Monday Morning Meditation: Brief Yankees’ Thoughts
By Patrick Gunn
The New York Yankees have yet to sign a free agent or make a trade. This appears to be a quiet offseason partially based on the COVID-19 fallout and budget restrictions from multi-billion dollar-teams.
So, we likely will not see the Yankees make too many shakeups to their roster this season. It would be nice to see the Yankees add a left-handed bat, or a marquee shortstop (Francisco Lindor?) to their middle infield, or see the Yankees add a starter and a few relievers. With that said, the Yankees are most likely going to just make a few moves to tweak their team and rely on their already present core and depth.
Now, that isn’t to say that the Yankees are not a talented team. This is still mostly the same roster that has finished in the top-five in run differential two years in a row. And they get a full season (er, fuller year, who knows how much of a 2021 baseball season we’ll get?) of Gerrit Cole at the top of the rotation.
Yet, I can understand why Yankees fans would be disappointed with the Aaron Boone Yankees’ years. With Joe Girardi, it felt like the Yankees overachieved more often than not. The Bomber’s free-agent deals during the mid-2010s did not pan out (Jacoby Ellsbury? Brian McCann?), and the prospect depth was being rebuilt. Yet, Girardi still took several teams with negative run differentials, old rosters, and weaker depth to stay competitive. In 2017, his last season managing New York, he brough an inexperienced, young roster to the doorstep of the World Series.
Meanwhile, Boone has entered the Yankees with World Series or bust expectations and championship cores. Those expectations and core rosters have gotten the Yankees to just one American League Championship Series. Yes, they have won exactly one playoff series every year, but two of those wins came in the Wild Card round.
Each year, they’ve been outclassed by a better flash in the pan. In 2018, it was the miracle Red Sox, led by a transcendent Mookie Betts, a Cy Young worthy Chris Sale, and everything going right. In 2019, it was the Astros, a dynasty the Yankees wanted to live up to, with a lineup that delivered in the postseason and a lockdown rotation led by Justin Verlander, Cole, and Greinke.
This was supposed to be the year the Yankees got it done. The Red Sox traded Betts away and the Astros lost Cole and had to deal with the fallout from their sign-stealing scandal. No massive superpower was left to compete with the Yankees.
And, well, the Rays happened. A well-managed, inventive, feisty team with endless pitching depth and a unique attitude outflanked the big-budget Yankees. Tampa Bay struck out a ton at the plate and a miraculous rookie carried them. Yet, the Rays still outlasted the Yankees and made it to the World Series.
That division series loss is what’s put this core and management group in question, especially as the once considered top-tier bullpen dissolved into three reliable pitchers in October, Gary Sanchez slumped again, and the Yankees got fancy and used Deivi Garcia as an opener…with J.A. Happ as the following pitcher.
For what it’s worth, I still think this core has championship potential. I know I’ve written about the Yankees needing a left-handed bat, and that would help, but even without, it the Yankees have the lineup depth to win without it. Also, the recent Astros core was led by Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, and Alex Bregman…all right-handed batters. Yes, Michael Brantly helped the last two seasons but not during their 2017 championship run. Unless you consider Josh Reddick, or the 2017 forms of Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran as massive threats, the Astros have got it done with primarily right-handed lineups.
The Yankees have a strong enough core to get it done, they just need to finish that one big run. And a left-handed power bat in the middle of the order who can give good right-handed relievers trouble would help out, which is why I want the Yankees to go after a great switch-hitter in Lindor. His flair would transform the Yankees and him and Gleyber Torres in the middle of the infield would help a ton.
As for the pitching, I would love to see the Yankees resign Masahiro Tanaka because of his leadership and consistent innings at the top of the rotation. Then getting another arm, maybe Taijuan Walker or Garrett Richards, to add more depth and potential pitch out of the bullpen at times. And Liam Hendriks would be an amazing addition, but I’m not sure the Yankees would pay his price.
These are a few signings the Yankees could make to improve their team going forward,