We Now Know Exactly What the Yankees Offseason Plan Is!
by Cary Greene
November 16, 2021
This offseason, the imminent work stoppage aside, will require Yankee ownership to appease a fanbase that has grown frustrated. Therefore, as baseball writers we must examine this offseason closely and continually evaluate the moves that Brian Cashman makes. While team ownership is satisfied with the job Cashman has done, fans are no longer so easily pacified.
Fans know the team has many pressing needs, none more important than starting pitching, shortstop, centerfield and first base. I must say, my eyebrows are raised and I’m both perplexed and intrigued at the same time, by what I’ve seen thus far from Mr. Cashman.
Given that the team absolutely dearly lacks depth up the middle, primarily at shortstop and in centerfield, I couldn’t help but feel that Brian Cashman tipped his offseason hand in a flurry of concerning moves this past week when he decided to allow valiant hometown hero Andrew Velazquez, a slick fielding but light hitting shortstop who filled in admirably this season to be subjected to the waiver wire and be swooped up by the opportunistic Angels.
Then, Tim Locastro and Greg Allen were also lost to on waivers. Both of players provided much needed outfield depth for the Yankees this season. A team with critical issues at shortstop and in the outfield really ought to be trying to protect depth at critically weak positions, shouldn’t they?
Hmmmmmm. Curious to see, right? Allow me to elaborate:
I found these moves to be a bit alarming. I was a huge fan of both Allen and Velazquez this past season. In fact I would have much rather seen Allen finish out the season on the active roster as a utility outfielder, because of his switch hitting ability, his blazing speed on the bases, his demonstrated ability to get on base and his solid defense.
Granted, Allen showed that he struggles against right-handed pitching, batting only .185 with a 33% strikeout rate which hurt the value of him batting left-handed against righties, which is perhaps why the Yankees went with Brett Gardner over Allen. However, when we look at Rougned Odor’s lack of productivity over the last month and a half of the season, certainly Allen would have made more of an impact on the bases by offering the Yankees a way to manufacture a run from time to time. Odor hit .133 since August 1st and did virtually nothing good offensively. It felt to me that Allen could have made more of an impact. Granted Odor hit 9 home runs off right-handed pitching for the Yankees on the season, so the idea of hanging on to him and continuing to roll him out in futility, hoping for a big bomb and opportune time did have a miniscule amount of appeal. Understandably, with Gio Urshela shelved for pretty much all of August, the Yankees needed a third baseman. But why not play Tyler Wade and or DJ LeMahieu there instead and keep Allen in the mix?
It came down to the Yankees making some judgments and doing what they felt gave them the best chance to win games, but I would contend that the moment Greg Allen was demoted, the electric base running tailed off. With the newly acquired Joey Gallo desperately needing a few benchings during his putrid half a season with the Yankees, it would have been nice to see Boone turn back to the deserving Allen for a few spot starts, but now that the season is over, we can draw a few conclusions about these waiver wire forfeitures of players who had endeared themselves to the fan base.
First, the Yankees just surrendered needed insurance depth at critically thin positions.
Second, the Yankees probably have a pretty solid plan to address the depth and quite possibly will be signing some free agents at shortstop and in centerfield.
Third, the Yankees badly needed to create roster space in order to protect other players ahead of the upcoming Rule 5 draft.
Pertaining to players currently under contract, it would seem each and every outfielder would now be all the more important. Joey Gallo is durable and he’s a fine defensive player. I think it’s a safe bet that the Yankees might hang on to him for the coming season. Perhaps they feel he may rebound. Tyler Wade’s stock increased a lot this year, a plan may now be in the works to play Wade more in the infield and to also use DJ LeMahieu in the flex-role he was initially signed for. With this in mind, neither Allen nor Velazquez would factor into the plan much as Wade and LeMahieu, like Gallo, are all reliable and very athletic players. It also appears that Aaron Hicks is untradeable due to his contract and his injury history, so he may wind up being the team’s 4th or 5th outfielder, which would put him more in a role where the Yankees don’t have to count on him as a central player in the lineup.
Regarding potential free agent fits, it’s clear the Yankees are highly interested in the best available center fielder, who would easily be Starling Marte. Cashman may see Marte as a fit at the top of the lineup.
Cashman may also make a trade to acquire a center fielder and Twitter rumors have the Yankees showing a high degree of interest in Bryan Reynolds of the Pirates in what would most likely be a five-for-one swap. Due to the imminent threat of the labor shutdown, any trades or signings that the team deems to be a super high priority would quite possibly happen next week.
My baseball instincts are telling me to go out on a limb and publicly proclaim that Yankee fans should look for a surprise free agent signing or a blockbuster trade for a center fielder. It sure feels like either Marte or Reynolds will be in pinstripes before the big deep freeze hits. If I had to bet, I’d put my cards on the Yankees signing Marte and here’s why: All he costs is money.
Meanwhile, the price for Reyolds is off the charts high right now. I’m also a Pirates and A’s fan and I watch a ton of baseball during the season and I’m pretty in touch with what both organizations are doing. Reynolds is under team control for four more years and the possibility of an extension is there for the two time all-star who is a real difference maker in the heart of their lineup. The switch-hitting Reynolds posted a 5.5 WAR while slashing .302/.390/.522 with 24 bombs and a .912 OPS. Reynolds actually hits right-handed pitching as a lefty batter pretty well, slashing .293 last season and he hit .345 against shifts so he’s a player the defense is forced to play straight up. Sounds too good to be true right? Worth the five prospects the rebuilding Pirates would demand right? Well hold on. Not so fast.
Reynolds isn’t a great base runner for one thing. He only had 5 steals last year and he was caught twice. Should the Yankees mortgage the future for another iffy base runer? He’s also a player who has always projected to be destined for left field. He has a weak arm and though he makes the routine plays at a very reliable clip, as evidenced by his sparkling .994 Fielding Percentage last year, the other defensive metrics aren’t super fond of him as he had a -5 DRS and a -5.5 UZR. Reynolds is a solid outfielder, but is it worth 5 prospects for a guy who’s going to be playing left-field sooner than later? Don’t you think the Yankees need a plan in centerfield that involves a true centerfielder, which Reynolds is not?
Compare Reynolds to Marte and what jumps out is that Marte is a similar WAR player, he had a 5.4 WAR last year. Marte slashed .308/.381/.456 with a .837 OPS, 12 homers and 47 steals, only getting caught 5 times. Marte put up a .990 Fielding Percentage with a -4 DRS and a +.9 UZR so we can see he’s a comparable defender to Reynolds but he’s clearly going to remain in centerfield for a good chunk of whatever number of years he winds up signing for. Marte adds value defensively but his true value is that he gets on base and he tears it up from there, going first to third, stealing bags, the whole enchilada.
Right now, Cashman is obviously doing Cashman things, he’s kicking trade tires on Reynolds. He’s sniffing around the league like he usually does. It would take a package built on you guessed it – Jasson Dominguez, to get a deal done for Reynolds. The Yankees would be “bailing” on Dominguez, who’s trade value plummeted last year. The Pirates know this. Therefore, Oswald Peraza would absolutely also be part of the trade. We’re also talking about Luis Gil and Clarke Schmidt. Let’s be real for a second. This isn’t happening. It’s just not worth it to the Yankees to give up so much when they can simply sign Marte to a reasonable but slightly significant overspend.
Look for Cashman to pull the trigger on Marte all the way. I expect a substantial contract to be floated to Marte, who is more what the Yankees need. Imagine putting a speedster with a high OBP at the top of the Yankee lineup, ahead of Gallo and Judge. Marte’s market is very strong right now, he’s in demand. Any team that needs a true centerfielder is going to be all in on him. I expect Cashman to go all out here. Marte is the lynch-pin to whatever plan the Yankees have.
This means that Giancarlo Stanton will once again primarily play DH for the Yankees. He will platoon with Judge and the Yankees will rotate them both through the DH spot. That means Luke Voit is either getting traded or starting at first base for the Yankees. It would be very unwise to start the season with Voit as the plan, without having an amazingly good backup plan. Well, the Yankees have just that in the incomparable DJ LeMahieu, so I don’t expect the Yankees to feel pressured into signing Anthony Rizzo or trading for a first baseman. Voit is still tradable but wow has his value fallen off. I honestly think the Yankees are just better off playing Voit until the inevitable next injury occurs. Perhaps the Yankees will look to add some organizational depth at first base rather than make a splash here.
Yes-yes, Yankee fans want Oakland’s best player, the ultra-valuable Matt Olsen. The only problem is that the A’s don’t want to trade him at all and they don’t need to. Olsen is under control for two more years. Cashman would have to blow Oakland away with a dazzling offer. I don’t see this happening as it would a potential waste of assets.
There is much more work to be done and Cashman knows he needs to balance the lineup at all costs. The next priority after signing Marte will be to sign Corey Seager. Cashman is doing all he can to fake interest in Carlos Correa. The Yankee plan is clear. Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza are the double play combination of the future. Seager meshes with this approach totally as he can smoothly move to third base about the time Peraza is ready. Then, Peraza can slide to second and the Yankees will matriculate away from Gleyber Torres and install Volpe at shortstop.
I expect Cashman to be all-in on signing Corey Seager. He’s the big fish this offseason. With Seager and Marte in the fold, the next stop may very well be a solid offer to Anthony Rizzo, but not an overpay. It’s hard to say right now what Rizzo’s market will look like. If a minimum payroll of say, $100 million is brought about as part of the CBA, we may see all sorts of bottom feeding teams being forced to spend and who knows, Rizzo could be snapped up. We may also see that hogwash flushed down the drain as the bottom feeding team’s owners laugh that whole notion right off the table, in which case who knows, Rizzo may take a lesser deal. I expect Rizzo’s market is TBD and until then, I expect the Yankees to stand pat with two big position signings.
Anticipated Lineup Heading into mid-February
Bench: Higgy C, Wade UIF, Hicks UOF, Voit 1B/DH
It wouldn’t surprise me if the Yankees looked to package German, Voit and Torres as trade chips. I know a lot of you would LOVE to see Olsen acquired and I’ve said there is no way it’s happening unless the A’s were blown away totally by a package. Please realize that Olsen is the A’s most valuable player. So I’ll end this article with a package they might REMOTELY have to consider.
Yankees Get: Matt Olsen 1B – MLB
A’s Get: Oswald Peraza SS – Triple A, Luis Gil P – MLB, Clarke Schmidt P – Triple A
This trade is pretty even with a slight tilt towards the A’s favor, but I firmly believe Oakland would want to substitute Schmidt out and Gleyber Torres in. That would make the trade too good to pass up for Oakland as the Yankees would be overpaying.
The Yankees could then possibly pull it off, slotting DJ LeMahieu in at 2B and Olsen in at 1B. NY would then absolutely have the lineup cemented but they would probably need to hang on to Domingo German, who is a player they would much rather trade because he has some very solid value.
I don’t think the A’s would want anything to do with German or Voit. They might accept Schmidt AND VOIT rather than Torres also, MAYBE. It’s a ton to give up for two years of a very good first baseman, but this is along the lines of what it would take to do a deal IF the A’s were shopping Olsen, which they clearly are not doing!