The World Series is over, and the Long Winter has begun. Tomorrow, teams will make qualifying offers to a handful of players, and free agency will begin. In a little over a month, the (virtual) Winter Meetings will be held — baseball’s winter holiday, a light of spring in the darkest days of winter.
Wouldn’t you like to know what may happen in the upcoming days? Take a look into my crystal ball. But be warned, mortal, for on this day, All Hallow’s Eve, the spirits that stir cloud our view, and show us only the darkest of all the possible futures that may appear.
Still with me? Good. Let us plunge on this journey together.
I see a man, made not of flesh, but of metal, powered not by food and drink, but by electricity. DJ LeMahieu is his name, one of the crown jewels of the upcoming free-agent class, the 2020 American League batting champion and leader in OPS+. I see him at a press conference as he dons his new jersey — one with “Tampa Bay” across the front. It would be bad enough for the Yankees if Brian Cashman lets LeMahieu, the team’s best offensive player the past two seasons, leave in free agency; only his landing with their rivals, who pursued him vigorously two winters ago, would worsen the disaster.
The image fades. I see a group of men — pitchers, to be precise. Gerrit Cole stands in front, leading the pack. Behind him walks Deivi García, Jordan Montgomery, Michael King, and Domingo Germán; Clarke Schmidt runs to catch up, with Luis Severino limping behind. A worthy collection of arms, but it is not enough, not in an American League that has been dominated by super-teams with super-rotations in the last few seasons. Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton are gone, it will be midsummer before Severino returns — at the earliest — yet no reinforcements have been brought in. Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Marcus Stroman, Charlie Morton, and more were available for the taking; all were spurned. Perhaps, one day, García and Schmidt would be enough to form a three-headed monster with Cole; but for a contender, one day is not today.
Once again, the image fades. Replacing them are familiar faces, those of the 2020 Yankees lineup who still remain under team control: Luke Voit, Gio Urshela, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sánchez, Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge, and more besides. Suddenly, however — avert your eyes! — several fade to dust, disappearing as if Thanos had snapped his fingers once more. But this time, however, their fate is worse! For they do not disappear from existence, but rather, have been forced off the Yankee’s roster, victims not of baseball-related transactions, or even a roster crunch, but cold, hard greed — salary dumps merely, in order to reduce the strain of COVID-19 on Hal Steinbrenner’s nautical budget. It is a horrendous view for Yankees fans, a welcome sight to those of its rivals.
At long last, the image fades, and it is not replaced: only my reflection remains. Horrible images of possible futures we have seen, which I, for one, want to scrub clean from my mind. May none of these evils come to pass, but have courage: having braved these terrible images, you will be prepared for the worst that will come on this most dreaded of nights. Happy Halloween!