Following an encouraging yet ultimately unsuccessful season, the New York Yankees have some work to do this offseason. After a nine-year championship drought, Yankees fans are getting impatient. The Yankees are close, but the team needs a smart offseason to push itself over the top.
Step 1: Improve the Starting Pitching
Although it seems like this has been item number one for many years now, the team hasn’t had much luck at acquiring outside arms, young or old. J.A. Happ was a revelation this year, and could deserve a second look if the price is right. It also makes sense for CC Sabathia to return on another one-year deal to round out the rotation. However, there is still room for at least one more starter.
Patrick Corbin is the big fish that seems to make the most sense for the Yankees. The Yankees need young, battle-tested arms, and Corbin fits the mold. Of course, he could also end up being Sonny Gray 2.0, but Corbin has been good enough in a hitter-friendly park to where he’s worth investing in. Corbin would not come cheap; it might cost six figures to get him.
Lance Lynn was a solid veteran depth arm for the Yankees this year. While I don’t expect him to come back, it could benefit the team to acquire more cheap depth from outside the organization. Otherwise, the likes of Gray, Domingo German, and Luis Cessa will combine for over 40 starts once again. Someone like Wade Miley, Drew Pomeranz or Derek Holland could make sense for one year for $5-$7 million.
This would give the Yankees a rotation something like this (signings in italics):
- Luis Severino
- Masahiro Tanaka
- Patrick Corbin
- J.A. Happ (re-sign)
- CC Sabathia (re-sign)
- Depth: One of Miley/Pomeranz/Holland, various minor leaguers, Jordan Montgomery when healthy
That rotation does not include Gray, whom the Yankees have said they’d like to trade. This projection could easily require guarantees over $150 million. That is a lot of money to spend on the rotation, but it fixes the team’s two biggest rotation issues by providing another dependable starter and much more depth. If the Yankees are serious about improving their starting pitching, it won’t come by pinching pennies.
Step 2: Figure out a plan at shortstop
Thanks to the unexpected news that Didi Gregorius will miss at least half of the Yankees’ 2019 season, the Yankees are suddenly in the market for a shortstop. The Yankees have several options to fill Gregorius’ shoes (or cleats).
For one, the Yankees can do what they do best and go star-hunting for Manny Machado. Machado will be very expensive, and I just don’t see the team being comfortable to spend well over $200 million on Machado, in addition to their starting pitching needs. Yet he would be the perfect short-term replacement for Gregorius. The agreement would probably have to be contingent on Machado’s willingness to slide over to third base if/when Gregorius returns.
With that in mind, the Yankees will probably look for a cheaper, short-term remedy. That could mean letting Gleyber Torres play shortstop, his natural position, and looking for second base help instead. It could also mean a reunion with Adeiny Hechavarria, who adds a welcome defensive element to the Yankees’ infield.
Regardless of what the Yankees do at short, they’ll need to figure out a plan fast. If they wait too long, all of their top options will be gone.
Step 3: Fortify the bench
In the Yankees’ embarrassing Game 3 ALDS loss to the Red Sox, bench players like Brock Holt and Christian Vazquez made a big impact that ultimately put the game out of reach. The Yankees didn’t have a very effective bench in 2018, and that is something that can easily be addressed.
The key to having a good bench is to have guys who can provide a spark and a change from the regular players. For some teams, that means having a slugger come off the bench. For the Yankees, they could use speed, defense, and contact off of the bench. Hechavarria fits this mold; so do Asdrubal Cabrera, Josh Harrison, Sean Rodriguez, and Brett Gardner, if he returns in a reserve role. The Yankees seemed painfully short on depth at various times this year, so adding a couple more bench players wouldn’t be a bad idea, nor would it break the bank.
Step 4: Develop an Identity
The Yankees should also value intangibles when making their 2019 team. The Red Sox, Astros, Dodgers and Brewers all have confident, never-say-die vibes about them that the Yankees just didn’t sometimes this year. The Yankees clubhouse is far from broken, but it could use a little more leadership and needs to develop its own identity.
The 2017 team had it with Todd Frazier’s antics and the Toe-Night Show. The 1990s dynasty teams had it with Darryl Strawberry, Tim Raines and Chili Davis providing veteran savvy and Mariano Duncan’s “We play today, we win today, that’s it” motto. What was the Yankees’ 2018 identity? That’s a question that I don’t even think Aaron Boone could effectively answer.
Whether it’s having the kids take on larger roles or bringing in some veterans to help out, the Yankees need a shot in the arm that could be fixed by tweaking the clubhouse chemistry.