The Yankees off season game plan that no one asked for! (Especially the Yankees)

This is a tricky off season for the Yankees. They have their franchise player/de-facto Captain on the market, a roster that somehow finds a way to overperform and underperform at the same time, and a group of prospects bashing at the door trying to secure their opportunity to shine. Their payroll is already anchored by some pretty hefty contracts and an ownership group that insists on applying a "bend don't break" philosophy as far as the budget is concerned into every off-season. This has been a team that has pretended to contend for too long. It's time they take this roster to the next level. Here's what they should do.

1) Sign Aaron Judge - Let's get the elephant taken care of first. We all know this team looks completely different without Judge. It would take at least an equal investment in multiple players to make up for the loss of such a valuable Yankee, so why not just get this deal done and avoid all the chaos. I'm going to give him the same $332M that is projecting him to receive, but I'm going to ask to spread that out over ten years instead of the eight years that they're predicting. This saves the Yankees $8M/yr of their all important luxury tax space. Before anyone questions why Judge would take that deal - He gets his money. He's not going to sign another free agent contract after he concludes an 8 year deal, so what does it matter to him at that point as long as he gets the most total dollars? If someone offers him a crazy amount of money, like $400M, maybe we'll have to kiss him goodbye and scrap any conventional off season plans. I think he'll accept an offer from the Yankees in the range of $320-350M regardless of the length of the deal. That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.

2) Sign Trea Turner - Rookies, prospects,...yeah, I know. But this isn't about what the Yankees WILL do, it's about what they SHOULD do. Eight years at $268M isn't chump change, but that's what it will cost to bring in another elite offensive player that this lineup clearly needs. Even if the prospects are everything the Yankees think they're going to be, they most likely won't reach elite status for a couple years. Can the Yankees waste another couple years of Cole or Judge waiting for that to happen? They've already wasted too many years doing half measures and moving forward with their "hopes and prayers" philosophies. Turner is a rich man's DJL with speed, a little more power, and he can also play SS. He can start the season at SS if the Yankees aren't confident in one of the prospects or shift over to 2B if they're ready to give the youngsters the reins. Either way, an elite talent like Turner will find his way into any lineup seamlessly.

3) Trade Gleyber Torres to Seattle for Jesse Winker and Diego Castillo - We can throw in Lucas Leutge or Albert Abreu in this deal if needed because Luetge is expected to make $1.7M this year and Abreu, well - he's Albert Abreu. Winker had a down year in 2022, but he's been an excellent contact hitter since entering the league and he can provide a little pop from the left side. He won't do the Yankees any favors on defense, but in a RF/DH platoon with Stanton, his bat would be a welcome addition. Castillo would give the Yankees a back of the bullpen type arm with two years of control left. This move fills two holes at once, while clearing a little bit of the infield log jam. Turner effectively takes over Gleyber's spot on the roster with much more speed and defensive flexibility to accompany a much higher floor and ceiling than Gleyber had.

4) Sign Kodei Senga - No posting fees needed and a 5/$75M price tag is right in line with what a #4 starter might cost on a good team. If the Yankees bring him in, they'll be banking on at least that type production with hopes for #2 or #3 upside. This move would help the Yankees solidify their 2024 rotation as well, since Sevy and Montas might be gone by then. This isn't Verlander or deGrom, but pitching has not been the Yankees problem in recent post seasons and I choose to go after the promise of an unknown commodity as opposed to chasing past glory with a much more expensive and older option. Cole, Sevy, Cortes, Senga, and Montas looks like an interesting collection of pitchers in what would surely be the deepest starting staff in baseball.

Where the roster stands after these moves:

Depth Chart

LF - Judge/Hicks/Cabrera/Florial

CF - Hader/Judge/Hicks

RF - Winker/Stanton/Cabrera

DH - Stanton/Winker

1B - Rizzo/DJL/Cabrera

2B - Turner/DJL/Peraza/Volpe/Cabrera/IKF

SS - Volpe/Peraza/Turner/Cabrera/IKF

3B - Donaldson/DJL/Cabrera/IKF

C - Trevino/Higgy/Rortvedt

SP - Cole/Sevy/Cortes/Montas/Senga/German/Schmidt

RP - Holmes/Loaisiga/Castillo/King/Peralta/Trivino/Marinaccio

This looks like a pretty deep roster, but we have one more giant task to complete, which gets us to step #5 -

5) Trim the fat - Look to trade away all the fat and use these players to fill the lesser thought of holes on a roster. The Yankees need some pitchers with minor league options available, especially starters, because they're lacking depth in that area after recent trades have left that particular shelf bare.

Josh Donaldson - I know he's going to cost the Yankees significant monies to trade away, and I wouldn't be opposed to him starting the season at 3B and see if he rebounds to at least league average. But when he doesn't by the middle of May, cut him loose. One of the biggest problems the Yankees have had in recent years is compounding their mistakes by not knowing when to move on from them. I'd be shopping JD hard right now, and if you can find someone willing to take as much as $10M of his contract, send him packing. Otherwise, give him until the middle of May, because at least his defense has been elite with the Yankees. Teams that performed horribly at 3B last year that may have thoughts of being on the periphery of the playoff picture would make ideal targets- Texas(Josh Jung is long term answer here, but Donaldson buys them a little more time), Detroit, Cubs, Miami, and CWS(Wouldn't it be fun to see Tim Anderson and Josh Donaldson in the same infield every day? LOL - probably least likely of this bunch). Milwaukee is also looking for 3B help.
IKF - If the Yankees do not find a home for Donaldson before the season starts, IKF needs to be gone. They both can not start the season on the MLB roster. Keep one around at least until the other is gone and/or until the Yankees know what's going on with DJL's toe. When the Yankees decide to move on, I'd expect IKF to return a much needed arm that has minor league options available. Note: I did not say a high leverage or top prospect arm. IKF only carries a 0.6 positive value on BBTV, so let's not get crazy here. I'm expecting a slightly better version of Albert Abreu type talent that can take a spot start or play the swingman role a few times a year.

Aaron Hicks - Speaking of Hicks: I assume he'll be shopped to other teams for the remainder of his Yankee days. If anyone bites - they have to take it. It's time. While I have no problem with him as a 5th or 6th outfielder(I have to include Stanton as #4), he doesn't bring many of the specialized talents you'd prefer to see out of a 5th or 6th outfielder, especially considering Stanton is always in the mix as #4. He's not elite defensively and doesn't have lightning speed, or a power bat off the bench. In other words, the only reason he should ever see the field is as an injury fill in or late inning defensive replacement to an inferior defender(Winker or Stanton). Many of you will be surprised by this fact, but fangraphs actually had Hicks valued at $11.6M last season, so his contract isn't quite as burdensome going forward as most of us have thought. Assuming the $1M buyout on his last year is exercised, he's owed $31M on his deal for the next three years. That's a $10.33M average that a team in need of a veteran outfielder might take a risk on. Assuming a drop in production each year ranging from 5% to 10% to 20% translates to total value for Hicks' production ranging from $22.64M-$31.44M. In other words, this is the time to move him. He shouldn't see significant playing time on the Yankees, and there's always the risk of injury. Either way, his value is only going to plummet from here. He NEEDS to be traded before the 2023 season to capitalize on his 2022 season. Much like IKF, don't go crazy thinking there's going to be a significant haul, or even a decent one. At best, you're getting another pitcher with options, a very low level prospect, or possibly even need to take back a $5-10M contract in return, but you're saving $10M precious dollars each of the next three seasons that should be spent on something other than a 5th or 6th outfield option. Teams in need of outfield help - Colorado, Cinci, Atlanta, Minnesota, and Miami. I like the idea of him going back to Minnesota, but I'd prefer to send him to Miami in exchange for Richard Bleier. If we had to send Lucas Luetge packing in the Seattle trade we could use another lefty in the pen to accompany Wandy Peralta. If Luetge wasn't moved to Seattle, he can be thrown in here to offset the Bleier loss in Miami.

Higgy - I actually liked the way the catching tandem worked out last year, but Higgy's going to be 33 years old by the start of the season and was pretty horrible offensively in the first half of the season. He performed much better in the second half, when his role was slightly diminished playing 12 less games than the first half, resulting in 46 fewer plate appearances. Maybe the reduced playing time will benefit him going forward, but I'm willing to let another team find out. He's expected to earn $1.75M, which isn't a ridiculous cost, but they traded for Rortvedt last year and I like the LH/RH platoon idea with him. This is another move that isn't 100% necessary, because much like Hicks, he somehow provided $13.2M of value to the Yankees in 2022 according to fangraphs. Take advantage of that now and trade him for another one of those fringe pieces. Detroit could use a catcher, and they fell in love with a previous Yankee backup backstop years ago in Romine, so that could make a lot of sense. Also, if St. Louis decides against spending the big bucks on Contreras or Vazquez, Higgy could fit in very well there.

And, something to think about -

DJL's toe - I'll let you all in on a little known secret - DJ's no trade clause expired at the end of last season. It's been converted to a limited no trade, and I'm not sure exactly how limited it actually is, but this could be significant. If the Yankees don't trade Peraza, Volpe, or Cabrera, and keep them all in their future plans, shouldn't the Yankees be kicking their tires on possibly moving on from DJ? I'm not saying this should happen now, because his veteran presence in the lineup will only help these youngsters develop. BUT, if the Yankees actually do pull the trigger on a Turner deal and have all of these youngsters just about ready, DJ becomes less of a need and an expensive one at $15M/yr. To be clear, I'm only bringing this up because I'd like to get ahead of the Hicks curve with DJ. In other words, if the stars align and he's healthy while the youngsters are ready and performing, I'd very much look into moving him.

I don't expect the Yankees to make half these moves. I think they should though. They're most likely going to roll out a very similar team in 2023 to the one that was swept by Houston in this year's ALCS. They've already set the stage, using injuries as an excuse for their loss and again showering IKF with public support while praising Josh Donaldson's work ethic. This is where this organization has been tragically wrong in recent years. And the worst part about all of this is, by the time the youngsters reach the elite status the Yankees expect them to reach, the rest of the key pieces will be too old or broken down to make a difference. Two years from now, Judge, Cole, and Stanton will be making close to $100M/yr at 33, 34, and 35 years old. Rather than the youngsters adding to an already strong core, they will be replacing them, and the team will need further additions. And this is ONLY if they reach the lofty heights this team believes they'll reach. What could possibly go wrong there?

What do you think?

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