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  • Writer's picturePaul Semendinger

Perspectives: The 2024 Yankees, Soto, King, Verdugo and More...

By Paul Semendinger

December 6, 2023


This morning, I'd like to summarize some of my main points on the Yankees right now as quickly and concisely as I can.

1) The Yankees right now are set at exactly two positions. Just two. Only two. They dug themselves into a deep hole. It's bad.

Here are the 2024 Yankees right now:

1B - A QUESTION: Anthony Rizzo missed more than half the season with a concussion that wasn't handled properly. He will be 34-years-old in 2024.

2B - SET POSITION: Gleyber Torres is a solid player. He is a plus hitter.

SS - A QUESTION: Anthony Volpe didn't hit last year. We don't know if he is a big league hitter.

3B - A QUESTION: We don't even know who is playing third. If it's DJ LeMahieu, there are big questions- he's never been a regular third baseman for a full season, he's not young (35- years-old in 2024), he hasn't stayed injury-free, and he hasn't been a great hitter since 2020. If it's Oswald Peraza, no one knows if he can hit in the big leagues or even play third regularly. He's never been a regular third baseman.

LF - A QUESTION: Alex Verdugo can't be the answer here. I liked that the Yankees acquired him because he's a good depth piece who allows the Yankees to move other players, but if he's the answer to left field, the Yankees are going about this completely wrong. Verdugo is not the outfielder the Yankees need.

CF - A QUESTION: The Yankees don't have a centerfielder.

RF- SET POSITION: Aaron Judge (enough said)

DH - A QUESTION: Can Giancarlo Stanton even hit any longer? If Stanton is a middle of the order hitter for the Yankees, they are in big trouble.

C - A QUESTION: Trevino, Higashioka, Wells... they're all questions

SP - A QUESTION: Right now the Yankees have Gerrit Cole (who will be 33-years-old) and no other sure things

2) If the Yankees are going to seriously contend in 2024, they have to go big. They're going to have to spend a ton of money. They're also going to have to trade some big time prospects. If they don't do those things, they won't win. It is that simple. The Yankees are more than one player away. Their way of trying to get back to a World Series, these last many years, has not worked - they have cut corners, they have passed on generational talents, they have tried to hold the line with the budget... and they have not won. The Yankees are in one of their least productive eras - ever, especially in the last 100 years. This isn't good. The idea that the Yankees are winners simply isn't true any longer. The glory years are at best a generation ago.

3) If the Yankees don't go big in 2024, they might not be able to go big for a long time. As I have been warning for years, the window closing. The Yankees have three set positions. Each is not a long-term solution:

Gerrit Cole will be 33-years-old next year. He can't be counted on to be elite year-after-year. He can also opt-out of his contract at the end of the year (and if he's great again in 2024, and if the Yankees don't win big, he should opt out.) (I understand the Yankees can keep him by giving an extra year, but that will be paying big money for his oldest year and they'd be keeping a player who no longer wishes to be on the team - two bad moves.) If the Yankees aren't good, 2024 could be the last we see of Gerrit Cole in pinstripes.

Aaron Judge will be 32-years-old. He has missed significant time due to injuries in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2023. We don't know how well he will age. His prime is now.

Gleyber Torres will be a free agent after the 2024 season. I don't think the Yankees will extend him. I'm not sure they even should. (At this point, I would not.)

4) The Yankees do not have enough high-level minor league talent to plug into the holes above. Most of the minor leaguers who came up last year were less than advertised. The Yankees have no one else on the precipice. A team can't fill its holes with hope. They need players - excellent players. The only young player who excelled, Jasson Dominguez, played in only eight games - and is now rehabbing a major injury. He can't be counted on in 2024. (And, remember, he complained of soreness in his arm the first weekend he was up, and the manager played him anyway. There are reasons, big, organizational reasons, why the Yankees are where they are. The bad decision-making on players acquired, not acquired, on coaching, injuries, and so on (on so much), have been going on for a long time - years. This is what happens when one bad decision follows another. The sum total of bad decisions for years has put the Yankees in a hole that will be very costly to get out of.)

5) Juan Soto does not solve all these problems, but he goes a long way to starting to solve them. He is young. He is left-handed. He is an elite hitter. No one in baseball today gets on base as often as him. He is #19 all-time in the game's history at getting on base. He's not just pretty good, he's great. And, for all the talk of how bad a fielder he is, the Nationals won a World Series with him. How many current Yankees have been World Champions?

6) If Juan Soto comes to the Yankees and the Yankees win a World Series - and then he departs as a free agent, I'd be fine with that. I want Soto to be a Yankee for the next ten years, but I want a World Championship more. We have waited a long time for the Yankees to win. Without Juan Soto, the prospects for 2024 look much dimmer. MUCH dimmer. And, as noted above, without Cole and Torres, the prospects for anything after 2024 are bleak. (And even with Cole, if he stays, at 35 years-old in 2025, it doesn't look particularly pretty...)

7) There is no hitter out there who can equal Juan Soto's production. Soto is a game changer for the team. The Yankees have passed on young generational talent year-after-year and the result is they haven't won. The Yankees have promised generational players from the minors for decades. That hasn't happened. This is their chance to change the narrative. (For the record, I do not see Shohei Ohtani as an option - no reports even indicate that he has an interest in playing for the Yankees. And, logically, which player would be better to pay big money to over the next 10 years - a guy who is 30 and has had two arm surgeries and has never played in the outfield or the 25-year-old who plays 150+ games every year?) (NOTE - I'm also not going to debate the Ohtani stuff here today. It's old and tired. And it seems clear that he's not coming to the Yankees no matter what any fans hope... Juan Soto is an realistic option right now. Ohtani is not.)

8) Even with Juan Soto, the Yankees need starting pitching, a third baseman, and a center fielder. As I have said, getting back, because the Yankees have made bad decisions for years, is going to be costly in money and prospects. They dug a deep hole, getting out is going to be very tough.

9) Again, 2024 is the year to go for it, not 2025, not beyond. The Yankees have to play big for 2024. They need to go big while Cole and Judge are at their peaks. A few years from now, maybe even one year, and those two players just might not be the same level of elite. They might be very very good, but they logically will not be where they were today. In many ways, the Yankees already wasted the best they'll ever get from Judge and Cole.

10) Michael King is a fine pitcher. So many are writing as if he is a top of the line starter and a sure thing. He is anything but that. Would I like him to be a Yankee in 2024? Yes. I'd like the Yankees to make him the fifth starter and see how it goes, but there are a ton of red flags there. A ton. First, he has never, ever, started regularly in the Major Leagues. He made seven starts at the end of a lost season last year. He showed promise, but seven starts proves very little. Very little. Michael King has had arm injuries. He doubled his innings pitched from 2022 to last year. That is usually a very bad sign for a pitcher's long-term health. If he starts in 2024, he'll have to add another 50 to 75 innings on his increased workload from 2023. Again, that's not ideal. The last time Michael King threw 150+ innings was 2018 - a lifetime ago. And that was in the minor leagues with most of those innings coming at Double-A. Michael King is also going to be 29-years-old in 2024. He isn't a young up-and-coming pitcher. Sure, he has talent, but right now, he projects to be a back-end starter nothing more. Expecting anything more of him, based upon the above, based upon seven September starts, is, bluntly, foolish. It's just silly. To argue, in any way, that he is worth what Juan Soto is, is absurd. No GM would trade Juan Soto for Michael King. They wouldn't trade Juan Soto for two Michael Kings. Look at the facts. King has talent. He has promise as a starter. But he's not a young kid coming up with long-term potential. It might be wise for the Yankees to hold onto someone like Drew Thorpe, a young pitcher with great potential, in a major move, but a smart team doesn't pass on a 25-year-old superstar to keep a 29-year-old pitcher who has pitched fewer than 250 innings in his entire Major League career and who has never started a season's worth of games - or even two month's worth. (And, let's also be honest, if Nestor Cortes, Frankie Montas, and Carlos Rodon not been injured, among others, King would have never started in 2022. He wasn't seen as a starter, the Yankees moved him there because they had no one else. Michael King's role has been as the bullpen guy, but not even as the closer.) (And, for the record, I would trade Drew Thorpe in the Soto deal.)

11) Alex Verdugo is a good baseball player. He does not move the needle forward for the Yankees in any significant way- except as a player who gives them some depth in trading or as a player that can be traded himself. If his role for 2024 is as a starter, the Yankees did not improve much, at all. He is better than the collection of players the Yankees tried in left field in 2023, but that's also not saying a whole lot. He would have been the third best hitter on the 2023 Yankees, but that's not saying a lot. The Yankees did not give up a lot to get him. He will hopefully allow the Yankees to make bigger moves or he'll serve as a good depth piece in 2024 off the bench or for when Aaron Judge (I hope not, but it is his history) misses time. The good Yankees teams of the past always had great depth. Verdugo can be that depth piece.

12) If the Yankees get Juan Soto, they can't stop there They need front-line starting pitching. They need a centerfielder. They need a third baseman. They need a lead-off hitter.

13) The best plan for Anthony Volpe in 2024 (which is what they should have done in 2023) is to bat him ninth and just let him become a big league hitter. The Yankees jerked him around last year - and he ended with an 81 OPS+. They expected too much out of a kid who wasn't ready. They can't make that same mistake in 2024. The only way to make sure this happens is to secure the other positions with legitimate talent. That starts, but it does not end, with Juan Soto. If Anthony Volpe's 2024 resembles his 2023, his long term prospects for being a star will look much dimmer.

14) Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman have been saying for years that the Yankees will be big players, that losing is unacceptable, and on and on. This winter just might be their last chances to build a team to compete while Judge and Cole are at their best. There is hope that DJ LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton could bounce back and be positive factors, but they have aged a ton. Anthony Rizzo isn't young nor is he signed beyond 2024. All signs point to 2024. This is the last best chance for the Yankees to contend. The window is still open. Barely. It's open just a crack. It'll take a lot to open it wider in 2024, but if it isn't opened for 2024, don't expect to see any pennants for many many years. For this iteration of the New York Yankees, is now or never and that is, in no way, an exaggeration.

UPDATE - There are reports all over the place that the Soto deal to the Yankees is basically done. If true, acquiring Soto is is a great FIRST step.



To all in the media and other bloggers, etc... if you borrow my ideas, points, perspectives, and conclusions, that's fine. It is great, in fact. But the right thing to do is give credit to the writer and this site.

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