Yankees Shake up: Potential Moves to Change the Yankees’ Roster
By Patrick Gunn
The Yankees’ last playoff loss to the Rays left me thinking about what went wrong this season. You could blame the injuries, but the Yankees were relatively healthy in October. The main issues came from the little things that kept the Yankees back during the regular season: defense, middle relief, and starting pitching behind Gerrit Cole.
The Bombers have a lot of talent on their roster, but it is clear that their current team is not getting the job done in October. So, rather than wait for the next season, here are a few of my ideas for the Yankees to shake up their team.
TRADE AROLDIS CHAPMAN TO THE DODGERS:
Our own Andy Singer recently proposed an idea on the Bronx Beat Podcast that the Yankees should move on from their closer. Yes, Chapman is a great reliever. The problem, as Singer said, is that he’s a rather inflexible arm. He’s a ninth-inning closer, but he’s had multiple poor outings in the postseason, with Mike Brosseau’s home run allowed serving as Chapman’s most recent blunder.
Now, I believe that he is still a great reliever, with consistently high strikeout totals and higher fastball velocities. With that said, he is also on contract for two more seasons and he’s on tap to make $33 million over that period.
The Yankees can ease out of his salary and send him to a team that needs a closer. The Dodgers have had their October struggles, and certainly have the payroll to take on another massive contract.
The Yankees might need to add or ask for another piece or two, dangle Miguel Andujar or ask for one of their lower-ranked, major-league ready pitching prospects. With that said, this is a deal that the Yankees can easily make to save some payroll that could be used to improving their middle-relief depth.
TRADE EITHER GIO URSHELA OR LUKE VOIT; RESIGN DJ LEMAHIEU:
Look, shakeups are never easy. Urshela and Voit are both coming off great seasons, but they are also both right-handed. Also, of the Yankee’s current roster of players, Urshela and Voit are the most flexible, given that both have low contract values and are coming off solid seasons.
Also, LeMahieu is important to the Bomber’s lineup as their engine. His high-contact approach has led New York all season, so they should make an effort to resign him.
If you wave Urshela or Voit, then the Yankees can acquire either some left-handed power or bullpen depth. Meanwhile, the Yankees could then resign LeMahieu and have him replace either player at third or first base. Now, one potential target the Yankees could go after would be…
ACQUIRE FRANCISCO LINDOR FROM CLEVELAND:
His name has been floating around for years. Now, Cleveland has their best chances to send off their star, as he’s a year away from free agency and he’s expected to get a head-start on his massive contracts in arbitration this year.
Yes, Gleyber Torres is a part of the Yankees’ future, but he struggled at the position last year. Not to mention that signing Lindor would be a massive upgrade at the position and would allow Torres to play second base again, where he thrived both offensively and defensively.
Now, the Yankees would have to give up a lot to acquire Lindor. Maybe attach either Urshela or Voit, plus several top prospects. With that said, the Yankees are built for now, and they can risk sending off a Clarke Schmidt or a Deivi Garcia plus more prospects to gain the services of Lindor.
RESIGN DIDI GREGORIUS:
Or, the Yankees can keep their prospects and reconnect with their prior shortstop. Gregorius boosted his stock again with a .827 OPS in Philadelphia. The only issue here is his exit velocity is on the decline, via Baseball Savant, and Gregorius is over 30.
With that said, Gregorius is a fantastic clubhouse presence, a solid defensive shortstop, and a great power bat who fits perfectly into the middle of the Yankees’ lineup. Also, with the Yankees moving on from Urshela or Voit, the Yankees would have room for both LeMahieu and Gregorius in their lineup.
CONSIDER SIGNING MICHAEL BRANTLEY, JOC PEDERSON OR TOMMY LA STELLA:
Brantley, Pederson, and La Stella are some of the best left-handed hitters available. Brantley’s strong seasons in Houston speak for themselves. The one issue here is that the Yankees have a glut of outfields (Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Clint Frazier are all on the roster, plus a possible option for Brett Gardner and Giancarlo Stanton), so Brantley would cut into Frazier’s playing time. With that said, Brantley is one of the best hitters available on the free-agent market this year and could help the Yankees reach the World Series within the next few seasons.
Pederson is another player with big power from the left side of the plate. The Yankees could use another power bat, and Pederson has a career .501 slugging percentage against right-handers. Again, he would take at-bats away from Frazier, but he could serve as more of a platoon hitter, sitting against lefties and coming off the bench to pinch-hit.
La Stella, on the other hand, could serve as more of a utility player, like LeMahieu’s role in 2019. Also, La Stella does not strike out, as he has only 40 whiffs over the past two seasons in 135 games and 549 plate appearances. He did miss some time in 2019, but that was from a freak leg injury suffered on a foul tip. He recovered from said injury in 2020 and would be a fantastic edition to bolster the Bomber’s depth.
SIGN AT LEAST ONE FREE AGENT RELIEVER:
The Yankees have some solid choices for improving their bullpen in free agency this year. Liam Hendrik – fresh off winning the Mariano Rivera Award – is the top name available. He could pitch anywhere in the bullpen and be a fantastic fit for their middle relief core.
If the Yankees want another option, the Yankees could look into Blake Treinen and Alex Colome are also available. Trevor Rosenthal is coming off a fantastic year and could be purchased for a lower price, given his rocky career numbers.
If the Yankees want a middle-inning pitcher, Yusmeiro Petit is a fantastic veteran option, even at age 35. He had three solid seasons with the A’s, and he would be a cheaper alternative to improve the Bomber’s depth.
As for southpaws, Justin Wilson (a former Yankee), Jake McGee, and Aaron Loup are all affordable options that could be of service. Or, they could go old school and offer a low-risk, high-reward deal to veteran Oliver Perez (and yes, he is still an effective reliever).
THE ROTATION: LOOK OUT FOR MASAHIRO TANAKA, TAIJUAN WALKER, AND/OR MIKE MINOR:
As far as the rotation goes, the Yankees should look for depth rather than splashy names. Their bullpen needs more help, as the Yankees still have Cole locked up, Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, and Jordan Montgomery emerging, and Luis Severino returning from Tommy John.
Yankees fans may not be in favor of resigning Tanaka after his poor postseason performance this year. With that said, if you look past that, the right-hander threw another solid season in the Bronx. He posted his best strikeout-to-walk ratio since his rookie season, and once again provided solid outing after solid outing.
His home run rate is rather high, but regardless, FanGraphs projects Tanaka will have the second-highest WAR next year amongst the 2020-free agent class. Also, he has been a leader in the clubhouse for the past seven years, and his competitiveness and effort do bode well for him as he’s aged. I would go out on a limb and say the Yankees would take another four years or so of his reliability. Just for about $10-15 million per year.
Other than Tanaka, Walker and Minor are two other buy-low pitchers that would fit in the Yankees’ rotation. Walker is far from the ace-starter that he was projected to be several years ago, but he was healthy this year for the first time since 2017 and he is only 28. His underlying numbers are mediocre, but the talent is still there and Matt Blake could help him grow into at least a capable starter at a low value.
As for Minor, he is reaching the twilight of his career, and he is coming off a down year with Texas and Oakland. With that said, the 33-year old southpaw is not even a full-season removed from a top-ten Cy Young Finish and he is a flexible arm, throwing out of the bullpen for the A’s in the playoffs this season. Again, he’s a buy-low pitcher who could pay dividends for the Yankees’ depth.
These are just a few ideas for potential moves to improve the Yankees’ roster next season. The Bombers have options to improve their team for next season and beyond. They just need to be willing to shake things up.