Offseason priorities: Players on the New York Yankees’ radar

Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe makes a defensive display against the Brewers at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 10, 2023.
Matthew Maybloom
Tuesday September 12, 2023

Table of Contents

Fans expected the New York Yankees to have a shot at the World Series this year. However, as the season nears the end, they find themselves at the bottom of the standings, with a winning percentage below .500, and they have no chance of making it to the playoffs. Most of the players on the team didn’t live up to the high hopes because they either got injured, didn’t play well, or sometimes even both.

The Yankees are already focusing on next season. They let go of their third baseman, Josh Donaldson, who was about to become a free agent and had been a major topic of discussion because of the team’s problems. Another player, center fielder Harrison Bader, who was also about to become a free agent, was put on the waiver.

The Yankees also decided to let four of their best young talents try their luck in the major leagues. First, they brought up infielder Oswald Peraza and outfielder Everson Pereira on August 22. On September 1, center fielder Jasson Dominguez and catcher Austin Wells joined the big leagues.

The idea is to let these younger players show they can be valuable contributors to the team, either for the New York Yankees in 2024 or as potential players to trade during the upcoming offseason.

No matter how they do it, the Yankees have to make some changes. They need younger, healthier, and more dependable players in every position on their team. There’s a lot of uncertainty about their starting pitchers, especially after Gerrit Cole. The batters in their lineup haven’t been doing great this season and the bullpen has also joined them later on.

Here is how the Yankees can focus on specific players and positions to address their most significant weaknesses and increase their chances of being competitive in the upcoming season.

The Yankees team celebrates after an astonishing win over the Brewers on Sept 10, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees’ infield targets

Next year, the Yankees already have three infield positions secured with players who have contracts. The middle of the infield will consist of second baseman Gleyber Torres and shortstop Anthony Volpe. Torres has been one of their top hitters this year, performing well behind Aaron Judge. He has a batting average of .269, an on-base percentage of .339, and a slugging percentage of .462, along with 25 home runs. Torres still has one more year where he’ll be eligible for arbitration before becoming a free agent after the 2024 season.

Anthony Volpe’s first year as a rookie player has had its ups and downs, with some challenging moments. However, he has gotten better as a batter as the season has gone on, and he’s been a valuable asset on defense. His Wins Above Replacement (WAR), as calculated by Baseball-Reference, stands at 3.6, making him the second-most valuable player on the team, right behind Cole, who has a 5.3 WAR.

Anthony Rizzo, who plays as the first baseman, had a fantastic start to the season with two great months. However, things got tough for him when he was dealing with post-concussion symptoms in June and July, and his performance dipped during that time, hitting just one home run. It wasn’t until August 4 that they finally put him on the Injured List. During his absence, D.J. LeMahieu stepped in, and he’s been doing really well. Since the All-Star break, he’s been hitting at a .294 average with a .403 on-base percentage.

When the Yankees get ready for spring training, they might have Rizzo play first base and consider LeMahieu for third base. But there are some concerns – both of these players have had ongoing injury issues, and they’re getting up there in age, with Rizzo at 34 and LeMahieu at 35. To strengthen their lineup, the team should think about finding a better player for third base. This move would allow Rizzo, LeMahieu, and Giancarlo Stanton to rotate between first base and the designated hitter (DH) position and also provide backup in case of injuries.

Among the upcoming free agents at third base, Matt Chapman of the Toronto Blue Jays stands out as one of the best. He’s earned the Gold Glove award three times for his great fielding skills. Additionally, his career OPS+ of 118 suggests that his batting performance has been 18% better than the league average.

Another potential choice is Jeimer Candelario, who plays in the corner infield for the Chicago Cubs. Interestingly, he’s originally from New York. This year, Candelario has a 124 OPS+, which means he’s been 24% better than the league average when it comes to hitting.

Yankees' prospects Anthony Volpe, Austin Wells, Jasson Pereira and Oswald Peraza

Yankees outfield shopping list

Aaron Judge, who plays in right field, is a top-tier player with the potential to be an MVP when he’s not dealing with injuries. Nonetheless, the other two outfield positions on the team are still uncertain. It’s highly unlikely that Bader will come back as a free agent. While he’s a strong defender and has some hitting power, his tendency to have a low on-base percentage and frequent injuries really highlighted some of the Yankees’ main problems.

Except Dominguez and Pereira have an outstanding performance in September and become standout players, it wouldn’t be wise to expect both of them to start in the lineup next year. With Dominguez out following a UCL tear, Pereira is sure to earn a spot in the Yankees starting lineup. But the team still needs to look for another outfielder. The good thing is that both of these players can probably play either center field or left field, which gives the team some flexibility in deciding where to place them.

The ideal free-agent pick for the Yankees could be Cody Bellinger, who plays both outfield and first base for the Cubs. Interestingly, his father, Clay Bellinger, was a part of the Yankees’ championship-winning teams in 1999 and 2000. Cody himself had a remarkable start to his career, winning the Rookie of the Year award in 2017 and the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in 2019 while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, things didn’t go well for him in 2021 and 2022, which led the Dodgers to release him. But this year, he has made a great comeback with the Cubs, hitting .316 and smashing 20 home runs so far. His left-handed batting style would be an excellent fit for Yankee Stadium, especially with its short right-field fence.

Yankess offseason target Cody Bellinger with 2020 WS trophy.

Many teams will be trying hard to sign Bellinger because there aren’t many good players available on the market. Some might say that the second-best outfielder available this offseason could be Bader. There are also other options like Teoscar Hernandez from the Seattle Mariners, who plays in right field, and Jorge Soler from the Miami Marlins, who is a designated hitter (DH) and right fielder. However, there are some worries about their defensive skills and their ability to get on base. If the Yankees can’t get Bellinger to join their team, they might consider looking at the trade market as their Plan B.

Yankees pitching targets

Gerrit Cole is currently a top contender for the Cy Young Award, which goes to the best pitcher, but the rest of the starting rotation needs some help. Clarke Schmidt has shown that he can pitch every five days, but he’s just an average starter at best. Left-handed pitchers Nestor Cortes and Carlos Rodon can be effective when they’re not dealing with injuries, but unfortunately, they’ve been hurt a lot in 2023. Domingo German, who pitched a perfect game this year, will likely not be kept on the team because of his off-field behavior, which the Yankees have grown tired of. Frankie Montas and Luis Severino are both about to become free agents, and it’s unlikely the team will re-sign them.

The Yankees won’t likely bring in more than one established starting pitcher, but they do need to find someone really good to be their second ace. There’s some excitement around a 25-year-old Japanese pitcher named Yoshinobu Yamamoto. He’s expected to be available for signing by the Orix Buffaloes this winter, and the Yankees have already shown interest in him. In Japan, he’s been outstanding with a career ERA of 1.77, and he won the Sawamura Award, which is like the Cy Young Award in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), for the second time in a row last year.

Japanese pitching sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto plays in the Nippon League and is a target by many MLB clubs.
JAPAN Forward

It’s important to note that many other teams will also be interested in signing Yamamoto, so the Yankees might not be the only ones in the race. There’s a chance they could consider other left-handed starters like Blake Snell and Julio Urías, who are nearing free agency and could be attractive options for the team. Additionally, they might explore trade opportunities to strengthen their pitching staff.

Certainly, one of the best-known players available on the market will be Shohei Ohtani, who excels both as a pitcher and as an outfielder. However, there’s uncertainty about the condition of his pitching arm, and he might require Tommy John surgery. If he can’t pitch or play in the outfield, he might not be the right fit for the Yankees in New York. The team already has several areas that need improvement, so they’re more likely to use their resources to address those needs rather than bring in a player who could potentially take playing time away from their current lineup.

The Yankees have some significant improvements to make during the offseason if they want to get back on track. Bringing in well-known players for third base, the outfield, and the starting pitching position would be a good step in the right direction.

What do you think? Leave your comment below. 

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One thought on “Offseason priorities: Players on the New York Yankees’ radar

  1. HOW DOES THIS ARTICLE KNOW WHO CASHMAN IS AFTER???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

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