengagements by the pitcher would also help. It didn't really materialize. At the beginning of the season, it looked as if Anthony Volpe was going to steal a lot of bases. He wound up with 24, which isn't bad, but he swiped 50 the year before in the minors. I would like to see him get back to being more aggressive on the base paths.
As I am writing this, the Yankees are working on finalizing a trade with the Dodgers which would send a non-40-man roster prospect to Los Angeles in exchange for two players on the 40-man roster. It is believed one of those is a Major League pitcher and the other is a prospect. Not much else is known at this point. The Yankees do need pitching depth and have the roster space to make such a trade. It's hard to say more at this point.