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Moving From Disappointment To Glory?

by Owen Hetherington

November 10, 2021

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The 2021 New York Yankees season was nothing but a disappointment. Since the Bombers lost in Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS during a “rebuilding year”, the organization’s expectations have never been higher. But season after season, the Yankees seem to take a step back, leaving the fans with another disappointing offseason.

It’s been about a month since the Yankees were bounced in the AL Wild Card game. I’ve had some time to let my emotions settle and really reflect on what went wrong (or what HAS been going wrong since 2017) last season.

What it really boils down to is that the Yankees have been outmatched since 2017 by two teams: The Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox. The Astros have made the ALCS five straight seasons, reaching the World Series three times, and winning it once. The Boston Red Sox have won four World Series in the past 18 years. The Yankees, however, have won one World Series in the past 21 seasons and have made the Fall Classic just once in the last 18 years. Quite average, or even pathetic, when you think of an organization with 27 championships.

For an organization that prides itself on its history of winning, the Yankees have done the complete opposite over the last 12 seasons. George Steinbrenner would call any season short of winning the World Series a failure. Despite all their regular-season wins and short-lived playoff appearances, only one word can describe the Yankees over the past 12 seasons: failure.

Although the Yankees won 92 games and made the playoffs (for one game), last season was one of the most frustrating seasons I can think of being a Yankee fan. Poor defense, lifeless plate appearances, and sub-par pitching were the story of the 2021 Yankees.

People like to call Yankees fans spoiled. I would have to agree with them. Yankees fans expect perfection and a World Series parade in October every single season. But people my age (21-years-old) have seen nothing but failure from the New York Yankees. Yes, the Yankees won it in 2009, but I’m not counting a title that I was 9 years old for. The Yankees have been to the playoffs for much of my lifetime, but each playoff loss is just heartbreak after heartbreak.

The point of this article isn’t to read about me ranting. The point of this article is to address the obvious that changes need to be made this offseason. Like many Yankees fans, I was expecting to see more coaching changes, including the hiring of a new manager. Yes, Aaron Boone has made the playoffs 4 straight seasons, but making the playoffs isn’t an accomplishment, especially for the New York Yankees. Now that Boone has been extended, the organization needs to make changes with the product they put out on the field. But the question becomes, who will stay and who will go?

Shortstop

It’s become apparent at this point that Gleyber Torres can no longer be trusted to play shortstop moving forward. Out of all the shortstops in baseball (min 500 played), Torres ranked 25th with a .952 fielding percentage. You had to hold your breath every time the ball was hit too short. Not ideally what you want out of a player who plays arguably the most important infield position.

In 2020, Torres struggled during the shortened 60-game season, hitting just .243 over 42 games. Many thought, “He’ll bounce back in 2021”. Torres carried over his offensive struggles into 2021.

Last season, Torres slashed .259/.331/.456 with 9 HR, 51 RBI, and 22 doubles. He picked it up after the All-Star Break, hitting .289 with 6 HR, 22 RBI, and 12 doubles over his 50 games of the season. Good? No. Average? Maybe, yes. But it’s not exactly the Gleyber Torres we remember that hit 38 bombs in 2019. The offensive production has declined, but not quite enough to give up on Torres entirely. The ceiling is high for a player like him.

What I do know is that Gleyber Torres cannot be trusted to be the everyday starting shortstop. We saw Andrew Velazquez, Tyler Wade, and Gio Urshela fill the role at short with Torres moving back to second. The team was much better when Gleyber Torres was not at short.

Who can the Yankees get this offseason to replace Torres at short, assuming Torres moves back to his natural position at second base? The obvious answer is either Corey Seager or Carlos Correa.

Correa led AL position players in WAR (7.3), posted a .850 OPS, and won his first Gold Glove in 2021. He’s everything the Yankees need both offensively and defensively. Correa ranked third among all shortstops last season hitting .279. He’s durable and at age 27, can give the Yankees long-term depth at short. The issue: Carlos Correa is projected to receive a $300M or higher contract. It might be worth it for the Yankees to take a gamble on one of the best shortstops over the last 5 seasons.

Corey Seager is another option. Seager slashed .306/.394/.521 over 95 games after he missed most of the season with a broken hand that he suffered back in May on a hit by pitch. It was his best offensive season to date, and his adjusted OPS the past two seasons (147) outshines Correa (121). His lefty bat would most certainly be favorable with the short porch in right. He checks nearly every box.

Honestly, the likelihood of Brian Cashman signing either of these players is slim to none, as such, other options are Javy Baez, Jose Iglesias, and Andrelton Simmons.

There’s no better time for the Yankees to be a buyer at shortstop. The question isn’t whether the Yankees will go out and get a shortstop, the question is, which one are they going to acquire?

Center Field

Aaron Hicks should not even be in consideration to start in center field next season. He has been nothing but a disappointment since Cashman extended him for 7 years worth $70M. He provides no offensive threat to opposing pitchers and can almost be written off as an automatic strikeout. Defensively, he takes awful reads on fly balls and is not exactly the guy you want patrolling the heart of the outfield.

The Brett Gardner saga seems to have finally come to an end. Don’t get me wrong, I love Brett Gardner, but he hasn’t been productive in years. He’s not an everyday starter and it’s best to cut ties with the veteran outfielder after 14 years in pinstripes.

Starling Marte is the perfect fit for the Yankees. Marte turned 33 back in October and has been a dynamic player for more than a decade. He can hit for average, steal bases, and is an on-base machine. He is undoubtedly the best outfielder in the 2021-2022 free-agent class. I could see the Yankees making a push for a 3-5 year contract.

Chris Taylor is another option in CF. Taylor is an above-average hitter and has proven to be one of the best defenders in the game. The versatile outfielder made his first career All-Star game in 2021 after hitting .277 (81-for-292) with 10 HR, 46 RBI, 15 doubles, and 3 triples over his first 86 games. Taylor would fit like a glove with the Yankees and the bidding war for him will be high.

Starting Pitching

The Yankees starters posted a 3.91 ERA in 2021. 15 different pitchers made starts for the Bombers last season but did not get the job done in big moments. Gerrit Cole did not perform well in the playoffs and seemed to decline after MLB changed their foreign substance policy. Cole is a finalist for Cy Young after going 16-8 with a 3.23 ERA in 30 games started.

Aside from Cole, the Yankees rotation could use another arm to put the staff over the top. A couple of guys would be great acquisitions for the Yankees, including Robbie Ray. There are several great starters available, and the Yankees will likely need to sign at least one to replace the loss of Corey Kluber, assuming the Yankees don’t resign the two-time Cy Young Award Winner.

Conclusion

I could go on for days writing about who the Yankees should target in Free Agency. If there’s one thing certain, the Yankees need to make some serious changes to get the team back on track in 2022. The Yankees can’t get complacent like they did last season. Something needs to change, and if it’s not going to be replacing Boone or Cashman, it has to be the players.

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