The Yankees have re-signed Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo, and they have brought in free agents Tommy Kahnle and Carlos Rodón. That is, so far, a very solid offseason. However, it’s still an incomplete one because they haven’t addressed the primary issue: offense.
Rizzo and Judge were not really additions, and Kahnle and Rodón are pitchers. The offense is the same unit that struggled to get anything much going since late July/early August, minus Andrew Benintendi.
We applaud the Yankees for going out of their way to build a super rotation, we really do. They apparently decided, with Rodón’s addition, that the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) wasn’t going to be much of an issue when it comes to building the roster. However, the team needs to capitalize on its good offseason and turn it into a great one by aggressively addressing their offensive needs.
Now that they re-signed two of their best hitters and signed an ace, they need to make sure left field, third base, and shortstop are no longer liabilities if they are serious about competing with the Houston Astros. With Aaron Hicks as the left fielder, Isiah Kiner-Falefa as the starting shortstop, and Josh Donaldson as the third baseman, the Yankees are still no match to the Astros and perhaps even the NL East powerhouses.
After making the sizable Rodón investment, the Yankees need to be aggressive in trying to bring in Bryan Reynolds, Michael Brantley, Max Kepler, Daulton Varsho, or any competent left fielder before their names come off the board of available players. They need to make a decision on shortstop, preferably one that includes giving one of their young guns — Oswald Peraza, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Anthony Volpe are alternatives — a legitimate chance to win the job. And they need to package a prospect or eat some money to trade Donaldson, handing the hot corner to DJ LeMahieu and/or a free agent or trade option. That’s not one or two, but three positions in clear need of upgrading.
Of course, trading Donaldson is harder than it sounds. He is 37, he is owed $21 million in 2023, and he had a 97 wRC+, a .308 OPS, and a .374 slugging percentage in 2022. He did have a streak of nine consecutive seasons with at least a 117 wRC+, though, which could be a selling point. It won’t be easy to trade Hicks, either. He has been a below-average hitter for two years in a row, is already 33 and can no longer play center field. He is a good defensive left fielder, though, and carries a bit more upside than Donaldson.
All things considered, the Yankees can, and should, do much better than a 1.6-fWAR third baseman in 132 games and a 1.5-fWAR left fielder in 130 contests. IKF, who played in 142 games, returned a meager 1.3 fWAR. That is not going to cut it.
The Astros have gotten where they are because they can not only draft and trade for top-end talent, but because they trust the young guys they develop. If the Yankees have top prospects at the infield positions, perhaps it’s time for them to show they can rely on them.
If the Yankees are spending all this money on players, it’s because they want to compete (to really compete, that is) as soon as 2023. And to do that, they need to go all-in, or they will fall short once again.