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The New Season:  Gaining Clarity

The New Season: Gaining Clarity

by Tim Kabel

March 21, 2022

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In recent days, Carlos Correa signed with the Minnesota Twins and Trevor Story signed with the Boston Red Sox. All the big-name shortstops are gone. None of them were signed by the Yankees. The Yankees seem committed to Isiah Kiner-Falefa, at least for the short term. Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe ‘will continue to develop in the minor leagues. I think it is safe to say that there will be no further upgrades or additions for the Yankees at shortstop.

With the recent moves the Yankees made, the roster is taking shape. Despite the fact that recent acquisition Ben Rortvedt is battling an oblique injury, the catcher position looks to be a platoon of Rortvedt and Kyle Higashioka. With the departure of Luke Voit, first base will be manned by Anthony Rizzo. The shortstop will be Kiner-Falefa, until either Peraza or Volpe is ready to take over and push him to a utility role. Third base will be played by Josh Donaldson. Joey Gallo, who seems more relaxed, will play left field. Aaron Judge will be the right fielder. Giancarlo Stanton will be the primary designated hitter. However, there will be days when he plays the outfield, spelling one of the corner outfielders. That will free up the designated hitter spot occasionally.

I did not mention second base or centerfield. I do not believe the Yankees will enter the season with Aaron Hicks as the starting center fielder. Brian Cashman made a point at the end of last season of saying that he was going to address centerfield. He has not done that yet. I don’t think they’re going to have Aaron Judge play centerfield very often. I believe they will find their centerfielder on another team and acquire him in a trade. I believe Hicks will either become the fourth outfielder or will be traded away. He could be traded as part of the package to acquire the new centerfielder, or he could be jettisoned in the way that Luke Voit was, to acquire a young prospect or two. I’m not sure exactly how it will shake out but, I cannot imagine Aaron Hicks being the starting centerfielder. Usually, when Brian Cashman says he’s going to do something, he does it.

As far as second base is concerned, Gleyber Torres is nominally the starter. However, he has had two down years in a row and may not be the same player who hit 38 home runs in 2019. DJ LeMahieu has five years remaining on his contract and was the 2020 American League Batting Champion. He had a down-year last year but, that is believed to be due in large part to the sports hernia that he endured. In theory, LeMahieu could rotate between first base, second base, third base, and designated hitter to get in the lineup five days a week. That was the original role the Yankees envisioned for him when they signed him before the 2019 season. I do not think the Yankees will do that this season, at least not for the sake of playing Gleyber Torres. I believe Gleyber Torres will be traded relatively soon. He could be part of the package to acquire a starting pitcher. LeMahieu would then assume the role of the starting second baseman.

Now that both Correa and Story are off the market, the rumors are that the Yankees are returning their full focus to the starting rotation. The Yankees are reportedly eyeing Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea of the Oakland A’s, who are both available. Think about it: if the Yankees acquire one of those two pitchers, they will beef up a rotation that includes Gerrit Cole, Luis Severino, Jameson Taillon, Nestor Cortes, Jr., and Jordan Montgomery. Taillon might not be ready when the season starts, as he’s recovering from ankle surgery in the off-season. Domingo German was recently placed on the 60-day IL, due to shoulder impingement. That sounds like a wrestling move or a legal maneuver. Anyway, he will not factor into their plans for a while, at least. The point is, I suspect the Yankees will add another starting pitcher and a new centerfielder. I believe Gleyber Torres will be moved in one of those two deals.

The 2022 New York Yankees baseball team is really beginning to take shape. They could start the season with the current roster. I don’t believe they will. In the last week, they upgraded the team significantly. There is also a greater emphasis on defense with the acquisitions of Rizzo, Kiner-Falefa, and Rortvedt, in particular. Donaldson brings a presence and will make the lineup deeper and more formidable. The Yankees also signed Marwin Gonzalez to minor league contract this weekend. He could be in play for a utility infielder role, or he could be sent to the minors to provide some depth.

I am intrigued by Oswaldo Cabrera, who was placed on the 40-man roster over the winter. He is a switch-hitting infielder, whose primary position is second base. He blossomed last year as a hitter. In yesterday’s Spring Training game, he slugged a grand slam. He also drove the ball well to the opposite field in his subsequent at bat. Depending on the roster size at the beginning of the season, he could make the team. I also believe if Torres is traded, Cabrera will be even more likely to make the team.

If the Yankees cannot make a trade for a centerfielder, I would start the season with Hicks in centerfield and I would have Cabrera shift to centerfield at AAA. When Hicks inevitably became injured, Cabrera could come up and take over. In fact, they should start that process now, in Spring Training. The train has left the station as far as Estevan Florian is concerned. The best thing the Yankees could do with him would be to include him in a trade. It does not look as if he factors into their plans.

I believe some of the young players the Yankees are developing will make the roster, If not for Opening Day, at some point during the season. I know a lot of Yankees’ fans are upset because the team did not sign Correa, Story, or one of the other big shortstops. Brian Cashman does know what he’s doing. Although this roster is not complete, it is close. Cashman has built a very competitive team for this season and will soon begin integrating younger players into the mix. Yankees’ fans just need to look past the big-ticket items we didn’t acquire and see the bigger picture.

#CarlosCorrea #TrevorStory

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