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The Yankees may not have addressed their lineup enough

The Yankees got Aaron Judge back, but did they do enough to get support him in the lineup?

MLB: New York Yankees at Chicago White Sox Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training, and it feels like the 2023 season is just around the bend. The New York Yankees are a good baseball team, with a lot of good players, but it feels fair to say they may not have done enough in the offseason to feel totally safe. They got Aaron Judge to return, and secured a second ace in Carlos Rodón, but the back of the lineup is worrisome. This is mostly the same group as last year, and although there were some bright spots, there’s a good chance they end up yielding similar results.

In the thrilling first half of 2022, the Yankees boasted the best offense in baseball. They had a team wRC+ of 122 in that time, and held the best record in the league for much of it. The second half, however, was much less inspiring. They were just barely above .500 from July to the end of the regular season, with some particularly rough stretches, and held a less impressive team wRC+ of 106. It should also be noted that this number is propped up by the obscene 252 mark Judge put up in the second half.

When Judge wasn’t at the plate in the latter half of 2022, the Yankees had trouble getting much going.

Judge is a phenomenal start, of course, and Anthony Rizzo is a very good guy to have around as well. But, I can’t help but feel like this lineup is missing another capital-G “Guy.” Speaking of big Gs, it seems like the Yankees are depending on Giancarlo Stanton to get past the injury problems in his lower half and return close to form. The same goes for DJ LeMahieu: it feels like a necessity that he can return at least somewhere close to what he was in 2019 and ‘20.

I think both of those guys are still good, but a realistic scenario probably pegs them as somewhat diminished versions of themselves. Stanton is a 33-year-old coming off the worst season of his career, and LeMahieu was plagued by nagging injuries for much of last season, something that has become a concerning trend.

Gleyber Torres is another prime example of the flaws in this lineup construction. He’s probably going to see a lot of time in the 3-4-5 spots of the Yankees’ order in 2023. He’s a good player, but he’s probably not someone who should be batting cleanup for a great team. Torres is someone any club would be happy to have somewhere in their lineup, but when the reliance on him is this high, it will make the inevitable struggles even more glaring.

Beyond just that, in an era of more fluid lineups game to game, as Josh wrote last month, the issue here isn’t the actual order itself, or the fluidity it’ll surely have. Rather, it’s the fact that it might just not have enough good hitters in it.

Even further down the lineup is a combination of Jose Trevino, Josh Donaldson, Aaron Hicks, Harrison Bader, Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza, etc. There’s some potential there, I’m not completely out on Donaldson, and there may be something to tap in to with Bader. Regardless, all of those names are question marks. As this lineup currently stands, some of those players will regularly be batting fifth or sixth, only magnifying the action that wasn’t taken to improve the offense.

That’s the real question at hand here: did the Yankees do enough to improve on the sluggish offense we saw in the second half of 2022? The answer feels like no. This is still a good team, with some of the best top-end talent in the league, but that talent needs some help, particularly in the lineup. As we head into 2023, the Yankees are essentially running it back with the same group. Of course, there are also much worse alternatives had the offseason gone differently, but still, we saw how big the holes in this lineup can get.

It’s a good thing to have hope, and it’s obviously not all completely bleak. There are scenarios where things largely work out throughout the lineup, but there are also some big questions in it that weren’t quite answered this offseason. Given this, the Yankees may be risking a repeat of some of the rough stretches we saw last season.