Last Updated on October 8, 2023 at 8:48 am by Michael Bennington
A year ago, following their ALCS loss, the Yankees entered an offseason filled with uncertainties and unanswered questions that spanned the entirety of their roster. After a year, the same issues continue to be there and the team remains riddled with voids—some old, some newly acquired.
While the Yankees have promised to initiate a comprehensive reevaluation of their organizational methods, aimed at rectifying the missteps that barred them from October’s postseason glory, they are also conducting an inventory of their current assets. This self-assessment extends to identifying areas where they must bolster their lineup, both through the trade market and free agency.
In broad strokes, a few key directives come into focus: the Yankees must inject more athleticism into their roster, increase their southpaw presence, and mitigate the impact of injuries that have plagued them in recent seasons. Let’s delve into a detailed analysis of the Yankees’ positional situation as they embark on a pivotal offseason.
Who will be the Yankees catchers
The prevailing early prediction is that Austin Wells and Jose Trevino will emerge as the Yankees’ catching duo for the upcoming season. However, the exact distribution of playing time between them remains an open question.
Wells made a notable impression on the Yankees during his brief stint in September. His defensive skills exceeded their expectations, albeit in a limited sample size. Moreover, his left-handed hitting prowess, a valuable asset that contributes to lineup diversity, began to shine during the latter part of the month. Nevertheless, he faces the challenge of demonstrating this consistency over the rigors of a full season.
Austin Wells’ presence as a left-handed batter represents a vital asset, effectively counterbalancing the predominantly right-handed orientation of the Yankees’ lineup.
Jose Trevino, who underwent wrist surgery in July, expressed confidence in his readiness for spring training next year. Although his offensive performance dipped following an impressive first half in 2022, he maintains a strong rapport with pitchers, including Gerrit Cole. Notably, his defensive metrics continue to rank among the elite in the sport.
While Kyle Higashioka remains under contract for another year, it is anticipated that he may either be traded or not tendered. On the other hand, Ben Rortvedt is likely headed for Triple-A, even though his stock has seen an uptick, particularly in the defensive aspect, as he demonstrated his capability in handling a top-tier pitcher like Cole.
First base question arises after Rizzo’s slump
The Yankees’ expectations for Anthony Rizzo hinge on him rediscovering the form he showcased in the initial two months of 2023, prior to his collision with Fernando Tatis Jr. During that period, Rizzo boasted a batting average of .304, a .880 OPS, and had launched 11 home runs in 53 games. Similar to Wells, Rizzo’s left-handed presence in the lineup is pivotal, but it necessitates both productivity and sustained health.
Second base: Torres will stay or go?
The perennial offseason dilemma returns: What’s the plan for Gleyber Torres? Despite being the Yankees’ most dependable hitter this season, Torres could find himself on the trading block once again as he enters his final year under team control. Given the improbability of a contract extension, the Yankees appear poised to explore whether they can enhance another position (e.g., left field or center) by trading Torres.
If such a scenario unfolds, either DJ LeMahieu or Oswald Peraza could step into regular roles at this position. This would depend on LeMahieu’s ability to build upon his performance in the latter half of this season or if Peraza can establish greater consistency in his offensive contributions.
Do the Yankees need an alternative at shortstop?
Anthony Volpe experienced the typical challenges of a rookie at the plate, but he displayed commendable defensive prowess that has solidified his position at shortstop. It appears the Yankees have no intention of relocating him from this key role. Their hopes now rest on Volpe’s ability to make significant strides in his sophomore season and recapture the batting form that propelled him through the minor league ranks.
Third base: The old or new blood?
LeMahieu and Peraza could become significant contenders for this position, particularly if Torres remains with the team.
The upcoming free agency market includes Matt Chapman and Jeimer Candelario, the top two third-base options. Interestingly, Candelario was previously associated with the Yankees during the trade deadline but eventually landed with the Cubs. As of now, it seems unlikely that the Yankees will make substantial financial commitments to acquire either Chapman or Candelario, given their more immediate priorities in other areas.
Left field conundrum persists
The Yankees faced a conundrum at this position last offseason, opting to rely on either Oswaldo Cabrera or Aaron Hicks to step up and claim the role. However, both players failed to meet expectations. Cabrera struggled in his second season, while Hicks was designated for assignment in May, eventually rejuvenating his career with the Orioles.
The left field position became a revolving door for the Yankees in the 2023 season, with 10 different players taking the field, more than any other position. Yet, the void remains unfilled, as Cabrera is slated for a utility role and Everson Pereira‘s late-season call-up indicated he might not be ready.
The ultimate solution to this persistent left-field issue in the Bronx could come in the form of Juan Soto, although it’s unclear whether the Padres are willing to part with him or if the Yankees are prepared to meet the potential high cost in prospects, especially with only one year remaining on Soto’s contract.
Center field alternatives
The Yankees made a decisive move by waiving Harrison Bader, signaling that he’s unlikely to return to the team in the upcoming offseason. However, their promising prospect, Jasson Dominguez, who briefly showcased his talent in eight games, suffered a UCL tear, leading to Tommy John surgery. Dominguez’s return is anticipated around midseason, but it’s uncertain whether he will immediately rejoin the Yankees or spend more time refining his skills in Triple-A.
Given this situation, the Yankees must seek a temporary solution. Kevin Kiermaier emerges as a compelling option, boasting exceptional defensive skills and a veteran left-handed presence, making him an ideal candidate for a short-term contract.
Another notable name in the free-agent market is Cody Bellinger, a significant asset as a left-handed batter who demonstrated his prowess with a strong season as a member of the Cubs. The Yankees previously expressed interest in acquiring him during the trade deadline, but the Cubs’ resurgence prevented the deal from materializing.
Right field is dominated by Aaron Judge
Despite his absence for more than a third of the season, Aaron Judge managed to launch an impressive 37 home runs throughout the year.
The inaugural season of Aaron Judge’s lucrative nine-year, $360 million contract proved to be quite promising, marred only by an unfortunate incident involving the unpadded right-field wall at Dodger Stadium. Fortunately, it appears that Judge will not require offseason surgery, providing a glimmer of hope for his future performance.
Giancarlo Stanton faces a crucial offseason as he undertakes the challenging task of refining his swing and enhancing his physical athleticism and flexibility. The Yankees will closely monitor the outcomes of these adjustments, as there’s a significant financial commitment still attached to Stanton, with a hefty $98 million remaining on his contract spanning the next four years. The decision on how to proceed with his contract will hinge on the effectiveness of these offseason efforts.
Yankees rotation needs a boost
The Yankees’ starting rotation for the upcoming season is shaping up to feature a formidable top end with Gerrit Cole, followed by Carlos Rodon, Michael King, Nestor Cortes, and Clarke Schmidt. While Cole is an undeniable ace and a Cy Young contender, the rest of the rotation carries some uncertainty.
Carlos Rodon‘s debut season with the Yankees was a challenging one, but the organization remains hopeful that his impressive pitching arsenal can bounce back if he can stay healthy and regain control of his pitches.
Michael King showcased his potential after transitioning from a relief role to a starter, boasting a remarkable 2.23 ERA and an impressive 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings. However, his durability for a full season’s workload is still a question mark, making his performance in this role a topic of interest.
Nestor Cortes and Clarke Schmidt add a degree of risk and reward to the rotation, with their performances likely to influence the overall effectiveness of the Yankees’ starting pitching.
The Yankees face some uncertainty regarding Nestor Cortes’ health, and they may not have a clear picture until the end of this month when he undergoes a bullpen session. They are hopeful that he can recover from his rotator cuff strain and return to full strength, adding depth to their pitching staff.
Clarke Schmidt demonstrated his capability as a full-time starter in the league this season, but there is still room for growth in 2024, particularly in terms of his ability to navigate lineups multiple times through a game and pitch deeper into contests.
Schmidt’s performance could also make him a valuable trade asset, especially if the Yankees have an opportunity to acquire Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, though they will likely face stiff competition in pursuing him.
Domingo German, who sought treatment for alcohol abuse in August, may be at risk of being non-tendered by the Yankees, considering his off-field challenges and the team’s need for roster flexibility.
Bullpen questions remain unsolved
While the bullpen boasted the lowest ERA in the majors this season at 3.34, it didn’t come without its fair share of challenges, as we discussed in our previous newsletter. The relief corps is poised to receive a boost with the return of Scott Effross, who missed the season due to Tommy John surgery. He will join a group that includes Clay Holmes, Jonathan Loaisiga, Tommy Kahnle, Ian Hamilton, and possibly Jhony Brito, who might take on the multi-inning role previously held by Michael King. If the Yankees don’t bring back Wandy Peralta, they are likely to look for a left-handed reliever to add to the mix.
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