After another year of missing the World Series, New York Yankees’ fans are desperate for their favorite team to make a sweet offseason acquisition. To many fans a perfect offseason for the Yankees would be adding Trevor Bauer, re-signing DJ LeMahieu, tradingfor Francisco Lindor, acquiring J.T. Realmuto, giving up Gary Sánchez, bringing in Michael Brantley, and enlisting quality relievers. However, the Yankees would love to get under the $210 million luxury tax threshold, and do not have too much money to spend. Therefore, there is no way the Yankees would be able to pull off all of these moves, but perhaps the Yankees can patch up some of their major flaws.
First and foremost, the Yankees need to re-sign DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu has lived up to his nickname of “The Machine” since signing a two-year, $24 million deal with New York. He placed second in the AL Batting title in 2019, led all of MLB in batting average in 2020, and placed third in the AL MVP. LeMahieu’s low strikeout rate, and high contact percentage makes him a bonafide leadoff hitter. The Yankees lineup, which has been belittled by injuries and inconsistencies the last couple of years, would be a shell of their former selves without LeMahieu at the top of the order.
Despite LeMahieu being on the wrong side of 30, a below average runner, and turning into an average fielder, his bat will continue to be a threat for years to come. For that reason, LeMahieu still might command a nine figure deal. As much as the Yankees would love to stay under the luxury tax threshold, they have an estimated $209 million payroll heading into the 2021 season. Therefore, the Yankees will end up with a payroll over $210 million, but would still limit themselves to just one big free agent, and LeMahieu certainly fits the bill.
Of course, the Yankees could go after Trevor Bauer. Perhaps he would even stick to his plan of only signing one-year deals, which would be perfect for a completely healthy Luis Severino in 2022. Yet, Bauer just won the Cy Young award and can easily ask for a $100+ million contract. Having Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer back-to-back would be a dream come true for the Yankees, but that would cost them DJ LeMahieu, which would be a huge blow to the offense.
Instead of breaking the bank to sign Bauer, the Yankees can look for some cheaper options on the market. There are actually a lot of reclamation projects this offseason. Starters such as Charlie Morton (4.74 ERA in 2020 and 37 years old), and Corey Kluber (injured the past two years) may cost around $10 million, but have a good chance to bounce back. Mike Minor and Garrett Richards are also low-cost options the Yankees could use as one-year rentals. The Yankees may also take a strong look at resigning Masahiro Tanaka, a fan favorite who has been one of the more durable Yankee pitchers in the 2010s, as well as Lance Lynn, who has placed top-ten in the AL Cy Young Award the past two years. If the Yankees sign any two decent starters on the market, their rotation could improve greatly.
As for the bullpen, the Yankees showed in the postseason they only trust Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Chad Green to hold down the fort. As a result, the Yankees would love to acquire one or two relievers. Although this would be a stretch, the Yankees should try to trade Clint Frazier (and a prospect or two) for Josh Hader. This trade makes too much sense for both sides not to happen: the small market Brewers need a young hitter under team control and the Yankees need another shutdown reliever. Furthermore, Frazier’s departure would lessen the logjam in the outfield and the Brewers can survive without Hader in the ‘pen thanks to emergence of NL Rookie of the Year winner Devin Williams.
The Yankees do not necessarily have to look at the trade market for quality relievers. The 2020-21 free agent class has a wide variety of elite relievers. Brad Hand and Liam Hendriks reign supreme, whereas ex Yankee Kirby Yates is just a year removed from being the most dominant reliever in all of baseball. After those three pitchers, Alex Colomé and Blake Treinen are some of the bigger names on the market. The Yankees could also reunite with some of their other former players such as David Robertson, Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, Justin Wilson, and Ian Kennedy. Besides, because there are so many low-cost, high upside free agents, the Yankees have a huge opportunity to solidify the bullpen.
To top it off, the Yankees need to re-sign Brett Gardner. He still has enough left in the tank for one last go around. Gardner can still run, hit the ball into orbit, get on-base, and provide above average defense. Plus, his veteran leadership would only help a relatively young Bronx Bombers team, and he would sign for $8 million or less.
For the most part, the Yankees need to focus on pitching and re-signing LeMahieu. This is not the answer that many Yankee fans would like to hear, but there does not need to be as much emphasis on a defensive shortstop. Indeed, shortstop is a premier position on the diamond, and Gleyber Torres has struggled and may never be a defensive wizard, but he is a 30-40 homer power threat at the age of 23. The Yankees could trade for Francisco Lindor as a rental, but that may only happen if LeMahieu is not re-signed. Besides, switching Torres back and forth between shortstop and second base could be detrimental to his growth as a player, so it is best to keep him at shortstop.
In addition to Torres, many Yankee fans are rightly worried about who will be their catcher in 2021. Gary Sánchez has played below expectations and Yankee fans are tired of his inconsistencies. Many fans are praying that Sánchez is traded, and they can sign J.T. Realmuto, the best catcher on the market who could be the first catcher to receive an $100 million contract. Of course, the Yankees can never be ruled out with a top free agent, but the Yankees will probably let Gary Sánchez and Kyle Higashioka battle for playing time. Higashioka started the majority of the Yankees playoff games behind the dish, and even if Sánchez continues to disappoint, at least Higashioka will be a reliable defender.
Suffice it to say, this is not the boldest offseason prediction plan for the Yankees, but it is realistic and cost effective. Many of these trade and free agent proposals are not individual moves that could give the Yankees a ring. Nevertheless, all these ideas as a whole would shore up a lot of weaknesses for the Yankees, and could be just enough to finally make it back to the World Series.
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