Approaching Free Agency ... The Right Way

With all that's been anticipated over the past few weeks, the New York Yankees have yet to make a splash in free agency and are patiently waiting to see what unfolds. Several of the teams biggest needs are the positions of shortstop and centerfield along with some much needed balance to this strikeout-or-home run oriented group who struggled mightily at times last season to put up runs, in part due to the lack of left handed contact hitters. Even with the acquisitions of Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo, it seemed at times they were a bit unbalanced and could ultimately never blow out inferior opponents, as they finished the season with only a +38 run differential (to contrast, the Braves had a +146 run differential and the Dodgers, Giants, Astros and Rays all had a run differential of +200).

With or without the small-ball style of baseball that got them through a 13 game win streak (Which during that streak, the club pitched to an amazing 2.66 ERA, 3rd overall in the league during that span) they struggled to get the job done offensively and at times looked like they were not comfortable playing that style of baseball in the first place. If the Yankees are to capture that elusive title number 28, it can only be done through a truly balanced lineup that has the winning combination of speed, contact and power. Looming in free agency are more than several options that can heal the Yankees right-handed logjam and turn this team back to the run-producing machine we were so accustomed to seeing over the past few years.

First off, one of the most underrated assets of the 2009 championship team was the flexibility of switch-hitting batters in the lineup. Mark Texiera, Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada, Melky Cabrera . While Switch-Hitting is more of a sought after trend rather than a revelation of modern baseball, it might be worth it for the yankees to think about signing a solid 2B/3B/1B utility switch hitter in Eduardo Escobar. Coming off a solid season between the Diamondbacks and Brewers, Escobar posted a .253 Average and .314 On Base Percentage while hitting 28 Home Runs and 90 RBI. While numbers like that definitely are not the likes of Marcus Semein and his 45 Homers, it's all about the balance for the proper way to build a winning formula.

Also notable is highly-ranked Yankees prospect Oswaldo Cabrera who is coming off a monster breakout season between Double-A and Triple-A, Hitting .272 With 29 Homers and 89 RBI. Towards the end of the year, he was promoted to Triple-A and in only 9 Games he racked up 15 Hits in 30 plate appearances while showing a great approach at the plate. It's not out of the question to see him as soon as next season and definitely a reality that he can compete for a roster spot. The yankees will definitely have some opening for him, given his unique versatility, as he did log 24 Games at shortstop, along with 43 at 2nd Base and 35 at 3rd Base, so his ability to play anywhere would be a huge impact in a utility kind of role. Cabrera did steal 21 Bases on 26 Attempts so the athleticism is a welcome addition to this squad as well.

Other options include veteran infielder Jonathan Villar, who, for just $3.5 million, hit 18 Homers for the Mets in 117 starts between 3rd Base, Shortstop and 2nd Base. While Villar is not the best option in terms of contact hitting with his Average hovering around .249, his versatility can be a good pickup at a discounted price and his defense around the diamond would provide the reliable pinch-hit platoon option they need off the bench. Villar also swiped 12 bags and is no stranger to the Yankees organization over his years.

While Upper-tier Switch Hitters like Jose Ramirez of Cleveland and Bryan Reynolds of Pittsburgh would certainly carry more of an offensive load, this Yankee Lineup is in more of a need of balance and fundamental baseball more than anything which is why I believe the Yankees will pursue the more eco-friendly options, being that the rest of the avialable payroll still must be used to pursue the best available options at either First Base, Shortstop, or Centerfield. While Yankees GM Brian Cashman has stated that the team plans to spend with a bit of "latitude", it remains to be seen where the Money will go exactly.

Assuming the Yankees want to moderately split up the spending, with a majority of the money going to an elite left handed bat such as the likes of Freddie Freeman or Corey Seager, and the rest split up according to what makes sense based on who else they can get for a reasonable price and still add some balance, the Yankees lineup could look something like this come opening day, with all considered regarding the Lefty/Righty balance problem;

With Freeman:

3B DJ Lemaihu R
1B Freddie Freeman L
RF Aaron Judge R
DH Giancarlo Stanton R
CF Aaron Hicks S
2B Gleyber Torres R
LF Joey Gallo L
SS Jonathan Villar L / Veteran Stopgap ? /Gio Urshela R / One of the Prospects
C Gary Sanchez R

With a top Free Agent SS (Seager, Correa Story) and potential Matt Olson Trade;

3B DJ Lameihu R
1B Matt Olson L
RF Aaron Judge R
DH Giancarlo Stanton R
SS (Seager, Correa or Story) R/L
LF Joey Gallo L
2B Gleyber Torres R
CF Aaron Hicks S
C Gary Sanchez R

Some of the Notable Veteran Free Agent Bench Candidates include;

Eduardo Escobar 2B/3B/1B (S)
Odubel Herrera CF (L)
Kevin Pillar CF (R)
Freddy Galvis SS (S)
Stephen Vogt C (L)
Brad Miller 2B/1B/OF (L)
Asdrubal Cabrera 2B/SS/3B (S)

Whoever they do sign, besides the big Free Agent names, they will want to keep a window open for some of the Prospects to come up such as SS Oswald Peraza, 2B/3B/SS Oswaldo Cabrera and SS Anthony Volpe, as well as the potential return of 2018 Rookie of the Year Runner-Up Miguel Andujar.
In the Outfield, there's some speculation about a Starling Marte signing but it will be tough as the Yankees will have to outbid the Astros, Phillies, Mets, Marlins, and many more in a hot pursuit of one of the best overall Free Agents on the market. Highly ranked prospect CF Esteven Florial is bound to get another chance in 2022 after appearing in several games down the stretch for the club in this past season. Florial is a left-handed bat who can also hit for power and if he can find his spot in the majors, would be a massive peice in this lineup.

The current man assigned to the job is switch-hitting Aaron Hicks, who is scheduled to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic after missing most of 2021 battling injuries. Hicks is a well above average defender and has proven to be a tough out year after year with his .360 On Base Percentage since 2017. His ability to see pitches in long at bats (Hicks ranked in the Top 10 of all MLB for 3 of those years in pitches per plate appearance with around 4.28) and additionally bring the switch-hitting dynamic to the lineup, makes him a strong candidate for the job if he can stay healthy.

Whatever the Yankees do, most likely will be primarily based off what other teams are offering as there are many talented left-handed bats on the market and the rest will depend on who their main acquisition is (in terms of payroll). For example, If they get a high end talent like Freddie Freeman, then we can be sure Corey Seager or Starling Marte is off the table, and vice versa. The rest of the payroll will probably primarily be filled with experienced valuable veterans who can provide more left-handed/switch-hitting bats to this ball club.

In terms of pitching, the Yankees ranked 6th in all of baseball with a 3.74 ERA and while it is just as important that number stays next season, the Yankees may look to add even more rotation help to deepen the clubs bullpen and give Manager Aaron Boone more flexibility to not overuse his arms. What will be done to beef up remains to be seen, but at this point there are bigger fish to catch and we will probably see some moves to balance out the lineup as oppose to the

In my opinion, there's a big market out there for trades, and a loaded free agent class, which means the yankees have flexibility if they can't get the best avialable option and will ultimately have an easier time than usual fixing this roster and signing the players necessary to take this team where it needs to go. With plenty of money to spend, we should expect what we do every year (a World Series) once again.

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