After an ALCS Game Six loss ended the Yankees’ season, fan confidence in their offense has started to dim. The Bombers ranked high on every offensive category you can think of over the season, yet it’s being judged after a sample of six games. Yes, these are some of the most-watched games of the year, and more judgement gets placed on them, but the truth is the Yankees have a juggernaut offense with depth to spare. Their offseason focus needs to be pitching, and the offense lets them do just that.
Last offseason when DJ LeMahieu joined the Yankees, there was some confusion as to why the team made the deal. At the time, LeMahieu was arguably the most overqualified bench player in the league, as a batting champion and Gold Glove winner. The signing offered the Yankees a great depth option in the infield, and as it turned out, LeMahieu had a career year at the plate.
He wasn’t the only infielder to come up big in 2019. Gio Urshela did as well. Even Luke Voit followed up a great 2018 with continued success in 2019, further solidifying his spot at first base. An injury-shortened second half shouldn’t hamper the production he put up through June (140 wRC+).
In just one season the Yankees have formed a formidable infield with pieces that were recently bench options. Compared to Neil Walker and Ronald Torreyes in 2018, the Bombers gave themselves a better chance to succeed during 2019 in case of injury or under performance.
Heading into 2020, we know that there is no such thing as having too much depth after the injury plagued 2019. But these three players have inserted themselves as everyday options for the Yankees, arguably putting offense lower on the shopping list.
Tommy John Surgery for Aaron Hicks doesn’t help, but with Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton as his outfield partners, the Yankees just need to carry capable depth options as they have. Brett Gardner is a good candidate to be re-signed, and Mike Tauchman played well enough to earn another shot as a starter. Free agency and the trade market do offer some options, but the quality in-house options means the priority again should be on a starter.
One of the biggest questions facing the Yankees this offseason is do they add Didi Gregorius or not. At his best, you can expect a 120 wRC+ season combined with an outstanding glove at short. However, the Yankees’ estimated luxury tax payroll is about 216 million dollars currently according to FanGraphs. It is likely they will pass the second luxury tax threshold of 228 million in 2020 but unlikely they will enter the third tier of 248 million. That would mean their highest selection in the draft would be move back ten places. In other words, the Yankees have about 32 million dollars of annual average value this offseason if that is the case.
Because of the seasons that LeMahieu, Urshela, and Voit had, the Yankees could deem Gregorius’ bat and glove expendable. If he is re-signed, it could move LeMahieu to first base again further lengthening the list of first base or DH types in Luke Voit, Mike Ford, Miguel Andujar, and Clint Frazier. Not only would Gregorius raise the payroll closer to a point the Yankees find uncomfortable, but offensively his 110-120 wRC+ could be produced by these four players. The signs aren’t great for Gregorius as Gleyber Torres showed a capability of playing short while he was recovering.
Overall the Yankees could pay less than 15 million dollars next season for three of the most important Yankees of 2019 and LeMahieu counts for 12 million. Considering a need for pitching depth and the current free agent pool, LeMahieu, Urshela, and Voit, have allowed the Yankees some breathing room to focus primarily on the rotation. As we head into next season, it will be interesting to see what depth options the Yankees add . Nevertheless, after these players helped cement three position on the Yankees diamond, it’s now time for the organization to do so on the pitching side.