- Tim Kabel
Coming into Focus
About the Off-Season: Coming into Focus
By Tim Kabel
March 20, 2023
Today is March 20th. The season opens in exactly 10 days on March 30th, against the San Francisco Giants. I think we can realistically see how the Yankees will construct the team, or at least how they should construct the team. At least most of us can. I listened to yesterday's game on the radio and John Sterling was in mid-season form. He repeatedly referred to Oswaldo Cabrera as Orlando Cabrera and then stated that he might not make the team because the Yankees had "another utility type guy" in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who John deemed to be superior. Suzyn rightfully dismissed this nonsense. Now, let's take a look at the composition of this season's team.
I'm restricting this discussion to the position players. I will leave the pitchers for another day. Besides, there is not a great deal of discussion there. For now, both Clarke Schmidt and Domingo German will be in the rotation until Carlos Rodon returns. Hopefully, that won't be very long. Things are more uncertain with the position players.
Harrison Bader will not be available at the beginning of the season, but it does not look as if he will be gone for long. The Yankees will make do until he returns.
The position of catcher will be split between Jose Trevino and Kyle Higashioka. Any other candidates were injured during spring training. It is possible that we will see someone else later in the season but for now, it will be those two again.
Anthony Rizzo will be at first base.
Right now, Gleyber Torres will play second base and Josh Donaldson will play third base.
Shortstop will be manned by either Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe. Peraza would seem to have the edge, as he is already on the 40-man roster and played in the Majors at the end of last season and in a few playoff games.
Aaron Judge will be in rightfield, for the most part.
Harrison Bader will be the centerfielder.
The leftfielder will be Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Cabrera, Rafael Ortega, or Willie Calhoun.
Until Bader returns from the IL, one of the left field candidates or Judge will play center.
Giancarlo Stanton will be the designated hitter. On some days, he might play rightfield, moving Judge to left, or possibly center while Bader is out.
I don't know about you, but I am not overly inspired by that group of players. That's what it very well may look like but it's not what it should look like. In the next 10 days, the Yankees need to make some more moves. They have a glut of infielders and some players who are dead weight. They need to rectify those situations quickly. Gleyber Torres will be returning from the WBC by Tuesday. He was not injured and will be able to play regularly. That doesn't mean he needs to play for the Yankees.
As I and many others have said repeatedly, Hicks and Donaldson need to be off the roster by March 30th. Whether the Yankees can find someone to trade for them or not, it doesn't matter. They can simply be designated for assignment. If the Yankees want to put the best team possible on the field, then both Donaldson and Hicks need to be off the roster.
Both Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe are ready to contribute at a very high level in the Major Leagues. They both need to be starting on this team. That means that Gleyber Torres needs to be traded. He is a valuable commodity and will bring back a quality player in return. Whether that's a starting pitcher or a starting leftfielder, is uncertain at this point.
Trading Torres will make room for Volpe to start at second base, while Peraza starts at shortstop. If Donaldson is cut, Oswaldo Cabrera can be the everyday third baseman. When needed, he could play other positions and DJ LeMahieu or IKF could play third.
If the Yankees do not acquire someone else to play leftfield, Cabrera can be the starter there, and DJ LeMahieu can be the starting third baseman. IKF will be the utility man.
Removing two players who bring nothing to the team and simply clog the paths of younger, better players is the way to go. Anthony Volpe has proven that he is ready to play on the Major League level. There is really no sense in sending him to Scranton / Wilkes-Barre for a few hundred more at bats. Gleyber Torres is not a bad player. He is not in the same category as Hicks or Donaldson. However, he is streaky, and Volpe has greater upside.
Thankfully, the Yankees have determined that IKF will not be the starting shortstop. He will be an extremely capable bench player. That is his profile anyway. That means either Peraza or Volpe will be the starting shortstop. That is a very good start to making this team better. The team I outlined above is more or less the same team that was eliminated in the playoffs last year. It needs to be better.
Compare that team, with one featuring Volpe at second base and Peraza at shortstop, with either Cabrera or LeMahieu at third base and either Cabrera or and as yet unknown player in left field. It is conceivable that either Calhoun or Ortega could start the year in leftfield but, I suspect the Yankees will make a trade. Again, if they don't, Cabrera could certainly play there, leaving LeMahieu to be the regular third baseman. When he needs a break, Cabrera could be moved in from leftfield and someone else could play the outfield or IKF could fill in.
The Yankees are very close to having a very exciting and competitive team. They simply need to bite the bullet and rid themselves of Donaldson and Hicks. It does not matter if no other team wants them in a trade. Releasing them would be perfect examples of addition by subtraction. Volpe needs to be on this team along with Peraza and it is time to move on from Gleyber Torres. He will bring back an important asset to the team, either in the outfield or as another starting pitcher.
A starting lineup with Cabrera, Volpe, Peraza, and LeMahieu is much more inspiring than one with Hicks, Donaldson, IKF, and Torres. We have seen what that lineup can do, and it would only continue to come up short. The Yankees need to commit to the future and do whatever is necessary to clean up the dead wood and make the team better. They have 10 days to do it.