This is the worst time of the year. The Yankees’ season is over, and other teams are still playing baseball. It’s exponentially worse when one of those teams is the Boston Red Sox, who eliminated you by outscoring you 20-4 in two consecutive nights at Yankee Stadium. I was at Game 3, still not even close to over it. Regardless, aside from rooting hard for the Astros this week (which hurts bad enough after last year’s ALCS, but anything to keep the Sox out of the World Series), us Yankee fans have already started to look towards 2019. No, I’m not suggesting we have a classic old-school Yankees offseason and throw money at everyone. I actually saw a guy on Twitter who suggested we sign both Harper AND Machado, while also trading for Paul Goldschmidt. Unfortunately, this isn’t MLB 2K, this is real life. And while many are discussing the possibility one of those two star free agents ends up in the Bronx next season, there are much more pressing issues with the Yankees than adding another power hitter to the lineup. Here are the main issues Brian Cashman & Company are going have to address this offseason to ensure that the Yankees are still playing baseball at this time next year.
- Starting Pitching
Current Situation: You’ve heard Yankee haters say it all year, and while I honestly didn’t think our rotation was too bad, they did nothing to silence their critics in the postseason this year. Luis Severino was a Cy Young candidate in the first half and awful for most of the second half, followed by an underwhelming start in the Wild Card game and a dreadful start in ALDS Game 3. Regardless, Sevy will be back next year, and will be called upon to perform as this team’s ace. Maybe they need to work in some extra rest for him during the year so he isn’t burned out later in the season? Who knows. Behind him, Masahiro Tanaka had somewhat of an opposite season. Underwhelming first half, strong second half, and a great performance in ALDS Game 2. Those two are locked into the 2019 rotation, but beyond that is a question mark. I would think Jordan Montgomery would be given the opportunity to start at some point after a strong 2017 rookie season and great start to 2018, but he had Tommy John surgery in June after leaving a start against the Astros in May. I doubt he would be back for the start of 2019. Will CC Sabathia come back again? He was still effective at times, and really showed his age at others, especially late in the season. I would love for JA Happ to come back, as aside from his disappointing ALDS Game 1 start, he was great for the Yanks after they acquired him at the deadline. Oh, and Sonny Gray is still technically around, but Cashman has already more or less said he will be traded this offseason.
Offseason Plan of Action: Sign Arizona’s Patrick Corbin. He’s been tied to the Yanks for months, growing up a Yankee fan. Plain and simple, he’s the best starting pitcher on the market, and a damn good one at that. Corbin went 11-7 with a 3.15 ERA and 246 strikeouts in 200 innings in 2018. He would immediately be expected to anchor the rotation along with Sevy and Tanaka. Step 2 in my opinion should be re-sign Happ, at the right price. He’s shown the ability to pitch in the AL East, and was great down the stretch for the Yanks. To fill out the rotation, do they sign a low-risk high-reward veteran like a Garrett Richards or Tyson Ross? Or try and have a youngster like Justus Sheffield or Chance Adams win a spot? I think they do both. You can absolutely NEVER have enough starting pitching. If that isn’t Cashman’s #1 priority this offseason, he’s doing something wrong.
2. Left Field
Current Situation: After being acquired in August, Andrew McCutchen effectively replaced Brett Gardner completely in the starting lineup. Gardy was having a dreadful second half, and McCutchen was definitely a spark for the Yanks down the stretch. Ideally, Clint Frazier would take over this role, but his 2018 was riddled by concussions.
Offseason Plan of Action: I love Gardy, but not at $11 million next year. If he’s willing to take a pay cut, great. If not, I wouldn’t mind the Yanks cutting ties with him. If McCutchen would come back at the right price, I would love him back too. Like I said, I would absolutely love for Clint Frazier to be in here. His bat, speed, and hustle would be fantastic at the top of our lineup. But concussions are no joke. Look for the Yankees to have a veteran in this role, either Gardy, Cutch or someone else, in case Frazier isn’t 100% for 2019.
You know Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Chad Green, and Jonathan Holder will return to anchor the bullpen in 2019. I could definitely see young lefty Stephen Tarpley joining them as well. The main question? What to do with David Robertson and Zach Britton.
Offseason Plan of Action:
I thought Britton did a great job for us for the most part after acquiring him. That being said, I’m not sure I want to pay him the money he’s going to want, especially with Chapman’s contract and his injury history. I think Robertson makes more sense because he’s three years older and kind of a career Yankee, so he will likely come cheaper. However, a la Happ and McCutchen, I would love to see Britton back at the right price. Also, kind of a hot take, but can we move Luis Cessa to the bullpen please? He’s actually got some pretty good stuff. Good enough that for the first 1-2 innings of every start, he makes you go “wow he actually looks good,” only to get absolutely lit up the second time through the lineup and remember he’s actually trash. Make him a middle reliever with the ability to be a long guy in mop-up duties. Will it work? Who knows, but it can’t be worse than him getting called up a few times a year to lose us every game he starts.
4. Didi’s Injury
Current Situation: The Yankees’ middle infield when healthy is a strength. Didi Gregorius is a great player (GREAT, not good), and despite a disappointing postseason, Gleyber Torres will be a star in this league. However, Didi is having Tommy John surgery, and will likely be out until at least the All-Star break. So now what?
Offseason Plan of Action: The easy answer is sign Machado, have him play short, and slide him over to third when Didi comes back. Not sure if I’m sold on dishing out another $400 million for Machado, especially when Miguel Andujar is a certified stud at third. Sure, Andujar could potentially learn first base or outfield, but a lot would have to go right for that plan to work. Here’s a more realistic plan: bring back Neil Walker, have him play second base every day, and slide Gleyber to short. Walker proved that when he gets consistent at-bats, as he did in the second half, he’s a solid every day player. He just can’t play once a week and be effective because he’s never done that. Gleyber is a great shortstop, as that’s his natural position. He’s no Didi, but he’s certainly not the worst replacement. Walker will be cheap, and when he comes back he can go back to his utility role getting time at first and third base in addition to spelling Gleyber and Didi when they need days off.
5. First Base
Current Situation: I love Luke Voit. Guy was great for us down the stretch. Not good, great. But how long will that last? I’m not ready to hand him the job yet. Besides, another boom-or-bust righty power hitter in this lineup isn’t great. We’re too righty-heavy and too strikeout-heavy. That came back to bite us in the playoffs. Greg Bird could still come back and win it in spr… just kidding can’t even get through that one. My Bird-defending days are over. So where do the Yanks turn?
Offseason Plan of Action: Obviously the easy choice is do nothing, and hope either Voit continues to mash, or Bird maybe somehow taps into some alternate universe where he’s even half the player we once thought he could be. Can I have fun for a second and think about these two ideas?
- Sign Machado, move Andujar to first: I mean, that lineup would be insane. Miggy’s glove at third was never the issue, it’s his throws. If he could learn first base, man that infield would be insane.
- Trade for Paul Goldschmidt: I don’t know what it would take, or if the D-Backs would even move him, but Goldschmidt has quietly been one of the best players in baseball the past five years. After his $14.5 million team option in 2019, he will be a free agent. Maybe the Yankees can pry him loose? A 3x Gold Glove, 6x All-Star, .297 career-hitting first baseman does not sound too shabby to me.
In short, there are moves to be made this winter. If I had to pick what I want the 2019 Yankees’ Opening Day lineup to look like, while still being realistic, here’s the final product:
- Andrew McCutchen
- Aaron Judge RF
- Paul Goldschmidt 1B
- Giancarlo Stanton DH
- Aaron Hicks CF
- Gary Sanchez C
- Miguel Andujar 3B
- Gleyber Torres SS
- Neil Walker 2B
(with Didi returning to play short when healthy and Gleyber moving back to second)
- Luis Severino
- Patrick Corbin
- Masahiro Tanaka
- JA Happ
- Justus Sheffield/Chance Adams
Bullpen: Luis Cessa, Stephen Tarpley, Jonathan Holder, Chad Green, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman
Bench: Austin Romine, Luke Voit/Greg Bird (if not traded for Goldschmidt), Ronald Torreyes, Clint Frazier
Will this be the outcome? Maybe not even close, but what the hell do I know?
In terms of the 2018 Yankees, it just sucks. Sucks having that high of expectations, to essentially shit the bed all year, still win 100 games, get the split you needed at Fenway, and be embarrassed by your rivals on your home field to be eliminated. No 27 rings arguments, no excuses. They were the better team this year, or at least they sure did play like they were. For now, Go Astros, and then we’ll see what this offseason brings us.
P.S. Shoutout to my wonderful girlfriend for putting up with me losing my mind during this year’s postseason, my superstitions are beyond real when it comes to Yankees baseball.