Yankees on the cusp? Offseason moves will determine World Series fate

Yankees acquired Juan Soto via trade on Dec 5, 2023.
Esteban Quiñones
Tuesday January 23, 2024

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In the wake of a tumultuous 2023 season, the New York Yankees have embarked on a bold offseason transformation, responding to the pointed criticisms of Athletic journalist Chris Kirschner. Kirschner had cast doubts on the team’s improvement after the failures in signings like Yamamoto Yashinobu and Shohei Ohtani.

Have the Yankees shown improvement?

Aaron Judge, the captain of the new york yankees
MLB

As the dust settled on the disappointing 2023 campaign, Yankees star Aaron Judge addressed reporters, signaling a desire for change. “I think there’s some things that happened this year that opened people’s eyes,” Judge remarked in October. “Hopefully, the right people saw it, and we’ll get the right people in the room to discuss those things and figure it out.”

The Yankees brass took Judge’s words to heart, identifying the need for a major offensive upgrade. The 2023 season witnessed the team posting its third-worst team wRC+ and OPS since 2000, prompting a vigorous response from the front office.

A pivotal move was the acquisition of outfielder Juan Soto, widely regarded as the best bat available in the offseason. Kirschner, though critical of the overall strategy, acknowledged the significance of securing Soto, who possesses the ability to carry an offense by himself. Soto’s presence is expected to provide a crucial shield for Aaron Judge, addressing a vulnerability exposed during Judge’s absence in the previous season.

Manager Aaron Boone detailed his plans for the dynamic duo, slotting Soto at No. 2 and Judge at No. 3 in the lineup. FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections align with Boone’s strategy, painting a promising picture for the tandem’s 2024 performance.

General Manager Brian Cashman, undeterred by critics, defended the team’s offseason moves, expressing confidence in the improvements made. “I think we’ve improved,” Cashman asserted. “I think our team is better than how it finished, regardless of last year. We’ve jumpstarted in a lot of areas, especially the offense, which was a difficult run for us last year. We’re excited about the possibilities.”

Kirschner’s skepticism extended to other offseason acquisitions, including Alex Verdugo in left field and Trent Grisham in center. While Kirschner questioned the flashiness of these moves, he conceded the potential stabilizing effect they could have on positions that struggled in 2023.

The Yankees also addressed pitching concerns, bringing in Marcus Stroman to replace Luis Severino as the No. 3 starter. Kirschner, while acknowledging Stroman’s past durability, raised questions about the team’s defensive capabilities, crucial for a ground-ball pitcher like Stroman.

As the Yankees eye the 2024 season with cautious optimism, Kirschner’s critical lens continues to shape the narrative. The projections for the upcoming season, according to ZiPS, offer a mixed bag of potential success and lingering concerns. While the Yankees project to finish with 86 to 90 wins, securing a playoff spot, they may fall short of claiming the American League East title.

The Yankees acknowledge the challenges ahead, with injuries remaining a top concern. The team’s depth, a point of contention in Kirschner’s analysis, is seen as an improved yet potentially insufficient buffer against setbacks.

In the end, as the Yankees set sail into the 2024 season, many journalists carry lingering critiques as a constant backdrop to their efforts. The team’s response to his pointed observations will undoubtedly be a key subplot to a season that promises both redemption and, potentially, continued scrutiny.

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