Yankees winter reset leaves ample space for chitchat on title dream
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Soon after the Yankees concluded a disappointing 2023 season, Aaron Judge addressed the media, acknowledging that certain incidents throughout the season had garnered attention. The team finished next-to-last in the American League East and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Judge’s demeanor reflected the team’s disappointment. However, he also expressed hope that those involved would recognize these issues and come together to discuss them in order to find solutions.
This brings us to the first of the Yankees’ three major questions as they approach the start of spring training next week.
Have the Yankees made sufficient improvements?
The Yankees fell short of achieving all their offseason objectives. While they aimed for a “YamaSoto” winter, only managing to secure Juan Soto, losing out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto to the Dodgers was a setback. However, acquiring Soto still represents a significant upgrade from their previous outfield options of Jake Bauers, Willie Calhoun, Franchy Cordero, and Billy McKinney. This move should not be underestimated.
Despite the disappointment of missing out on Yamamoto, the addition of Marcus Stroman to bolster the middle of their rotation on a reasonable two-year contract was a savvy move. Bringing Caleb Ferguson into the bullpen this week further demonstrates astute roster management by general manager Brian Cashman, turning a waiver-wire acquisition and a Dominican Summer League pitcher into an upgrade over Wandy Peralta.
The Yankees stand out as one of the most improved teams in the American League this offseason, supported by statistical analysis. However, as history has shown, offseason improvements don’t always translate to on-field success until the games begin.
Will the Yankees emerge from training camp without any injuries?
The Yankees probably wish they had a memory eraser akin to the “Men In Black” every time they reflect on last year’s spring camp. A slew of injuries plagued notable players like Carlos Rodón, Frankie Montas, Tommy Kahnle, Lou Trivino, Luis Severino, Harrison Bader, Austin Wells, and Ben Rortvedt, with Nestor Cortes also joining the ranks of the injured upon arrival.
However, the Yankees weren’t the sole team grappling with health issues, and this upcoming season won’t see them as the lone occupants of the busy trainer’s room. Yet, the more they can maintain their physical well-being, the greater their prospects for a strong start in April.
On a positive note for the Yankees, a significant contingent of established big-leaguers and hopeful MLB roster contenders were already hitting the gym at the team’s player development complex and spring training facility in Tampa come January. Among them were Rodón, Cortes, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, Anthony Volpe, Aaron Judge, Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza, and others. Additionally, there are indications from hints dropped by Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone that Giancarlo Stanton has pursued a different approach this winter, one aimed at maximizing his availability for games.
With a staggering valuation of $7.1 billion by Forbes, the Yankees stand as the wealthiest team in baseball. However, the pivotal question remains: Can they convert their wealth into sustained health?
Who is set for a resurgence in the upcoming season?
Cashman acknowledged that unexpected underperformance played a role in the Yankees’ struggles during the 2023 season. Several players could be singled out for failing to meet expectations, including Stanton, Rodón, Cortes, Severino, LeMahieu, Rizzo, Trevino, Donaldson, Hicks, and Bader. While four of them are no longer with the team, the remaining players returning to their career norms will be crucial for the team’s success in 2024.
LeMahieu appears to be the most reliable candidate to bounce back, especially considering his impressive performance with a 129 wRC+ after the All-Star break. Additionally, he now has more than a year of recovery from his 2022 foot injury. If Rizzo has overcome his concussion symptoms, he also seems like a solid bet for improvement.
Due to injuries last season, Rodon, Cortes, Trevino, and Stanton are more uncertain. Given the state of the starting rotation, it’s imperative for both Rodón and Cortes to stay healthy this year. Stanton’s delivering performances reminiscent of his past seasons, even in around 120 games, could significantly impact the team’s success.
The resurgence of this group should play a pivotal role in guiding the Yankees to the postseason.
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