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  • E.J. Fagan

If I Were Brian Cashman

by EJ Fagan

November 19, 2023


NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission.

Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.


Hal Steinbrenner has given me gave me the following mandate: build a World Series contending team for 2024, don’t exceed the $277 million luxury tax threshold, don’t count on any team taking a bad contract off the Yankees hands. What would I do?

With Jake Bauers traded and Lou Trivino non-tendered, the Yankees have about $247 million committed for next year. I’m going to work within that contraint.

Step #1: Trade Gleyber Torres and Kyle Higashioka Torres has long been underrated by Yankee fans, but he’s no longer a cheap player. Torres is expected to earn $15 million in arbitration. Higashioka is $2.6 million backup catcher, effectively replaced by minimum-earning Austin Wells or Ben Rortvedt. The Yankees can better use their money given the current state of the roster.

I thought about trading Tommy Kahnle’s $6 million salary as well, but the Yankees bullpen is a little thin at the moment and my plan below doesn’t need the extra cash. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Cashman rid himself of Kahnle as well.

I’m not going to try and construct trade proposals here, but I don’t envision either player being traded for nothing. I have other trade targets that I think could be realistic listed below.

DJ LeMahieu becomes your primary second baseman, with help from Cabrera or Peraza, depending on who makes it through the trades.

Luxury tax payroll after Step #1: $230 million

Step #2: Sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto A 25 year-old potential ace is available for nothing but money. I don’t think that the Yankees can pass that opportunity up, even if starting pitching isn’t their top priority. The Yankees need to spend their money on players with their best years ahead of them.

Fangraphs estimates that Yamamoto will earn a 7-year, $28 million contract. Sign me up. The Yankees rotation becomes: Cole, Yamamoto, Rodon, Cortes, King. Pretty darn good if at least one of Rodon or Cortes bounce back into their elite forms.

Luxury tax payroll after Step #2: $258 million

Step #3: Trade for Brendan Donovan and Dylan Carlson It’s getting a little stale, but we have a rumor that the Yankees are interested in Brendan Donovan and one of the Cardinals’ spare outfielders. While the link talks about Alec Burleson, I think Dylan Carlson makes a lot more sense. Donovan is a lefty hitting (strict) platoon bat who can play average defense all around the diamond. Carlson is a defense-first center fielder coming off an injured, frustrating season where he couldn’t crack a crowded Cardinals outfield.

Donovan becomes your third baseman and leadoff hitter against right-handed starting pitchers, whom he has hit .287/.381/.420 against during his career with a great 15% strikeout rate. He should never see a left-handed pitcher.

The challenge for the Yankees in center field is finding an available player who is good enough to win games but won’t block Jasson Dominguez when he returns. I thought about signing Jung Hoo Lee, but they might not have a spot for him when Dominguez, Judge and one other outfielder joins the team via trade. Carlson isn’t going to below anyone away, but he’ll hold the position down for now. Then, he turns into a strong fourth outfielder. Donovan makes the minimum. Carlson is set to earn $1.8 million in arbitration.

Luxury tax payroll after Step #3: $260 million

Step #4: Trade for Juan Soto Boom! The Yankees pull off the trade of the offseason. Juan Soto is a Yankee.

Soto makes so much sense for the Yankees. And I don’t think he’ll cost as much as people think he might. It will hurt to get Soto, but the Yankees probably won’t have to give up a Dominguez or Volpe-level prospect in return.

A big reason why Soto won’t cost as much as you might think is his salary. He’s set to earn $33 million in arbitration, eating up the remainder of our budget. That’s why trading Gleyber Torres is Step #1. The Yankees barely fit under the luxury tax threshold with Soto, leaving room for maybe one relief pitcher signing.

Final luxury tax payroll: $293 million

My 2024 Opening Day Lineup:

  • 3b Brendan Donovan

  • LF Aaron Judge

  • RF Juan Soto

  • DH Giancarlo Stanton

  • 1b Anthony Rizzo

  • 2b DJ LeMahieu

  • CF Dylan Carlson

  • SS Anthony Volpe

  • C Jose Trevino

Bench: Wells, Pereira, Cabrera/Peraza, X Rotation: Cole, Yamamoto, Rodon, Cortes, King or Schmidt

My 2024 Yankees are a team that can hang offensively and defensively with anyone, especially once Dominguez returns. It is more balanced than any Yankee team since at least 2012. It has a young bench that could, we hope, provide some depth. The team suffers a bit defensively when compared with the 2023 Yankees, but it is still probably a little bit better than average.

13 Yorum

Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
19 Kas 2023

This was a good exercise because it builds a team with a budget.

My team (wishful thinking) blows through the luxury cap.

I'd keep Torres for his contract year.

I'd get Soto.

I'd get Yamaoto.

I'd find a third baseman. Candelario is a good one there.

They still need a centerfielder. Florial is too much of a long shot. I'd rather Lee from Korea.

Alan (below) would give Volpe a shot batting lead-off. I get the wish, but, no, no way. Let's let Volpe prove he can hit on a regular basis as the #9 hitter before we expect him to jumpstart the offense. Last year he did not demonstrate that he is a Major League hitter deserving o…

20 Kas 2023
Şu kişiye cevap veriliyor:

LeMahieu may not be an everyday player at this point.

but that is not certain.

he was going pretty well until he was injured in the 2022 season

and seemed to be no more than a league average player in 2023

I thought that his defense at 3B was good. the glove works well, and the average arm was effective.

however, the Yankees needn't play him every day, despite having him as the starter.

they DO have a surplus of infielders and can rest him when appropriate.

there is no problem with his salary and your dissatisfaction with the terms of his contract is not relevant. he's earned the first half of that contract, despite the injury (6.5WAR over three…


19 Kas 2023

Reality Check on Yoshinobu Yamamoto I doubt he signs with Yankees, and he will sign for fewer years and more $$ IMO and Donovan at 3B in platoon scenario with DJ would make sense. If the Yankees have to carry a weak bat, I suppose Florial would be adequate in CF/LF. They can move Torres for pitching at the trade deadline. I don't see Torres long term after 2024 season.


Brad Scheller
Brad Scheller
19 Kas 2023

Pretty good. I'd replace Carlson with Florial and save $1M. Also hit Rizzo after Soto and Stanton after D.J.


Alan B.
Alan B.
19 Kas 2023

Very interesting. My biggest problem is I don't want both of the Cardinals OFs. Then, in your lineup, my best leadoff leadoff hitter is hitting down in it (DJL). The real reason for Carlson is to block Florial.

But who is interested in Torres? This is where I wish the CBA had a salary floor. But then again, if it had a floor, I doubt the the A's move to Las Vegas would've been so easy, and a lot of these tank jobs that made several teams good, would've never happened (but I digress).

But because of now having both Soto & Judge at spots 2-3, I'd like to give Volpe (SS) another shot at the leadoff spot, then Soto…

Alan B.
Alan B.
21 Kas 2023
Şu kişiye cevap veriliyor:

If they let him use his speed and bunt a bit for hits, I think Florial could hit .240 with some pop, and some SBs. While his KBA (instead of hits, I use Ks for my KBA) could be .310 or higher, I see him walking an acceptable amount.


19 Kas 2023

some excellent ideas

without expectation of receiving some great player in return, there is no point at all in trading Torres.

he provides offense without being a liability on defense.

his projected salary is not an impediment to the team's success or the organization's success.

it seems as though the idea of trading Torres as presented herein is mainly for the purpose of clearing 2B for LeMahieu

given that acquiring a platoon lefty to take over 3B, haveing DJ available as the other part of the platoon seems reasonable, perhaps more reasonable than moving DJ into being an everyday player in the middle infield in his age-35 season.

20 Kas 2023
Şu kişiye cevap veriliyor:

from whence comes the idea that the owner is demanding the shedding of Torres' salary as a condition of bringing expensive free agents to the team?

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