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It’s time for the Yankees to think about 2024

Shutting down some injured stars and giving some prospects regular playing time should be part of the agenda for the next month and a half

Oswald Peraza
Oswald Peraza
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Nestor Cortes going back to the injured list with the same issue he had is probably too 2023 Yankees to be true. It is what it is, though, and he won’t be able to throw for three or four weeks as he recovers from another rotator cuff injury.

Cortes, Carlos Rodón, and Frankie Montas are all on the shelf, Domingo Germán is on the restricted list, and Luis Severino has an 8.06 ERA, which as Malachi noted yesterday is tops among all MLB pitchers with at least 60 innings. At this moment, the Yankees rotation is comprised of Gerrit Cole, Clarke Schmidt, and a bunch of question marks: Severino, Randy Vásquez, and Jhony Brito.

The Yankees also have key relievers on the injured list, not to mention Josh Donaldson, José Trevino, and Anthony Rizzo. Harrison Bader, Giancarlo Stanton, Jake Bauers, and DJ LeMahieu have all been hurt, and the best player on the roster, Aaron Judge, is currently playing through a painful toe injury that requires surgery.

That’s the evidence. Those are all facts. It’s also a fact that the Yankees enter play yesterday 12 games behind the top spot in the AL East, last in the standings. They were also five games back of Toronto for the third and last Wild Card spot, but with two additional teams in the middle (Seattle and Boston). FanGraphs only estimates a 9.1 percent chance that the Yankees can grab a playoff spot.

Even if the Yankees were trending in the right direction on certain fronts, it might be too late for them to mount a serious postseason challenge anyway. Most importantly, they might not have the means to do it with all the injuries, the offensive failures that have plagued them throughout 2023, and the currently decimated rotation.

It’s time to start thinking about the future in the Bronx, and that includes a few decisions that could be tough to embrace, but will be beneficial in the end.

For starters, the team should just shut down Judge and get him his surgery ASAP. Having him back as close to 100 percent as possible will be huge for the Yankees’ 2024 chances and a recovery could take months, so might as well start now. They cannot lose sight of the fact that this is the first season of a nine-year deal. Judge is, of course, still capable of producing at the plate (like last night) and would almost certainly fight to stay in the lineup. But the Yankees have to take the long view and not risk aggravating the injury on such a long shot of team.

Houston Astros v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

In addition to Judge, Cortes and Montas should also be completely shut down. The former is unlikely to make it back and is too important for the future to risk in September. The latter, well, probably won’t be missed (Boone didn’t sound optimistic on him regardless). It’s not his fault, though.

The next step would be calling up and giving regular at-bats to Oswald Peraza, Everson Pereira, Andrés Chaparro, and Oswaldo Cabrera among others, to see what the Yankees have for the future. Maybe Austin Wells, Clayton Beeter and Will Warren, too, in September if their performance warrants it, but we might not be there yet.

For now, let’s stick with the first four. One of them, Cabrera, is already in the active roster. You would have to make room in the active roster for Peraza and Pereira and select Chaparro’s contract from Scranton.

Placing Judge on the 60-day injured list would liberate one spot on the 40-man, which could be for Chaparro. As for including Pereira and Peraza (already on the 40) in addition to Chaparro, it gets a little trickier since the Yankees are unlikely to go below the 13-pitcher maximum for 26-man rosters with their rotation in such disarray (otherwise Albert Abreu could be on the chopping block).

Greg Allen is a nice depth piece on a contending team, but on this retooling club, he’s not a fit. So he could go for one of the trio, and another would take Judge’s spot. As for the third, he might have to wait until September, though there is also the chance that DJ LeMahieu visits the 10-day injured list if his ongoing calf issues persist. That would be the easy swap, and honestly, it might be better for LeMahieu to take it easy anyway.

Regardless of the timing, it’s very important for the Yankees to get a long look of these players. They could be part of the 2024 core if they show enough, and they all have prospect pedigree.

Chaparro has 20 home runs and a 95 wRC+ in Triple-A (with a 117 wRC+ since the beginning of June), Pereira is rocking a .324/.372/.559 line and a 127 wRC+ in 27 games in Scranton, and we all have seen what Peraza can do. He is the Yanks’ best defensive shortstop, can hit, run, and has some pop; the team hasn’t given him enough run in The Show just yet. Cabrera had an 111 wRC+ last year in the bigs, too. His own struggles and spotty playing time have taken that number to 57 in 2023, but there could still be something there.

Wells put up a 107 wRC+ in Double-A and is at 98 in Scranton, with a cool .378 OBP. He has the tools to be the best offensive catcher the Yankees have had since Gary Sánchez. At this precise moment, the bar is not too high; the only question is his defense. So unless the Yankees really think Ben Rortvedt is key going forward, it’s not a bad idea to have Wells get his reps in catching MLB pitchers. The Yankees might be eyeing him as a third catcher in September, though he’s another prospect who would need a 40-man move to add.

The defensive alignment for the rest of the season could look something like this:

C – Kyle Higashioka/Austin Wells

1B – Andrés Chaparro/Jake Bauers

2B – Gleyber Torres

3B – Oswald Peraza/Isiah Kiner-Falefa

SS – Anthony Volpe

LF – Everson Pereira/Bauers

CF – Harrison Bader

RF – Billy McKinney

DH – Giancarlo Stanton

DJ LeMahieu would rotate all over the infield if he is healthy enough to play, and Billy McKinney could also back up center field. On the pitching side of things, Brito and Vásquez would have a little over a month a half to show the world why they belong with the Yankees, too.

Warren and Beeter had brilliant performances in Somerset but have yet to master Triple-A. If they find some consistency in the upcoming weeks, they should also get their feet wet in the Bronx. For now though, there is a bit more to work on.

As painful as it might be to hear or realize, it’s time for the Yankees to think about 2024 instead of 2023. If they are going to miss the playoffs, they should at least turn that into something useful for the future.