2022 is about to come to a close, and it brought lots of intense moments for Yankees fans. In the end, the season ended in disappointment once again, as the team was eliminated in the American League Championship Series.
What can fans ask for with next season in mind? Here are five New Year resolutions the organization should have in mind.
Trust the youth
One of the true signs of top teams is that they trust the young talent coming up from the minor leagues. We are not talking about giving each and every prospect with some time in Triple-A a legit shot at the bigs because that isn’t realistic, but in the specific case of the Yankees, it took forever for them to call up Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza even though they were dominating in Scranton for a while.
The idea when you have highly-regarded prospects like those two is to give them a true opportunity to prove themselves in the majors, especially when the players blocking them are clearly not as good as them. It seems like the Yankees are so afraid to “burn” or “expose” a prospect that they miss golden chances for them to develop under the right circumstances.
For the Yanks to take the next step, they need to show confidence in the Perazas, the Cabreras, the Anthony Volpes, the Ron Marinaccios, and the Clarke Schmidts of the world. This way, they will develop a homegrown contributor or two and it will help their financial outlook.
Unload Donaldson and Hicks
It surely isn’t easy — because if it was, it would have happened by now — but the Yankees need to enter the 2023 campaign with Aaron Hicks and Josh Donaldson out of the regular lineup and, ideally, playing for another organization.
Hicks has been good (even great, considering he finished with 4.3 fWAR in 2018) in the past for the Yanks, but he had a 76 wRC+ in 2021 and was at 90 this past season. He is 33, but could have some rebound appeal for another team if the Yanks cover most of his salary. Donaldson was brilliant with the glove in 2022 but was below-average offensively, is already 37 and will make more than $20 million in 2023. Trading him is impossible unless the Yanks attach an attractive prospect to a big-money team like, say, the New York Mets or Los Angeles Dodgers, or eat a big portion of his salary.
It will take some creativity and resources, but the Yanks need to unload one or both. They aren’t realistic starting options for a team with championship goals.
Build a super bullpen
The Yankees’ bullpen is shaping up nicely after acquiring Tommy Kahnle and the expected recoveries of injured stars Michael King and Ron Marinaccio. They also have Jonathan Loáisiga, Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta, Lou Trivino and probably Domingo Germán and Schmidt. But a truly top organization will try to unearth several extra arms for the bullpen through cheap free agent signings with upside, savvy trades (like the ones that brought in Holmes, Peralta and Trivino) and emphasizing internal player development.
Yes, Triple-A is often the source of impact pitchers for a contender like the Yankees, but these hurlers need the right resources and coaching to reach their ceilings. Generally speaking, New York does a very good job on this specific front, but they need to double their efforts in 2023 to make sure the relief corps doesn’t suffer like they did in the second half of 2022. Greg Weissert, Jhony Brito, Randy Vásquez, Albert Abreu and Matt Krook are some arms to watch next season.
“Fix” Frankie Montas
When the Yanks traded for Frankie Montas before the deadline, he had a 3.18 ERA with the Oakland Athletics. Around that time, he suffered the loss of a close person in his inner circle and had recently recovered from a shoulder issue. While he probably overcame the former with time, he couldn’t shake off the latter, and the shoulder was a problem for him during his stint with the Yankees. He posted a 6.35 ERA in the Bronx, in 39.2 innings, and wasn’t a factor in the postseason.
With a full offseason to rest, there is a chance we see the best version of Montas in a while — or at least the 3.50-ERA pitcher the Yankees thought they were acquiring. Their mission, as a team, is making sure he is close to (or at) the best version of himself. That goes for the trainers, the medical staff, the pitching coaches, and the whole analytics department. If they can get the best out of Montas, the rotation has the potential to be close to untouchable.
Return to the World Series
This is the ultimate New Year’s resolution for the Yankees. The most successful franchise in the history of the sport hasn’t gone to the World Series since 2009. Fans are getting impatient, and while the team keeps accumulating winning seasons, that’s not enough in the eyes of most supporters. They want the trophy, and it’s hard to blame them.
Can the Yankees reclaim their status as the best team in the American League, or perhaps all of MLB next year? That’s the million-dollar question.