Mapping out Yankees’ ideal offseason: Free agent signings, trades, and more, Update Sport
GM Brian Cashman spoke for more than one hour last week, explaining how a lot of the team’s misfortunes this season — leading to the quick exit in the postseason — was on him. He also touched on what this team needs to do to get better, hinting at some areas the team will definitely upgrade.
It’s a crucial offseason for the Yankees. This is a team that was a spring training favorite to win the World Series. By July of this year, some wondered if the Yanks would make it to the postseason at all. They started off very slow, and were the definition of a roller coaster, but they managed to eke into the postseason only to be quickly ousted by the Boston Red Sox.
So how does what transpired in this disappointing season reflect on the Yankees’ offseason plans? Does owner Hal Steinbrenner allow Cashman to open up the check book, go over the luxury tax, and do what needs to be done to compete in what has become a powerhouse AL East?
That’s what should happen. Competition across the American League, let alone the division, has placed the Yanks in a spot where they need to reassert their dominance. The reality is the gap Aaron Boone said was closing on the Yanks has been closing for quite some time.
So readjusting to today’s climate surrounding the team that hasn’t been to a World Series in more than a decade — the Yankees standard makes this a real issue — is imperative. Cashman and his crew need to get things perfect this offseason.
Of course, that’s easier said than done with the various ways of improving a team and the competition of others trying to do the same. But let’s try to create the ideal offseason for Cashman, prefacing it with Steinbrenner allowing him to go over the luxury tax (we promise not to make this a Los Angeles Dodgers splurge despite some fans wanting it to be).
Let’s first start with those on the roster…
Since the Yanks don’t have anyone who is qualifying offer worthy, we’ll keep to the non-tenders.
For those who don’t know, the Yankees have 19 arbitration-eligible players on their roster who they need to tender a contract to before the Dec. 1 deadline. If they non-tender a player, he automatically becomes a free agent.
Of these players, it would make sense to non-tender Frazier and Locastro. The latter was brought in as outfield depth before the Gallo trade and players getting healthy again. He doesn’t have a spot with the team.
As for Frazier, it’s a complicated situation. He’s projected to earn $2.4 million, per MLBTradeRumors, but he’s dealt with vertigo and concussion issues since his most recent one this season. He’s a great player when healthy, as the 2020 shortened season proved, and the Yankees gave him the left field spot to keep.
However, Frazier’s injury history, matched with the addition of Gallo and the return of Aaron Hicks, leave the Yanks with their hands tied. With little to no trade value due to his ailments, it may be a tough decision to non-tender Frazier.
Who to re-sign
The arbitration guys have a spot, it’s just a matter of what both sides settle on.
As for free agents, there’s only one the pinstripes should truly consider: Anthony Rizzo.
He quickly became a staple in the Yankees’ clubhouse when he was traded for at the trade deadline, and that was to be expected. With Voit dealing with injuries (more on him later), Rizzo came in and played a great defensive first base while providing much-needed, contact-first hitting from the left side of the dish.
Because he was well-acclimated with the group, Cashman should highly consider keeping that veteran presence in the Bronx.
Other free agents like Corey Kluber and Andrew Heaney (self-explanatory on this one) shouldn’t be targets of interest.
External free agents to target
Now we get to the fun part.
Let’s first start with the area of need Cashman pointed out specifically: shortstop.
We all know by now how good the free agent crop will be here, and the Yankees will be sure to do their due diligence on each one of the All-Star caliber players out there.
The ones this writer likes, though, are Trevor Story and Marcus Semien. Of course, Corey Seager and Carlos Correa will be very intriguing options, but what will the cost be? Cashman needs to create a well-rounded team, and those two are expected to get the most money.
The Yanks were connected to Story at the trade deadline, but nothing came of it. Cashman admitted that he didn’t work hard enough to get another shortstop in the building with Torres struggling (he was eventually pushed back to second base with Urshela shifting to short). Something will get done here. It’s a matter of who.
Then, the Yanks need a legitimate number two option behind Gerrit Cole.
Kevin Gausman is someone the Yanks can target, and according to Spotrac, his estimated market value is close to $22 million, which isn’t terrible for someone in the NL Cy Young conversation this season.
There’s also Robbie Ray and Carlos Rodon, who had good 2021 campaigns. However, the Yanks must think about their track records — the numbers aren’t that consistent. Justin Verlander, coming off Tommy John surgery, might be someone to reunite with Cole. A one-year pact to prove himself could bode well.
Finally, the bullpen can use some work, especially considering Aroldis Chapman’s contract expires after next season. Raisel Iglesias, Corey Knebel, and Mark Melancon would be great targets to shore up the back end of the ‘pen.
The first one is Craig Kimbrel if he’s available. He struggled mightily when he got to the Chicago White Sox, putting a big red flag over his name. He had troubles in 2019 and 2020, too.
Speaking of veterans, on the starter market, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw will be available, but the Yanks would do best to steer clear. Greinke is 38 years old now and his velocity on his pitches falls by the year. He still manages to post decent numbers, but the Yanks don’t need decent. They need a No. 2.
As for Kershaw, he’s currently dealing with an injury that kept him out for the postseason for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Baseball fans also know that even during his prime, he had trouble in the postseason, too.
Finally, the Yankees may look at stopgap shortstop options because of top prospects Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza in their system — being in a championship window, they shouldn’t pass on All-Star talent, but that’s a topic for another time.
If they go that route, stay away from Jose Iglesias. He can be flashy at shortstop, but according to FanGraphs, the vet posted a minus-21 defensive runs saved in 2021 at the position. That’s atrocious, as is his 16 errors.
If the Yanks are going with a stopgap, look at Andrelton Simmons or Freddy Galvis instead.
Who (and who not) to trade
The Yankees have a couple of candidates worthy of trading. But the one who makes the most sense, especially with re-signing Rizzo, is Voit.
That was the general consensus of the fan base when Rizzo was added to the team in the second half. Voit was dealing with multiple injuries that didn’t allow him to get into a rhythm and he ultimately finished the season hurt, while Rizzo took over first base duties with DJ LeMahieu splitting time when needed.
This would be a tough player to part ways with because Cashman believed in Voit when he didn’t have a spot with the St. Louis Cardinals. But with the infield logjam, Voit is the first one to go here. Trading him for a bullpen piece would be the most ideal outcome. He should have suitors given his power and having led the league in homers in 2020.
There’s also Andujar. The Yanks have tried to transition him to the outfield, but there’s truly no place for him. Unfortunately, the trade value is low but the Yanks should get something out of him instead of having him sit and waste away.
Finally, Cashman should put out feelers on Torres and Urshela. Why? Well, if Rizzo is back, where does that leave LeMahieu? Yes, you can DH Rizzo, but his first base glove is too valuable to make him that hitter each night. So LeMahieu gets either second or third with the new shortstop in place.
Finally, as for players who shouldn’t be dealt, Judge is at the top of the list. He’s coming off an MVP caliber season, but fans still look at the injury history — as they should. But he’s the heartbeat of the team and could very well be named the next Yankee captain when he gets an extension. Does that happen this year?
The Yanks must be smart about the future of Judge, but that shouldn’t be with another club.
Prospects who should be untouchable
The two who quickly come to mind are Luis Gil and Jasson Dominguez.
Gil proved that he can pitch in the Bronx in the most high-pressure moments during his major league debut. Whether he remains a starter or not, he is a talented player with some MLB innings under his belt who can be utilized for years to come.
Dominguez is self-explanatory. He’s gotten all the Mike Trout/Mickey Mantle comparisons and is just getting started in his professional career.
You can argue Volpe, MLB Pipeline’s top Yankees prospect at the moment, but do you keep him locked up if you have an All-Star veteran shortstop on your team already?
Exploring trades, as Cashman should, will mean prospects being brought up. Gil and Dominguez are the only two who shouldn’t be.
To reiterate, this is a loose guideline for what the Yankees should do this offseason if, and only if, Steinbrenner lets the reins off Cashman and gives him carte blanche to get the guys he needs like the “good old days.” It’s a move his father — the late, great George Steinbrenner — would likely approve of, especially considering the championship drought.
As the offseason begins to unfold after the World Series, expect Cashman to be in the shadows but the rumors to be heavy either way. We’ll eventually know what Steinbrenner’s directive towards Cashman is.
But the Yankees know their championship window is closing and now is the time to strike. The division is getting harder, teams are evolving all around them, and they’ve gotten close but no cigar.