The Yankees entered 2020 on the high of making the biggest signing of the offseason, landing Gerrit Cole to a nine-year deal. The team didn’t make any other significant moves before the start of spring, deeming their roster fit to take on the rest of the American League and earn their first trip to the World Series since 2009.
Those plans had to shift quickly, as first Luis Severino went down for the season and then the pandemic hit. There was a long stretch where not much at all happened across the sport, with the player’s union and owners spending most of that time clashing over what the season should look like when baseball returned. The result was the strange, 60-game season that ended in an ALDS exit for New York. Along the way the team struggled mightily compared to the lofty expectations they set, and yet, as we’re about to see, help never really arrived.
When Severino first went down, the New York media was quick to offer the yearly Mets-Yankees trade speculation early. The speculation was that the Yankees could inquire after Matz, who could’ve ended up as the odd man out after the Mets added a trio of starting options over the past year, to shore up Sevy’s spot and potentially serve as a cheap rotation filler for next season as well. In retrospect, it’s a good thing that the Yankees didn’t bother with this — Matz put up a gaudy 9.68 ERA in 30.2 innings of work.
This one is a two-parter mostly involving the second story, but it’s important to note that Walker was available to the Yankees for just money at the beginning of the year. Of course, there wasn’t much of a want — let alone need — for Walker back then, but passing on him may have been one of the Yankees’ regrets this year. Walker signed for just $2 million in Seattle, and put up decent enough numbers to become a trade candidate that New York was interested in. The Yankees passed again, and then Walker was shipped to Toronto, where he posted a 1.37 ERA down the stretch.
On the prospect front for the Yankees, this was a big year for a couple of key players getting a foothold in the majors. Clint Frazier showed enough improvement in 2020 for Brian Cashman to make him untouchable at the trade deadline, and based on how the roster projects for next year, he fits into their plans for the foreseeable future. García, meanwhile, was called up to fill in the second game of a doubleheader and wound up making an impact on the rotation for the rest of the year. There definitely wouldn’t be any controversy over a potential postseason start for a rookie pitcher, either.
The trade deadline didn’t feature many big names moving around, except for one pitcher. Clevinger was the gem of the deadline, and the Yankees were interested but distant suitors for his services. Clevinger ended up going to the Padres for a six-player haul, headlined by some MLB-ready players in Josh Naylor, Austin Hedges and Cal Quantrill. The trade ultimately didn’t cost the Padres any of their top prospects, but it backfired on them when Clevinger required Tommy John surgery that will hold him out until 2022. Perhaps it’s for the best that the Yankees didn’t get too serious in the Clevinger sweepstakes.
Fast forward to the end of the season, and we’ve got some rumors that still very much matter to the potential of the 2021 team. Molina has been a name that has been connected to the Yankees for weeks now, dating back to a Jon Heyman tweet throwing out the possibility of the team’s interest. We’ve broken it down several times since how Molina could be helpful, but now it seems like the only way he comes to the Bronx is if he’s fine creating some sort of tandem starting job with Gary Sánchez.
Finally, the ongoing saga that everyone just wants to be over but only with the good ending. DJ LeMahieu has been the central point of the Yankees offseason, arguably since spring training. Everyone was aware that his impending free agency could be drastic for the outlook of the team then, and that has only become more apparent after he posted a top-three MVP finish. As of this writing there’s no conclusion to LeMahieu’s free agency either, and it looks likely that it will head into 2021 unresolved. Whenever the pen meets paper however, the Yankees remain hopeful that they’ll be the team he signs with.