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Why This Yankees’ Offseason Feels Disappointing (So Far)

Why This Yankees’ Offseason Feels Disappointing (So Far)

By Patrick Gunn

March 23, 2022

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The Yankees are continuing their more frugal approach to spending this offseason.

They admitted to needing a new shortstop right when five potential all-stars at the position – Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Javier Báez, and Trevor Story – all hit the market. They instead brought in Isiah Kiner-Falefa to start and saw all the shortstops leave the market. Correa signed with the Minnesota Twins using money they freed up in a trade with the Yankees. Story ended up taking his money with the rival Red Sox – a team with a franchise cornerstone at the position.

There are other moves and decisions that the Yankees could have made to help form the roster, including signing Freddie Freeman rather than Anthony Rizzo. It’s the shortstop moves that signal the obvious change in approach from spending for the best players to more of a neutral approach.

Hal Steinbrenner said as much that the Yankees are content to wait for prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza rather than bring in a free agent. Even so, any of these players could move positions. Story is most likely moving to second base despite being a better defender than Xander Bogaerts. Semien and Seager are not playing the same position. Manny Machado took his contract with the Padres willing to go to third.

The Yankees did not sign a big name free agent this offseason because they do not want to add more to the payroll. They have said so much as wanting to stay under the luxury tax and waiting for the right moment. Well, this year was the moment and the Yankees passed. Need I not mention the Bombers did nothing to change the centerfield predicament yet nor add pitching depth while other teams improved. Did I mention that the Blue Jays added Kevin Gausman, Yusei Kikuchi, and Matt Chapman?

Now, the Yankees could very well add more players coming soon. There are still several free agents available and the rumors of a trade with Oakland for a starter persist. Still, the Yankees balked at decent options to improve or at least add depth in Gausman, Robbie Ray, Kenley Jansen, and more.

The Dodgers seem to be the franchise the Yankees should be. Los Angeles has made a lot of similar moves to defend prospects like the Yankees, keeping players like Will Smith and Gavin Lux from hitting the trade market. And the Dodgers, like the Yankees, have developed some stars including the recently departed Seager, Cody Bellinger, and Walker Buehler. The Yankees have done similarly with Aaron Judge. They also have reinvigorated journeymen players like Max Muncy, Chris Taylor, and Justin Turner, as the Yankees have with Nestor Cortes Jr. and the recently traded Gio Urshela and Luke Voit.

So, why are the Dodgers consistently winning in the playoffs while the Yankees struggle to advance? The Dodgers are still willing to sign big free agents every year like Freeman. Or they bring in a star on the trade market like Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, and Max Scherzer. Yes, the Yankees have brought in Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole recently but those are the only major moves the Yankees have made. And the trades for Joey Gallo and Rizzo are the first major deadline moves Brian Cashman has made since… acquiring J.A. Happ? And they keep their stars and reclamation projects playing well and happy. Did Bellinger get the kind of backlash that Gary Sánchez got from fans and media outlets when he struggled?

Los Angeles has it both ways: they develop players, keep their reclamation projects consistent, and are willing to spend, spend, spend to extend their window of contention, and build around their players. They lost Seager and Jansen this offseason but still have a major core and a deadly lineup. The Yankees are solid in these areas, but they still fail to build as consistently great around the margins. The Yankees have in theory a strong top six if Gallo and Gleyber Torres rebound, Judge and Rizzo are vaccinated and can play at home, and Aaron Hicks rebounds.

This raises one major question about the Yankees: do they want to win titles or be competitive? Their ownership and leaders say they want to win it all, and I believe the players, coaches, and even to an extent Cashman (he did sign C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, and A.J. Burnett in the same offseason). However, their moves suggest otherwise. The Josh Donaldson trade and Rizzo signings do improve the team from last year and their infield defense is better with Kinner-Falefa. Yet, none of these moves push the Yankees to the top of the American League, or even their division. They just make it more likely for the Yankees to snag a wild card spot and go from there.

A lot of these moves are wait-and-see moves to me. Kiner-Falefa seems genuinely hyped to be a Yankee and the Bombers have the coaches to help him grow as a hitter. Donaldson is still phenomenal offensively when he plays, better than Urshela. They have improved defensively at catcher, I think. Yet, the team still feels off. They needed a spark after 2021, and they chose to replace some of the batteries. That will improve the team’s outlook in some ways, but is this enough to electrify the team back to the glory days?

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