Following another early postseason exit for the New York Yankees, this time at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees will head into the offseason looking to add (or remove) pieces to their team to finally get over that hump, and bring World Series number 28 to the Bronx. It’s been 11 years since the Yankees brought home the title, and since this current Yankees’ team has been created (2017) the Yankees have seen a number of early exits. In 2017, they made it to the ALCS, but lost to the Houston Astros. In 2018, they got decimated by the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. Then last year, they lost via a Jose Altuve (assist to the trash can) walk off homerun in the ALCS.
Many in the baseball world thought this was the year for the Yankees, after they signed top free agent Gerrit Cole to a 9-year, $324M contract, and kept the team that was two games away from a World Series run mostly intact. But, after a Mike Brosseau home run off Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees get to watch the Rays and Astros battle over the American League pennant. With Hal Steinbrenner confirming that Aaron Boone will return to the team next year, let’s take a look at what I think to be the Yankees’ to-do list for the upcoming offseason.
1. Re-sign DJ LeMahieu
No brainer in my opinion. Two years ago the Yankees signed former Rockies’ infielder DJ LeMahieu to a 2-year, $24M deal that some say was the bargain of the year. A former batting champion in the National League, in his two years with the Yankees, DJ LeMahieu has batted .336, with a .386 on base percentage, and an 8.8 WAR (7th among all position players over the last 2 years). All the while filling in seemingly everywhere in the infield while the Yankees continue to deal with injury issues.
DJ LeMahieu is a machine, it’s not just a nickname, he is an absolute machine in the box. In today’s day and age, with sabermetrics, exit velocity, and launch angle being all the rage, DJ LeMahieu is a statisticians dream. He hits for average, hitting over .300 in 5 of the last 6 years. He gets on base, having an OBP of over .300 in every year of his career except his rookie year (.262 OBP), and has filled in at every infield position besides short stop for the Yankees.
Re-signing LeMahieu needs to be atop the Yankees offseason strategy board, in my opinion. DJ has been the lifeblood of the team since joining, and really provides a spark to that lineup. He is a commodity that (in my mind) every team in the league would love to have. Even at the age of 32, I would hazard to say the Yankees will do whatever it takes to keep him in pinstripes. In the pandemic year, many teams are struggling with losing a ton of their revenue, but this is the Yankees we’re talking about here. In my opinion, LeMahieu will probably be looking for a 3-4 year deal somewhere in the $80M-$90M range, but in my opinion, it’s a price you have to pay for the peace of mind of having someone like DJ LeMahieu on your team.
2. Address The Starting Rotation
As stated earlier, the Yankees went out and paid Gerrit Cole to come in and be the ace that the team hasn’t had for quite some time now. Gerrit Cole more than earned his paycheck in his first year with a great Game 1, and an incredible Game 5 performance that the bats just didn’t help him out with. Other than Cole, the Yankees rotation needs help…ASAP. Heading into 2021, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ are all free agents. Which means the rotation, if left alone, will still need major help. Besides Cole, you would have Luis Severino, who is expected to return from Tommy John surgery in the middle of 2021. Jordan Montgomery who show signs of promise, but is very inconsistent. Domingo German is set to return after serving a season long suspension due to domestic violence. And finally, Deivi Garcia, who has been the Yankees top prospect for almost two years now, but just hasn’t gotten a chance to show what he could do, especailly after that whole “opener” fiasco in Game 2 of the ALDS.
Now, in my opinion, the Yankees have to keep Masahiro Tanaka. In the regular season he may be an average pitcher, but in the postseason, he’s a different animal. This postseason was rough for Tanaka, but before this years postseason, Tanaka had never given up more than 3 runs in a postseason game. James Paxton is a question mark for me, however. On one hand, he has shown signs of being a solid number 2 in his time in Seattle. But since joining the Yankees, we’ve seen Paxton get bitten by the injury bug on more than one occasion. That’s a toss up to me, I could see the Yankees either re-signing him, or letting him go.
It seems this year’s top pitching free agent will be Trevor Bauer, who has had somewhat of an up and down career. In his 9 year career, Bauer has registered an ERA of above 4.00 in 7 of those seasons. 2018 was his best year, going 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA in Cleveland. He was named an All-Star that year, and finished 6th in Cy Young voting, and he did have a National League best 1.73 ERA this year. Besides Bauer, there aren’t that many earth shattering names becoming free agents. Chris Archer could become a free agent if the Pirates don’t elect to pick up his option. Marcus Stroman is set to become a free agent after suffering a calf tear and not playing in 2020. Other names include Mike Minor, Robbie Ray, Jake Odorizzi, and Jose Quintana.
There are free agent names out there for the Yankees to target, but I don’t know if there are any that will get the Yankees over that hump and finally win that 28th title. There’s always the chance for a trade, but I don’t see the Yankees giving up any prospects like Jasson Dominguez, Clarke Schmidt, or Deivi Garcia. We could very well see Schmidt or Garcia be put into the rotation at the start of 2021.
3. Say Goodbye to Gary Sanchez
Look, the constant coddling and over protecting of Gary Sanchez needs to stop. It’s been 6 years now. 6 years of nothing but excuses, mediocrity, and overall horrible offensive and defensive play, and the time to end it is now. There have been nothing but excuses in Gary Sanchez’s career. First it was “Gary is just in a slump, he’s ok”. Then it switched over to “well, injuries play a big part in his horrible play”. It even went as far as saying that it was the coaching that was responsible for Sanchez’s play. THEN it was “the fans were heckling him so it was messing with his head”. All of those excuses have been fixed, it’s not just a slump anymore, he’s healthy, there’s a new manager, AND HE HAD 60 GAMES WITH NO FANS AT ALL, so what else could it be?
Kyle Higashioka is a backup catcher. He’s a good backup catcher, but he’s a backup catcher nonetheless, and the fact that he had to start 4 games in a row in the playoffs because Gary Sanchez wasn’t cutting it, is insane to me. Just watch Gary swing the bat, he literally swings at everything regardless if it’s in the strike zone, or in the dirt. During the playoffs, Kyle Higashioka was making defensive plays that Gary Sanchez was never going to make behind the plate. The coddling is done, and it’s time to move on from Gary Sanchez.
The question is, with who? J.T. Realmuto is obviously the best catcher in the league and is set to be a free agent. I personally don’t see Realmuto leaving Philadelphia. Bryce Harper has been screaming at the top of his lungs (literally) to the Phillies to re-sign Realmuto and if the Phillies truly want to compete for a title, they find a way to keep him in Philadelphia. But the catching market isn’t great if we’re being honest. Jason Castro is a lefty that has power that will fit well in New York, but is he the man to replace Gary Sanchez? Yadier Molina is set to be a free agent, but he’s 38 years old. Other names aren’t all that sexy, names like Austin Romine, Mike Zunino, James McCann, and Welington Castillo (all 30 years old and older).
Again, I truly don’t know what the solution is here. But what I do know is that Gary Sanchez needs to go. If that means Kyle Higashioka is your starter then so be it. If it means you have to sign an aging catcher that will hit .250, so be it. But Gary Sanchez is not the answer, and him being in the lineup is nothing more than a liability.
4. Bullpen Help
At one point in time, I would’ve said the Yankees had the best bullpen in baseball. But when Tommy Khanle went down to undergo Tommy John surgery, the bullpen pretty much collapsed. Khanle was the set up man for Chapman, and when he went down, the Yankees never really filled that hole. They have names that have stepped up like Chad Green and Zack Britton, but names like Adam Ottavino, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Jonathan Holder have just not been able to step up. Hell, it’s been two years in a row that Aroldis Chapman has given up game winning home runs in the playoffs.
Now, I’m not saying they should get rid of Aroldis Chapman, but the fact is, when you bring in your closer in the middle of the 7th inning in a tie ball game because you can’t trust any other arm in your bullpen, you have a problem. Now, unlike the catcher market, there is actually a lot of good names when it comes to relievers in the offseason. Liam Hendriks has been a problem in Oakland’s bullpen. In the past two years, he’s registered an ERA of just 1.79 with a 0.90 WHIP, and could definitely help the Yankees’ bullpen issues.
Blake Treinen is set to hit the market this year, as well as Shane Greene. I could even see the Yankees trying to go after a closer like Alex Colome, and try to convert him to a set up man to get to Chapman. Either way, the Yankees need bullpen help, and it’s evident by the way the pen pitched this postseason.
Featured Photo: NY Daily News
Would you like to advertise with Game Changer Sports Network? We have the perfect opportunity for any and all businesses please contact Jake at Info@GameChangerSportsNetwork.com to discuss potential advertising space with us!