Welcome to 2019! With a new calendar year comes a new baseball season. It will happen before you know it, too, as Yankees pitchers and catchers report in just 43 days. Instead of looking back on 2018, conversations will soon shift to the season ahead. With that in mind, it’s worth mulling over three preliminary questions that could define the Yankees’ upcoming campaign.
Who will play shortstop?
The Yankees received a major blow to their 2019 season well before it even began. The team announced in October that shortstop Didi Gregorius required Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm. He underwent the procedure and expects to rejoin the club at some time over the summer. It’s tough to predict exactly when, however, and if he will return at full strength.
How will the Yankees replace a 121 wRC+ shortstop with a strong glove? The obvious solution would be to sign Manny Machado. He could cover the shortstop position until Gregorius returns, then slide over to third base. His decision will likely shape the the course of the remaining offseason schedule.
If the Yankees choose not to go the Machado route, they will likely prioritize a glove-first stopgap. That’s not the most appealing option, but infield defense will be critical for the team in 2019. They had a rough go of fielding last year, and a sound defensive shortstop like Freddy Galvis or Adeiny Hechavarria would be an okay consolation prize.
Is the outfield actually settled?
“The Yankees have an outfield logjam”, they say. “There’s no room for adding another outfielder.”
A fun exercise is to figure out if that refrain came before spring training 2018 or now. The Bombers have six viable big league options for the outfield, but they did last year, too. The club ran Shane Robinson out in right field for a month and had to trade for Andrew McCutchen. The depth didn’t evaporate; it never materialized.
With Clint Frazier making his way back from a concussion, and Jacoby Ellsbury a constant question mark, the Yankees could probably buttress their outfield. Plus, Aaron HIcks and Brett Gardner will hit free agency at season’s end. Signing an outfielder now would go a long way toward addressing future concerns. I wonder if a MVP-caliber outfielder could be had in free agency...
What will the bullpen look like?
One of the Yankees’ calling cards is to field a super-bullpen. The team loves to have multiple closers forming an unrivaled endgame battalion. That said, it’s 2019 and there are few holes in the relief corps.
David Robertson and Zach Britton hit free agency, and the Yankees have yet to bring either back into the mix. The club has been connected to Adam Ottavino, but it remains to be seen if he pitches in pinstripes. Trade targets and internal options exist, but free agency appears the solution to rounding out the relief staff. Hopefully that comes together sooner rather than later. If not, Chad Green, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman make a fearsome late-innings trio.