Championship windows are a fickle thing to examine. They often end up shorter then fans imagine them to be, and rarely end up in the dynasties that the Yankees of the ‘50s, ‘70s and ‘90s did. Shouldn’t the Chicago Cubs’ championship window have lasted longer than 2015-2018? How about the 2008-2011 Phillies?
Although they weren’t anywhere near their peak at the time, the Yankees’ championship window effectively started in 2017. The Yankees weren’t a lock to make the playoffs that year, but made it one game shy of the World Series. As soon as that season ended, the Yankees’ championship clock officially began ticking.
The Yankees won 100 games in 2018, but a disappointing playoff performance has largely led to some highlights of the season being forgotten. The Yankees continued to improve in 2019, winning 103 games and giving the Houston Astros all they had in the ALCS. Although the Yankees have had three fantastic years and have only gotten better, the fact is that three years of the proverbial “championship window,” which doesn’t always last 5-7 years, are gone.
However, the stars may be starting to align for the Yankees. They’ve been the best team of the last three years not to win a World Series (sorry Dodgers), but haven’t been able to get over the hump. Things might be changing in 2020, thanks to both internal improvements and external fortunes.
For one, the Yankees’ roster in 2020 is its deepest yet. Every year, the Yankees had one big drawback – starting pitching. What better way to address that then by acquiring the top hurler in the American League in Gerrit Cole? Now, the Yankees rotation has gone from a weakness to a strength. If James Paxton is potentially your fourth starter, your team is in pretty good shape.
Furthermore, the Yankees’ lineup will benefit from a season of (hopefully) full health. Giancarlo Stanton and Miguel Andujar effectively missed the whole 2019 season, while every other starter but Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu missed at least some time. That impossible stretch of bad injury luck just can’t happen again, and likely won’t with a new training staff on board.
The Yankees have an impressive collection of star power. MLB Network has put together top 10 lists by position each offseason, and this year the Yankees have had at least one representative at every position so far. That’s right, the 2020 Yankees can boast a top-10 player at almost every position around the diamond, and arguably the best starting pitcher in the game. The accumulation of talent is incredible, rivaling the 2009 or 2003 squads in that regard.
More importantly, these players are all in their respective primes. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez are 27, Luke Voit is 28, Cole is 29 and Stanton is 30. These are some of the Yankees’ best players, and are square in what should be their statistical peaks. The Yankees’ big dogs should feast in 2020.
2020 is a key season for the team’s payroll too. DJ LeMahieu, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and Brett Gardner are all free agents after the season, and with big money tied up to Cole and Stanton and potential monster deals on the way for Judge and Sanchez, the Yankees may lose at least one of those players. They’ve already lost Dellin Betances and Didi Gregorius too. This isn’t to say that the Yankees are going to lose everyone on the roster, but the team is probably done adding for the most part, and can now shift into retention mode rather than addition mode.
Even still, the Yankees have assembled such a large collection of talent to where they have around four more years as legitimate contenders, and quite possibly more. But who could potentially stop them? This is where things get exciting.
By poaching Cole, the Yankees crippled the Astros, who lost even more when A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were fired. The Astros are still the top contenders to the Yankees, but they are far more beatable this year than in the last three. As the Yankees’ championship window marches on, the Astros’ will only start to close.
The Red Sox are also in turmoil. Mookie Betts might need to be traded as the team is running out of payroll thanks to too many other bad contracts, and the team still doesn’t have a manager after Alex Cora was fired. As tough as the Astros and Red Sox were from 2017-2019, they are now getting weaker as the Yankees are getting better, which bodes well for the team’s chances in 2020.
The next round of contenders might not be ready to challenge the Yankees either. The Twins, Rays, White Sox and Blue Jays all look like up-and-coming teams, but right now cannot match the talent that the Yankees have. For the 2020 season, the Yankees have to be the heavy favorites in the American League.
Again, this is not to say that 2020 is a do-or-die season for the Yankees. But as dynamics around both the old guard and the new challengers are shifting, the Yankees have been left as the only constant in the American League for 2020, and they look stronger than ever. The Yankees definitely have several good seasons ahead, but 2020 has the potential to go down as this core’s signature season.