Even though the 2020 MLB season has not yet come to a close, the New York Yankees are already looking towards next year. Losing to the pennant-winning Rays was the finishing blow on an up-and-down year for the Yankees. Thus, if the Yankees can appropriately and accurately assess these questions, perhaps they can have a deeper run in 2021.
- What does the future look like for Gary Sánchez?
Yankee fans are disappointed in Sánchez after a dismal 2020 season where he slashed .147/.253/.365 with 10 HRs in 49 games. He was replaced by Kyle Higashioka as the primary catcher throughout the ALCS, someone who many Yankee fans thought was originally worse than Austin Romine. After Sánchez’s phenomenal 2016-17 seasons, he has not lived up to his reputation —an upcoming backstop that would eventually become the best catcher in the game. However, he has led the league several times in passed balls, been a below-average framer, thrown out runners at an average rate despite having one of the best-throwing arms, and of course, finished two seasons under the Mendoza line. There is a case to be made that Sánchez has the most power out of any catcher in the Majors, but does his offense offset the rest of his issues?
Sánchez’s power is the main reason to keep him in the lineup. Similar to Sanchez’s 2018 season, he had a below-average BABIP. His career BABIP stands at .256, but in 2020 that number fell to .159. Furthermore, Sánchez also has an impressive 91.8 MPH Exit Velocity. Therefore, Sanchez is due for a more productive 2021 season at the plate, and for that reason, he will likely be the starting catcher during Opening Day next season.
Nevertheless, the Yankees have so many powerful bats in the lineup. Incidentally, the Yankees also have defensive holes at shortstop, first base, center field, and catcher. Thus, if the Yankees wanted to prioritize defense at a premier position they could trade Sánchez and stick with Kyle Higashioka. Not only would Higashioka be a huge defensive upgrade, but the Yankees could receive some talented players in return for Sánchez. Additionally, Erik Kratz could return as the backup to Higashioka as he has been doing wonders for young Yankee pitchers such as Deivi Garcia. Or the Yankees could spend a boatload of money on J.T. Realmuto, which would be a fantastic idea because he is the best catcher in all of baseball.
- Will the New York Yankees re-sign Brett Gardner?
This question has been extremely popular for the Yankees during the last couple of offseasons. Brett Gardner is the last remaining Yankee from the 2009 World Series team. The Yankees are close to a championship run and would love to send Gardner riding off into the sunset with his second ring. Still, while he still is a stalwart defender in left field, has some speed, a little bit of pop, and gets on base a lot, these assets are slowly fading away.
The Yankees are likely to see more of 2020 Gardner throughout a full season than 2019 Gardner. While his veteran leadership, grit, and respectable productivity should allow the Yankees to re-sign him, he does create a logjam in the Yankees outfield. Miguel Andújar, Mike Tauchman, and especially Clint Frazier are all capable of handling left field. Yet with the injuries to Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton, over the past few seasons, keeping an extra outfielder such as Gardner in a more limited role could not hurt.
The Yankees could also pull off an incredible move fit for the Evil Empire: sign Michael Brantley. Despite the Yankees ranking 22nd in team strikeouts this year (8.24 K/G), every team has been struggling with runners in scoring position because of the emphasis on the long ball. Consequently, Brantley is a DJ LeMahieu-esque hitter that will shoot the ball the other way, hit over .300, and smoke the ball over the fence from time to time. Brantley’s presence would make the Yankees lineup well-rounded and even more lethal. While saying an inevitable goodbye to Gardner would hurt, the addition of Brantley could give the Yankees the extra championship push they desperately need.
- If 2020 was Gardner’s last season in The Bronx, who will the Yankees look towards for veteran leadership?
The Bronx Bombers are a relatively young team loaded with unfathomable talent. Nonetheless, if Gardner walks away, there are few players on the team that can provide veteran leadership. DJ LeMahieu, Gerrit Cole, and Aaron Judge are all leaders on the Yankees team. Adding veteran presence is not the biggest issue for New York, but if they re-sign Erik Kratz, Masahiro Tanaka, and/or even a player such as Michael Brantley that should suffice.
- If the Yankees re-sign DJ LeMahieu, how much will he be paid?
Yankee fans are likely to see The Machine back in pinstripes in 2021. LeMahieu turned around his career in New York, and the Yankees have found the perfect leadoff hitter for their lineup. The Yankees and LeMahieu are a match made in heaven and there should be little concern that LeMahieu will sign with a different team. Since LeMahieu is arguably the best second baseman in all of baseball and has been incredibly consistent for the past two seasons, a four-year, $90 million contract should suffice.
- Did Masahiro Tanaka pitch his last game for the Yankees?
When the Yankees were eliminated in the playoffs, Tanaka’s seven-year, $155 million contract officially expired. The Yankees signed Tanaka after one of the greatest seasons ever pitched in Japan, where Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA. The Yankees hoped Tanaka would be their ace of the future, but he turned out to be a durable middle of the rotation pitcher that shined in the postseason. Although Tanaka is one of the greatest Yankee postseason pitchers of all-time, he was shelled in the two playoff starts in 2020 and lost a pivotal Game 3 start in what might have been the last time he ever pitched in pinstripes. Tanaka is one of the longest-tenured Yankees and a fan favorite that hardly felt the pressure in big-game situations; it would be a shame if his career on the Yankees ended on such a low note.
Rumors have been flying around about whether or not Tanaka plans to stay in New York. He had a cryptic Instagram tweet about his last regular season game pitched on his contract. Conversely, Cole posted a picture of him, Tanaka, and their wives eating sushi on a double date the other day. Since the two starters appear to be good friends, perhaps this is a sign Tanaka will consider staying in pinstripes. Tanaka was given the opportunity to opt-out of his seven-year contract in 2017 but declined to do so as he was happy in New York. Thus, Tanaka and the Yankees have mutual interest in each other, and they should go after him in 2020.
Besides, the Yankees projected 2021 rotation consists of Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, Luis Severino (by June or July), and Domingo Germán (more on him later). Except for Cole, none of these starters are reliable. Signing a familiar and consistent role model such as Tanaka could do wonders for the rotation. Indeed, the Yankees will probably re-sign Tanaka. They will not be giving out any eight-figure contract to him again, but a three-year, $40 million deal should be acceptable.
- Has Domingo Germán pitched his last game as a Yankee?
Germán served nearly the entirety of his 81-game domestic violence suspension in 2020 and could be a starter for the Yankees in 2021. However, the Yankees’ owner Hal Steinbrenner said that his future is uncertain, and needs to be assured that Germán regrets assaulting the mother of his two children. Germán also posted on social media that he quit baseball, only to backtrack on the statement with another social media post later on. At the very least, the former 18-game winner’s future is up in the air.
- Will the Yankees re-sign James Paxton?
The current state of the rotation may force the Yankees to sign two starting pitchers this offseason. Paxton is one of the hardest throwing left-handed starters and is a valuable asset, albeit when he is healthy. He has missed significant time as a Yankee and has never lived up to his ace status. Regardless, Paxton is an above-average pitcher who should have a sub-4.00 ERA, which is extremely enticing at Yankee Stadium. Re-signing James Paxton is not a terrible idea, but there are better options available.
- Will we see Trevor Bauer in pinstripes?
Bauer is not only a better option than Paxton, but is also the best starting pitcher on the market. Bauer has a great chance at winning the NL Cy Young award after leading the Cincinnati Reds to their first playoff appearance since 2013. Bauer is a big-game pitcher that could handle the bright lights of the Big Apple. Even though he is the same man that once cut himself with his drone before a playoff start, channels his inner Connor McGregor after a strikeout, and is a savage on Twitter, the Yankees have acquired their fair share of eccentric players, and Bauer is no different in that regard.
Furthermore, the Yankees would have another ace in the rotation after Gerrit Cole. As previously mentioned, the Bronx Bombers’ biggest concern is their starting pitching. Bauer would solve that problem in an instant. Coincidentally, Bauer is a unique free agent in that he has previously stated he would only sign one-year deals. The Yankees have the money to sign the best pitcher on the market, and Bauer could sign for an estimated one-year, $25 million deal.
- When will Luis Severino and Tommy Kahnle return?
Imagine if the Yankees had a 2021 rotation consisting of Cole, Bauer, and Severino (back to his 2017-18 form). Those three starters can pitch like aces and can turn the Yankees rotation from a weakness into a strength. Severino is set to return in June or July, and although Yankee fans should not expect Severino to be his ace-like self after returning from Tommy John surgery, he will help the rotation. As for Tommy Kahnle, he underwent Tommy John surgery in early August and may not return until late 2021 or early 2022. The Yankees would love to have his electric fastball-changeup combo in the backend of the bullpen during a 2021 playoff run, but there is a distinct possibility that will not happen.
- Will Clint Frazier, Miguel Andújar, and/or Mike Tauchman get traded?
As mentioned earlier, the Yankees have way too many options in left field. While they have been able to keep Frazier, Andújar, and Tauchman because of the injuries in the last two years, they could receive pitching in return for these sluggers. Andújar finished second in ROY voting in 2018, and despite having limited playing time, could still garner a lot of trade interest. Frazier is the best player of the group, and made huge strides defensively in 2020. Yet because Frazier is the Yankees LF of the near future, the Yankees will not trade him. Despite having speed, defense, and a little bit of pop Tauchman may be better suited as a fourth outfielder.
To receive a big-name player, the Yankees would be wise to trade either Frazier or Andújar. In all likelihood, the Yankees would trade the latter, as Andújar has no set position on the team, and was taken off the Yankees’ MLB roster during the 2020 season. Certainly, with Brett Gardner’s return in question, the Yankees will not move any of the three players until they figure out what to do with Gardy. Even if Gardner is on the Yankees in 2021, Andújar, Frazier, or Tauchman may not be moved until the 2021 trade deadline.
- Will the Yankees sign a reliever?
The Yankees may not sign just one reliever, but multiple relievers. Manager Aaron Boone only trusted Chapman, Britton, and Green in the postseason, which was a huge problem when trying to close off games. With Tommy Kahnle out of commission and Adam Ottavino’s struggles, the Yankees should sign two relievers on the market. The Yankees could turn to their old friend Dellin Betances for a heartfelt reunion. Additionally, the Yankees are likely to keep Britton for another year, but adding another quality left-handed reliever such as Brad Hand would once again make the bullpen a major strength.
- Can the Yankees finally stay healthy?
Hopefully. Every Yankees fan should have their fingers crossed that sluggers such as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton stay healthy. Other players such as Aaron Hicks and Gary Sanchez have missed significant time in recent years. Oh man, that’s a lot of players, and the new training staff did not help prevent injuries either in 2020. A bode of health would pay huge dividends for the Yankees, but that is unlikely to happen.
Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage: The triple slash line shows how often a player gets a hit, reaches base, and the quality of their hit. MLB 2019 average: .252/.322/.435.
BABIP: Batted Balls in Play. MLB average: ~.300
K/G: Strikeouts per game. MLB 2020 average: ~8.68 K/G.
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