The Yankees and Major League Baseball have been in the news quite a lot lately, and not for on-field matters. Whether it’s their sluggish response to the protests throughout the country, the letter that the Yankees are trying to suppress from the gambling lawsuit against the league, or the ugly labor dispute that saw the league try to bust the players’ union, baseball in general, and the Bombers in particular, have not had a good couple of weeks.
But with reports that the league and union may be making progress towards a deal to
resume spring training start up summer training and begin the season, it’s about time to remind ourselves of what baseball matters have actually been going on with the Yankees.
The Walking Wounded
Had the season started on time, the Yankees would have been missing Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and James Paxton. Furthermore, although it’s unclear if he’d have missed any time, Gary Sanchez was dealing with minor ailments during spring training as well.
Fast forward to today, and things look a lot different. Stanton, Paxton, and Sanchez are ready to get on the field as soon as the league and union give everyone the thumbs up; Hicks, additionally, may become the first ever play to miss no games after getting Tommy John surgery.
Aaron Judge’s rib injury, however, has been another story. The latest news we have comes from the end of May, when hitting coach Marcus Thames mentioned that Judge had not been given the green light to swing the bat. Back then, Brian Cashman mentioned that he expected the star outfielder to be ready during the summertime. Well, the summer starts in two days, but we’ve heard nothing new.
The Battle for the Fifth Rotation Spot
With Luis Severino missing the season with Tommy John surgery, the Yankees’ rotation exiting spring training stood at Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, and J.A. Happ, with the fourth and fifth spot up for grab. Now that Paxton is likely to be ready as soon as the season starts, the competition has shrunk to just the final rotation spot.
Jordan Montgomery seemed to have the inside track on that job, to the point of some crowning him the fourth starter as soon as it was clear both Severino and Paxton were going to miss time. Manager Aaron Boone had raved about an uptick in velocity from his cameo at the end of the 2019 season, and he had put together a respectable performance in spring training (striking out 16 and walking only one, although four of his seven hits allowed were home runs). So long as everybody finishes the ramp-up healthy, expect him to land the job.
If not, however, or if the Yankees decide to go with a six-man rotation due to the unconventional circumstances of the season, Jonathan Loaisiga or Michael King could make their way into the rotation. Loaisiga was fairly lights-out in the spring, striking out 15 and walking only one in 10 innings of work, while the Yankees have been high on King. In either case, they are both in line to be featured on the team’s expanded roster, likely serving in multi-inning relief roles.
Impending Free Agents
The Yankees have some tough decisions ahead of them following the season, with DJ LeMahieu, Paxton, and Tanaka set to hit free agency; they may be joined by Happ and Brett Gardner, depending on the status of the former’s vesting option and whether or not the Yankees pick up the latter’s team option. With all this in mind, that means the team’s leadoff hitter, starting left/center fielder, and three-fifths of the current starting rotation may be in a different uniform next season.
Due to expected salary increases to a number of arbitration-eligible Yankees, it’s unlikely that all of these players will be back in pinstripes next year; which ones do, ultimately, may very well depend on their performance in their contract year and the sort of contracts that they’re set to receive on the open market,
Gerrit Cole is a Yankee
Just felt like we needed another reminder.