Cashman open for more Yankees upgrades but options running out

Inna Zeyger
Friday January 19, 2024

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Despite the lingering disappointment of the 82-win performance from the previous season, Brian Cashman and the Yankees are resolute in their determination to turn things around. While acknowledging significant improvements with acquisitions like Juan Soto and Alex Verdugo, Cashman emphasizes that there is more work to be done.

“We have a strong team, but we cannot afford to be complacent,” he declared in a recent media call.

The Yankees have addressed glaring offensive needs, but the pitching staff remains a work in progress. The addition of Marcus Stroman to Gerrit Cole and a talented but injury-prone rotation is a positive step, yet further enhancements are on the horizon.

Cashman pledges for more additions

While expressing cautious optimism about the current rotation, Cashman stresses the importance of adaptability. He pledges to continuously explore avenues for improvement, seizing opportunities that align with the team’s needs and financial constraints.

Brian Cashman gestures while speaking on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023 in New York.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Beyond minor acquisitions like Victor González and Cody Morris, the bullpen might also see significant late-offseason additions. Re-signing Wandy Peralta and Keynan Middleton is a possibility, and high-leverage arms like Josh Hader, Hector Neris, and Robert Stephenson are still available.

When asked about prioritizing bullpen upgrades, Cashman’s response implies a broad perspective. He avoids singling out specific areas, emphasizing an open-minded approach to improvements across various facets of the team. Whether it involves the bullpen, rotation, or even position players, the Yankees are open to any opportunity that enhances the team, both in terms of talent and financial considerations, leading up to the July trade deadline.

The Bronx Bombers are far from complacent. With ongoing adjustments to the roster and a dedicated focus on pitching improvements, Cashman and the Yankees are aiming to transform last season’s nightmare into a 2024 dream.

Yankees facing pitching crunch

While the acquisition of Juan Soto undoubtedly strengthens the Yankees on paper, the sting of losing Michael King, Jhony Brito, Randy Vasquez, and Drew Thorpe to San Diego in the Soto trade lingers. Considering the escalating cost of starters, the Padres emerged as clear winners in that transaction.

Nestor Cortes is training with his teammates at Yankees 2023 spring training camp on Feb 17.

Compounding the disappointment, the Yankees lost free agents Luis Severino and Frankie Montas, with the latter’s departure appearing surprising within the organization. Montas’s $16 million deal with the Reds is double what the Yankees were initially willing to offer, highlighting a potential misstep.

The Yankees now face a dire need for depth. The second-tier starter market features names like Hyun-Jin Ryu, James Paxton, and Michael Lorenzen, with teams like the Red Sox, Padres, Nationals, Orioles, Mariners, and Pirates taking the lead. However, the Yankees haven’t demonstrated significant involvement in this market, and discussions with the Marlins for aces like Jesus Luzardo and Edward Cabrera haven’t progressed.

This leaves the Yankees potentially relying on Luis Gil alongside young prospects Clayton Beeter, Will Warren, and Chase Hampton to fill the void behind Gerrit Cole. However, leaning on such inexperienced shoulders while trusting three talents – Nestor Cortes (recovering from a shoulder injury), Carlos Rodon (with back and elbow concerns), and Stroman (prone to various ailments) – poses a risky gamble.

Yankees’ top options remain elusive

Free agents like Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell remain appealing options, and trade discussions for aces like Corbin Burnes, Dylan Cease, and Shane Bieber could intensify closer to spring training or the trade deadline. Possible deals with teams like the Marlins for quality starters are also being considered.

The catch? Acquiring these aces will necessitate a substantial package of young talent. Throughout the offseason, each of these names has been linked to the Yankees.

In the absence of major moves, the Yankees are likely to field a rotation featuring Cole, Rodon, Stroman, Cortes, and Schmidt. Having seen how quickly rotations can unravel, Cashman understands that “coverage and comfort” are never luxuries. His relentless pursuit of pitching talent continues, waiting for the opportune moment to make a move.

The Yankees’ pursuit of pitching reinforcements is encountering obstacles. Despite promising discussions with NL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, a substantial gap in negotiations threatens to prevent him from donning pinstripes. Meanwhile, trade targets like Corbin Burnes, Shane Bieber, and even Dylan Cease appear increasingly unlikely to be traded, leaving the Yankees in search of alternatives.

With their rotation significantly depleted after losing six arms this winter, the Yankees’ recent emphasis on the bullpen, highlighted by the acquisition of Marcus Stroman and the re-signing of Luke Weaver, seems woefully insufficient. The math doesn’t add up: replacing half a dozen pitchers with two additions leaves a significant void.

Yankees captain Aaron Judge with San Diego pitcher Blake-Snell in May 2023.

The Yankees require a proactive solution, and time is of the essence. Unless they bridge the gap with Snell or uncover hidden gems in the remaining market, their rotation depth may crumble before the season even commences.

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