by Chris O’Connor
October 9, 2021
For the Yankees, moving forward will be tricky.
Despite their payroll limitations, the Rays have lapped the Yankees and are not going away anytime soon.
The Red Sox reset their payroll in 2021 in what was supposed to be a bridge season, yet they were better than the Yankees. With their young, versatile core, tremendous resources, and one of the best GM’s in the game in Chaim Bloom, they are not going away.
And the Blue Jays have perhaps the scariest team heading into 2022 and beyond with their young core of hitters and underrated starting pitching.
The Yankees are, to a degree, stuck in the middle.
Most of their top prospects will not be ready until 2023.
The Yankees seem to have excellent pitching depth, but their lineup is worrisome. Aside from Gleyber Torres, who is not exactly dynamic, their younger starters were 27 year-old Joey Gallo and 28 year-old Gary Sanchez. The Yankees need to get younger and more athletic. They need more versatility. It becomes too easy to game plan for the team in high pressure situations when they have so many boom-or-bust hitters and when they do not even remotely scare teams on the bases.
Despite having Gallo, Judge, and Stanton on the books for 2022, the Yankees need a center fielder. Judge and Gallo cannot man that position for a full season, and Aaron Hicks is not only injury-prone, but he will be in his age-32 season and has lost a step over the past few seasons. Brett Gardner is a possibility to bring back, but more as a depth piece.
The Yankees also need a shortstop; Gleyber Torres is not the answer, and thankfully this is one of the most heralded free agent shortstop classes of all time. But will the Yankees jump into that market. And should they?
The only absolute locks I can see the Yankees bringing back are Judge, Stanton, Urshela and LeMahieu. Judge and Stanton are obvious; Urshela is a plus defender at third who is under team control at an affordable rate for the next two seasons; and D.J. only because no team would pick up the remaining 5 years and $75 million for an infielder who just slugged .362 in his age-32 season. Aaron Hicks can be thrown in there for the same reason, although I do not think he will be guaranteed a starting spot.
The other players all have questions:
Joey Gallo only has one year left on his contract, is not a natural center fielder, and was terrible in his stint with the team.
Gleyber Torres had to be moved off of shortstop because his defense was so bad and has slugged .366 over the past two seasons.
Luke Voit seemed to fall out of favor with the team,
Anthony Rizzo is a free agent
Gary Sanchez has one more year of arbitration before he becomes a free agent and has constantly drawn the ire of Yankees fans.
It is clear that the lineup needs a dramatic change.
The Yankees will have many difficult decisions to make this offseason. There is no clear place to start, but as they begin, it’s clear that the Yankees are behind their three top competitors in their division, let alone the best teams in the rest of the league.
It’s going to be a big bridge to cross for the Yankees to even be in contention in 2022.