Spending Should Not Be the Yankees’ Off-Season Approach
Spending Should Not Be the Yankees’ Off-Season Approach
By Derek McAdam
October 11, 2023
The MLB playoffs are in full force, which means that it is still several weeks away from the start of the off-season, in which free agents can sign with whatever team they like and teams can start to make trades and other roster transactions. While the New York Yankees’ off-season is just a mere 10 days old, the rumors are flying over who Brian Cashman may possibly target. Some names are more well-known than others, but there is one thing that Cashman should avoid at all costs: spending a large amount of money.
The two big names that the Yankees may be looking to sign in free agency, according to the rumors, are Cody Bellinger and Yoshinobu Yamamoto. It has recently been reported by the New York Post’s Joel Sherman that it is more likely the Yankees would acquire a big-money pitcher than a hitter, but Bellinger continues to stay afloat in the rumor mill, for several intriguing reasons.
Bellinger seems to be an ideal fit for the Yankees based off his 2023 statistics. He is a left-handed batter who plays the outfield that has a swing made for Yankee Stadium and can also hit for average and doesn’t strike out much. However, this is solely based on his 2023 statistics that fail to incorporate the three previous bad years he had with the Los Angeles Dodgers in which he hit no higher than .239. While the game is slowly moving away from batting average being an important stat, it’s clear that most of the Yankees’ averages were below the .240 mark. Just look at how their season went…
While his 2023 season was a great “prove-it” year for Bellinger, who is extremely likely to decline his mutual option for 2024 with the Chicago Cubs, the Yankees may also want to stay away from the 28-year-old because of his recent issues with injuries. He may never have another major injury for the rest of his career, and hopefully that is the case, but the Yankees may want to do some due diligence on players that have required any type of major surgeries over the past few years. In regards to Bellinger, who had shoulder surgery several years ago, injuries certainly hurt his statistics with the Dodgers, but can they be sure it was all purely from injuries?
Sherman projects that Bellinger will get somewhere around an eight-year, $240 million contract. This is simply not a risk that the Yankees should be willing to take at this point, considering they are not one player away from contending for a World Series.
As for Yamamoto, this is a move that makes sense considering that the Yankees may be losing some starting pitchers this off-season, but doesn’t make sense due to the money. Yamamoto will certainly get a contract north of $100 million, with many speculating that he will get even more than Masahiro Tanaka’s $155 million over seven years that he received before the 2014 season. Is he worth this money? Given his stats over the past three years in Japan, absolutely. But the Yankees would then have three pitchers on its roster with contracts totaling somewhere between $650-700 million, assuming that Yamamoto gets ~$175 million in free agency.
While Gerrit Cole has been tremendous through his first four seasons with the Yankees, and is likely slated to win his first Cy Young Award this year, Carlos Rodon had a disastrous first season in New York and still has five years remaining on his $162 million deal. Yamamoto seems more likely to be the better candidate for the Yankees to pursue, even though he has yet to play in the Majors, But it doesn’t necessarily mean that they absolutely need to pursue either one of these players.
The rumors are also flying around that the Yankees may be interested in trading for a couple of players, specially Juan Soto and Brendan Donovan. Soto has been linked to the Yankees for several years now and in entering his final year of arbitration before he is set to receive a large deal in free agency, if he makes it that far. While Soto was seen as the icing on the cake to add to a strong San Diego Padres team at the 2022 Trade Deadline, the team has likely been the most disappointing team since that time, given they have two $300+ million contracts and one $285 million contract, along with the other potential Cy Young Award winner this year in Blake Snell and one of the best closers in baseball.
However, they simply did not perform anywhere close to the expectations and may now be looking to trade Soto in hopes of filling other positions of need. The Yankees could definitely use a player like Soto, who is another left-handed batter that plays the outfield and has a career .284 batting average with plenty of power. Not only can he hit, but he has one of the best eyes in the game and has 640 career walks in his four-plus years of service time.
Soto seems like the perfect candidate for the Yankees to pursue if it wasn’t for the fact that he is currently a rental player. The Yankees would only acquire Soto if they could sign him to a long-term extension past the 2024 season, but would they be willing to commit to another large contract, one that may likely be the fourth $300+ million deal the Yankees would have on the team? I couldn’t see this happening unless Giancarlo Stanton’s contract was taken off the books, which is unlikely to happen.
That’s where someone like Donovan enters the mix. Donovan has become a crucial utility player for the St. Louis Cardinals that can play anywhere in the field, but has predominately played at second base and left field. Donovan is another left-handed batter that can hit for average, and while he doesn’t have great power, it’s not as if the Yankees need his services just for home runs. The Yankees should be looking for players that can help them hit for a better average, and Donovan can definitely be a player that can help.
Donovan is entering his final year of pre-arbitration and is not slated to become a free agent until after the 2027 season, which would be good for the Yankees regarding team control, but negative in a sense that they would need to give up a hefty package to acquire the 26-year-old who turns 27 in January. It would likely take at least a couple of young pitching prospects, potentially even Clarke Schmidt, and another decent prospect to secure Donovan.
The bad news is that Donovan will be coming off a surgery, and as I mentioned with Bellinger, the Yankees would need to do their homework on how bad the injury was and if it is something that could return in the future.
If the Yankees are looking to acquire a player that won’t cost them as much money in the near future, Donovan is the way to go. But, it seems unlikely that the Yankees are going to just sit on the sidelines and watch players like Bellinger and Yamamoto just walk to other teams. The Yankees may not get either player, but they will almost certainly put in an offer for one, if not both players.
The Yankees will have a decent amount of money that will be freed up this off-season, especially with contract like Josh Donaldson and Luis Severino’s expiring. However, it doesn’t mean that they have to spend it. The Yankees handed out two huge contracts last off-season to Aaron Judge and Rodon and the team got worse. Spending money does not equate to success, which fans have known for years, but management is now starting to see this.
If the Yankees do give out a big contract in free agency, I would at least prefer that they give it to Yamamoto. Sure, the offense needs a lot of help, but I don’t think Bellinger is going to dramatically improve this team. However, there are still several weeks until anything transactions can even begin. So until then, let’s see how many more rumors will pop up. There will certainly be many more to come.