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The Yankees lost the ALCS. Where do they go from here?

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What’s next for the Bombers as they head home for the winter?

MLB: ALCS-New York Yankees at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees’ season ended in one of the more brutal ways imaginable, and they were unable to exact revenge on the Astros after coming oh-so-close in 2017. This year provided more of the same. The Bombers were an incredibly good baseball team, came very close to forcing a decisive game seven, but instead, the season ends without a World Series appearance for the 10th year in a row.

So, now what? Do the Yankees rest on the laurels of a 103-win season that included a dominating sweep of another 100-win club in the ALDS, and chalk the ALCS loss up to a historic team being just a little bit better, or do they get to work on becoming a historic team themselves?

Brian Cashman has been open in his belief of the postseason being a crapshoot, and the goal is to win the division and get to the postseason and hope the bounces break the Yankees’ way. However, the playoffs become less of a random series of events when they include a team as dominant as the Astros, and the Bombers’ season has ended at the hands of historically dominant teams in each of the past two postseasons now. Perhaps it’s time for the Yanks to go back to doing absolutely everything they can to put the most dominant team on the field and make the crapshoot of a postseason as least crappy as possible, before this current window closes.

The biggest storyline of the offseason will be addressing the starting pitching, and the best pitcher on the planet, at least since about May of this year, happens to be available. Gerrit Cole should be the top priority for the Yankees, and they should be prepared to offer him A LOT of money. Whatever it takes to get Cole in pinstripes and form the Yankees’ own big three, like the Astros and Nationals have right now (you know, the two teams still playing for the World Series. See any correlation?).

One of the biggest advantages the Yankees have over the rest of the league is their financial might, and neglecting to use it would be a major disappointment. No more games, no more pictures of would-be Yankees on the jumbotron followed by a lowball offer. The Yankees’ winter should be spent getting Cole to New York. The lack of starting pitching played a big part in this year’s postseason defeat. The pitching actually did a solid job of holding down Houston’s potent offense for most of the series, but by the end, the bullpen, which needed to be leaned on a lot due to that lack of starting pitching, grew tired and stumbled through the gut-wrenching conclusion of the series. This postseason has seen the return of the starter all around, and the Yanks need a bonafide ace to get over the hump next year. The best option just happens to be available this winter, and they have to get it done.

Should Aroldis Chapman opt out, well, maybe it’s time to put that money towards Cole. Zack Britton was the Yanks’ best bullpen arm this postseason, was dominant in the regular season and could be fit to return to a closer role in 2020. Chapman had another very productive season, at least until the last inning of it, but should he decide to test the market, the Yanks should keep their attention on the rotation. A pitching staff highlighted by Cole with Britton, Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle (who is arbitration eligible) in the back end is certainly World Series worthy. Could Dellin Betances also be in that mix if the Yanks shoot him a qualifying offer and hope he can return to form following his Achilles injury? It’s certainly something to be considered.

On the offensive end, there will be a number of interesting decisions for Cashman and company. Do the Yanks offer Didi Gregorius a qualifying offer of roughly $17 million? The shortstop struggled down the stretch following his return from Tommy John, but in searching for a recent comp, so did Corey Seager, at least for about three months, which is just about where Gregorius was at heading into the postseason. If the Yanks offer it, Gregorius could very well take it, and maybe even get back to the 4-win player he was over the past two seasons.

One of the trickier situations will likely be third base, where Gio Urhsela and Miguel Andujar will be competing for a spot. Urshela certainly showed his staying power, and should likely be the favorite given his defensive ability. Does that mean Andujar gets packaged in a trade, or is his value too low following his season-ending shoulder injury? Across the diamond, a healthy Luke Voit means DJ LeMahieu (who could be offered an extension) needs a place in the infield. Does he move to second and Gleyber Torres to short if Gregorius doesn’t return? What about Greg Bird? Is he still alive? There’s also Edwin Encarnacion, but given the infield logjam and other DH options, it’s plausible that the team doesn’t pick up his option and lets the parrot fly away.

Clearly, the Yankees have a lot to sort out, and that doesn’t even include the outfield. Do they try and lock up Aaron Judge now and avoid arbitration, and does Brett Gardner, fresh off his best offensive season, get offered another year? The questions are seemingly endless, but the offseason should start with priority number one: get Cole for Christmas and go from there.