The Yankees Approach Post Lockout
By James Vlietstra
February 18, 2022
I have recently written a trio of articles. The subjects of them are about MLB finances, the Yankees 40-man roster, and Yankees prospects that will be Rule 5 eligible. Today I am going to tie them all together.
Let me preface this by saying that I am going to assume that there is a baseball season in 2022. There is bound to be some modifications to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but I can’t believe that the owners would be foolish enough to risk breaking an $11B system. I think the start of spring training may be pushed back, however, at that point there will be more of a sense of urgency to get a deal done so that the season starts on time.
Once a deal is struck, there’s going to be a mad dash to complete business. Some players that had previously been searching for a long term deal may be content to sign a one year deal at a higher rate and revisit the free agent market again next year.
The Yankees definitely have some holes. Do they sign free agents or can they negotiate a trade. What is their plan for shortstop. Can they find a pitcher to upgrade the rotation. Is Hicks going to be healthy. Will Voit be part of the team.
I, for one, don’t believe that you need to go out and sign every available superstar to be successful. The Yankees dynasty from 20+ years ago was full of grinders like Scott Brosius, David Cone, and Paul O’Neill. Individually none of them was the best, but together they repeatedly got the job done.
Based on the Yankees recent spending patterns, I don’t expect them to spend freely like they once did. The fact that their payroll was higher 15 years ago suggests that the ownership group, led by Hal Steinbrenner has instructed General Manager Brian Cashman and his front office staff to tighten the belt. That seems utterly ridiculous considering their assets have increased from $1B to over $9B during this same period.
Per Vegas Insider, the Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays are currently the co-favorites to win the American League East. The Yankees are also the 4th highest favorite team to win the 2022 World Series. Most projections show them as a 90+ win team as currently constructed.
That being the case, there is less of a certainty that the Yankees make multiple major acquisitions. Their recent MO has been to be patient and let a deal fall in their lap. I don’t anticipate that this year will be any different.
There are 5 free agents available that I can see them being interested in. These targets would fill positions of need and could provide significant upgrades over the current player. They are Anthony Rizzo, Seita Suzuki, Carlos Rodin, Freddie Freeman, and Trevor Story.
I don’t think Freeman is leaving the Braves, but MLB Insider Jon Heyman suggested it recently. Rizzo is more of a likelihood to return at first. If either are signed, that would make Luke Voit a redundancy. With the recent announcement from Commissioner Manfred that the National League will finally adopt the designated hitter, there should be a healthy trade market for Voit. He was the 2020 ML Home Run champ and has three more years of team control.
I don’t know a lot about Suzuki, but if they feel like he can handle the everyday centerfield duties, they may try to trade Aaron Hicks.
I don’t see the Yankees spending north of $350M to sign a Carlos Correa when 6 of their top 15 prospects are shortstops. One of which is Anthony Volpe, who Jim Callis recently predicted to be the sports top prospect next year. This is, however, a possible time in which Story decides to bet on himself with a one year deal for $25-30M and he parlays it into a nine digit deal when he revisits free agency next winter.
Rodon is probably the only starting pitcher I would think about, but he won’t be cheap. Their starting rotation currently consists of an ace in his prime and 3 #3 starters. Luis Severino is the big question mark and then there’s 3-4 lottery tickets we should see this year. If you aren’t getting a solid #2, why bother.
There is also a very likely scenario in which they don’t make any major personnel changes. Vegas considers them a favorite. Let the first half of the season play out. With 130+ players eligible for the Rule 5 draft, there’s going to be lots of trade deadline deals. Cashman is going to package lots of high quality players that he knows that he isn’t able to protect in deals to plug holes.
A lot of fans may not like to hear this, but It’s a very real possibility. Making the playoffs especially with an expanded version, is not a guarantee but it’s very likely. Cashman needs to construct the team to navigate through three rounds of playoffs, which is no easy task. I do believe that the 12 year championship drought is about to come to an end.
Obviously injuries and resurgence happen, but every year the Yankees protect 5-6 players from the Rule 5 draft I want to make a “way too early prediction “ on who I see the Yankees protecting on the 40-man roster in November. Ken Waldichuk. Antonio Gomez. Randy Vasquez. Ryder Green. Alexander Vargas. Hayden Wesneski.