The New York Yankees’ silent off-season up until the lockout made fans restless. It is clear to everyone that significant improvements need to be made in order for this team to compete for a championship. We all watched as another big name flew off the board in the free agent frenzy that occurred right before lockout. However, there is still plenty of talent available, whether it be by trade or via free agency––the only question is, are Hal and Cashman willing to spend the resources to acquire the best players? I’m going to go through each area of need I see on the Yankees roster and give my opinion on the best solutions.
Priority 1: Get an impact LHH to bat between Judge and Stanton
New York has been victimized over the past few years by the Tampa Bay Rays when they bring guy after guy with a wipeout right-handed slider to deal with the right-handed heavy heart of the order. The Yankees themselves know how important lanes are late in the game when deciding which reliever to bring in. They were batting Aaron Hicks in the three-hole in 2020 to try to mitigate this problem, but the issue was, and persisted to be in 2021, that Hicks isn’t very good. Furthermore, the Yankees have simply lacked quality left-handed-hitting for years now, and that needs to change.
The three potential candidates to fill this problem are all first basemen––Matt Olson, Freddie Freeman, and Anthony Rizzo. Acquiring any one of them would almost certainly mean trading Luke Voit (I highly doubt they would put Stanton in the outfield to get Voit in at DH). Voit has been extremely injury-prone of late and isn’t a very good defender, so moving on should not be too hard. In contrast, all of the aforementioned players are durable and great defenders.
The obvious first choice of the three is Matt Olson, who you could argue is the best all-around first baseman in the league right now. He is only going to be 28 years old next year and has two years left under team control. With Oakland admitting that they are going to slash payroll, this makes Olson, who is projected to make the most money on the A’s next season, a realistic trade candidate. The Yankees will have to fork up some of their top prospects to get a deal done. That being said, it will certainly be worth it.
However, it was concerningly reported recently that the Yankees were adamant about trading top prospects Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza in talks with Oakland regarding Olson. Volpe I can understand being untouchable, but I would trade Peraza as the centerpiece for Olson in a heartbeat. Olson is available: get it done Cashman, simple as that.
Freeman and Rizzo:
The other two players, Freeman and Rizzo, are both free agents, so no prospects would have to be given up. What we don’t know is if the Yankees not spending money pre-lockout is their way of just being patient or if it is indicative of them actually being unwilling to spend. Perhaps they were actually just being patient, because it was reported recently that they are expected to make a run at signing Freeman, but who really knows.
Freeman is a phenomenal player, maybe even better than Olson, but he’s entering his age 32 season. Furthermore, it would cost a lot of money to pry him away from Atlanta. I just don’t think paying Stanton, Cole, Freeman, and inevitably Judge in their late 30s at the same time is going to work out well.
Rizzo would be much cheaper and take fewer years to aquire than Freeman. However, he’s even older and has already started to decline. If he’s our first baseman next year, I’d be disappointed.
Priority 2: Shortstop
This is the most obvious hole on the roster and the one most fans will point to as the most important to fix. I obviously disagree with the latter judgment because I am putting this after finding an impact LHH. That being said, shortstop is still clearly a very pressing issue. Gleyber Torres’ inability to stick at short has complicated things. There are two ways to fix this. The first would be either going after one of the last two big fish still available––Trevor Story or Carlos Correa. The second would be to find a stopgap shortstop and wait for top prospect Anthony Volpe to be ready for the big leagues.
I’d be wary of giving Correa a mega deal. It’s going to take at least 10 years and 350 million dollars to sign him. You know he’s going to beat fellow shortstop Francisco Lindor’s 341 million dollar deal signed last offseason. And he deserves it; he’s only going to be 27 and he’s the total package. He’s an above-average hitter (career 127 OPS+) and an elite defender at a premium position. The problem is defense is something we know will regress with age. There are very few starting shortstops over 30 in the league for a reason. Cashman has been decent in his career at choosing who to commit large amounts of money to, so if he wants Correa, I’d trust him, but I’d personally stay away.
I’m a little more open to the idea of the Yankees signing Trevor Story. He won’t take 300 million dollars to acquire due to his age and poor 2021 season, but he still has the potential to be the best shortstop in the game at any given time.
The next option is one that a lot of fans don’t like; however, I actually like it as a valid choice for the front office to go with. That would be signing a one-year stopgap shortstop in anticipation of Anthony Volpe’s ascension. That being said, they could still sign Story and move him to third base in a year. Volpe is the crown jewel of the Yankees farm system and everyone in the baseball world is very high on him.
Priority 3: Improving the team in general
There was a report that the Yankees were heavily pursuing Japanese star outfielder Seiya Suzuki before the lockout. The to-be 27 year old has had a monster career in Japan, and he’d be a great fit in New York. He can even play a bit of center field, where he could play in 2022 and then slide over to left once Joey Gallo becomes a free agent.
Lastly, you can never have enough pitching. Unfortunately, most of the big-name free agent pitchers got signed in December. The guys still available are fine: Carlos Rodon, Clayton Kershaw, or Kenley Jansen would all be great additions. I don’t think a trade for Luis Castillo is in the cards. However, perhaps one of Oakland’s catalog of Frankie Montas, Chris Bassit, or Sean Manea is on the table.
To conclude, the Yankees have a lot of work to do. They even still have Aaron Judge’s impending free agency looming over them. This is an issue that they should address quickly with a contract extension. However, it is certainly possible for them to be a championship-caliber team in 2022 and beyond if Hal is willing to open the checkbook and Cashman is willing to let go of some prospects. To close, I’ll just leave a tease of what a 2022 Yankees lineup could look like.
- DJ Lemahieu – 3B
- Aaron Judge – RF
- Matt Olson – 1B
- Giancarlo Stanton – DH
- Trevor Story – SS
- Joey Gallo – LF
- Seiya Suzuki – CF
- Gleyber Torres – 2B
- Gary Sanchez – C
And just for fun, how about 2023:
- DJ Lemahieu – 2B
- Aaron Judge – RF
- Matt Olson – 1B
- Giancarlo Stanton – DH
- Trevor Story – 3B
- Seiya Suzuki – LF
- Anthony Volpe – SS
- Aaron Hicks – CF
- Kyle Higashioka – C