Well, Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner are making moves. After doing the minimum in retaining their homegrown superstar in Aaron Judge, they had to keep going. Stopping there meant the team would be exactly the same, and as we saw in the ALCS, that wasn’t nearly enough to be the top team in the American League. While the biggest holes on the team going into the offseason were and still are in the offense, Carlos Rodón provided an opportunity to make the starting rotation the absolute best in baseball, not just the best in the division.
The cost came at six years and $160 million. Depending on your evaluation of the lefty, the Yankees will be getting a bargain in the first few years of that deal. This past season, Rodón was brilliant, and perhaps the most valuable starter in the national league at 6.2 fWAR. That mark was behind only Aaron Nola who Rodón beat out in ERA and FIP, but in over 20 fewer innings. Sandy Alcantara was the Cy Young winner due to his incredible volume and run suppression, but if we’re focused on missing bats, Rodón was the absolute best in the National League.
Long story short, if he is anything like he was last season and in 2021, the Yankees will get a bargain at the $26.67 million per year average annual value. Our own Malachi Hayes brilliantly summarized who the Yankees are getting in Rodón, and we’re on the same page that he will more than justify the dollars spent.
If you’re worried about injuries, you should focus on the mechanics. Going into the 2021 season, he made some key changes that better utilized his lower half and arm swing timing to take some stress off his arm, which had a myriad of issues. And to be honest, outside of Gerrit Cole, almost every top tier starter gives you some cause for concern. It’s just the nature of pitching. But we need to readjust our expectations when a player makes changes like Rodón has — Brian Cashman and his team are confident, and you should be too.
Now, in terms of financial impact, Hal Steinbrenner has indeed put his money where his mouth is. The discourse around the booing hasn’t tired me because maybe it really did impact Hal’s feelings and willingness to invest in this team. Who wants to be known as the cheaper version of their father? At least now, Steinbrenner can say he invested in the team, no matter the end result.
At just under $293 million for the 2023 season, the Yankees are creeping very very close to the final luxury tax threshold in which the team, mainly Hal, would pay an 80 percent tax on every dollar spent over $292 million as a first time offender. For this reason, it is almost inevitable that a player like Aaron Hicks will be traded. As I said in the analysis of Judge’s contract, every dollar at this point counts. The team has blown by the third threshold ($273 million) and will pay a 62.5 percent tax rate on the nearly $20 million they have exceeded. I don’t think they will be able to move Josh Donaldson and that is the only way they will be able to get back under that threshold. That is why Hicks seems like the most realistic player to go, unless they really are entertaining a move of Gleyber Torres as well. Either way, a trade is coming.
Where I am not so sure is how the hole in left field will be filled. After the Judge signing, we knew more was coming in free agency, but now, a move for any free agent would bring them at least $10 million above the final threshold. Andrew Benintendi always felt like the most likely move, but with the White Sox making a move for the outfielder, the next steps are unclear. Rumor has it that Max Kepler is a fit to take over left field via trade, but I’m not sure I see it with him. And that isn’t because I don’t think he can be a good hitter again, rather, I think this team needs a high floor bat. With that same logic, it means Michael Conforto shouldn’t be an option either. He might be an even bigger question mark than Kepler, who at least plays excellent defense. So where does that leave them?
Is the answer Oswaldo Cabrera? I’m not too sure about that. His value is in his versatility. Okay, well he is the only realistic internal option with Aaron Hicks all but likely on his way out. The external trade options like Alek Thomas, Bryan Reynolds, and Dylan Carlson are all very intriguing to me. They all come with salaries that will easily allow the Yankees to find a way to stay under the $293 threshold if Hicks is moved, and they can be longer term solutions than the one-year free agent options. The price will mainly be in the form of prospects, but these players would all be worth it, given their low salaries and multiple years of control. You may think I’m crazy, but if Cashman wants to get an above average left fielder at a low cost, this is the way to go. Thomas and Carlson have both been floated in rumors, so I’m confident they’re available for the right price.
I’m left feeling pretty confident in the team to make a good decision for the 2023 roster. The addition of Rodón has significantly increased my confidence in Steinbrenner to give Cashman the keys to build a World Series roster with both a high ceiling and floor that will make them the better team on paper compared to their foe in the Houston Astros. They’ve already surpassed their opponent’s rotation due to bringing in the co-ace, Rodón, and now it’s time for the final move of a talented left fielder.