After a season that general manager Brian Cashman called “at times both unstoppable, but many other times unwatchable,’’ the Yankees head into one of their most important offseasons in years, with the GM adding he’d be “open-minded to anything and everything on the roster.”
We’re about to find out how that will look.
With the GM meetings starting Monday in Carlsbad, Calif., the offseason officially starts, and with a lockout looming by Dec. 1, some teams and players could try to act quickly to beat the work stoppage and others will wait to see what the landscape is once the dust settles — hopefully before spring training is due to begin in February.
After another brief playoff appearance, Cashman made a clear statement: The Yankees require a new starting shortstop.
The question is whether they pursue one of the stars in the free-agent class, which includes Carlos Correa and Trevor Story, or find a stopgap like Andrelton Simmons, until one of their top prospects, Oswald Peraza, or Anthony Volpe are ready, perhaps by 2023.
Regardless of what they do at short, Cashman vowed to give Aaron Boone — who signed a new three-year contract to remain manager in The Bronx — a more “flexible” roster.
Gary Sanchez is currently on this roster. He’s heading into his final year of arbitration and will get a raise to close to $8 million.
The Yankees will be looking at the catching spot as well as the center field with Gleyber Torres at 2nd base, Aaron Judge at right, and little else.
Where does DJ LeMahieu fit?
LeMahieu could return to the jack-of-all trades infielder that the Yankees had in mind when they signed him before the 2019 season. Torres is now moving back to second following the failed shortstop experiment. After two stellar years, though, LeMahieu’s production fell off dramatically in 2021 and with five more years left on the $90 million deal he signed last offseason, the Yankees need a bounce-back season from the 33-year-old.
The Yankees won’t make LeMahieu a regular first baseman unless Cashman says otherwise.
Anthony Rizzo is solid and could return after being traded with the Cubs.
They are also keen to keep Joey Gallo. He was everything Rizzo was after he was traded from Texas. Cashman will need to trade partners with Luke Voit or Gio Urshela to rebuild the roster.
There are no ideal upgrades over Sanchez at catcher available, which will likely factor into the Yankees’ decision-making.
Cashman mentioned that Starling Marte, a free agent, could be able to fill in for Cashman at the center. Aaron Hicks is coming off wrist surgery that cost him most of last season, but he’s expected to be healthy in time for spring training. Judge has spoken out about playing more center, and Brett Gardner, who was a free agent after the Yankees declined his options for 2022, remains in the mix for a reserve position.
And then there’s shortstop.
The Yankees stayed under the luxury tax — which was $210 million last season — and it’s unknown what that number will be under the next CBA.
Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Ston, and Judge are already in the middle expensive contracts. Judge is expected to receive at least $17million in his final year as an arbitrator.
Does Hal Steinbrenner have the gut for another mega-contract in order to acquire Correa or Seager
Many believe Seager is the better fit. He could spend a year as a shortstop with the Yankees and then switch to third to make way for Peraza or Volpe. Seager also has a left-handed bat, which was a problem for the Yankees during much of last season.
Then there’s the pitching staff, which performed well for most of 2021. Jameson Taillon may miss the first half of the season after ankle tendon surgery. Corey Kluber, however, is a free agent. The Yankees also didn’t get the development they’d counted on from Deivi Garcia or Clarke Schmidt, and it’s fair to wonder if Nestor Cortes, Jr. can duplicate the success he had.
Luis Severino will return to the rotation, but the Yankees plan to look at the free agent market with Robbie Ray or Kevin Gausman.
In the bullpen, there’s some depth, but the loss of Zack Britton to elbow surgery that will cost him most — if not all — of next season hurts, but the organization proved to be adept at finding hidden gems like Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta and Joely Rodriguez. Despite pitching well with the Yankees after coming over from Texas in the Gallo trade, the Yankees didn’t pick up its $3 million option for Rodriguez, instead giving him a $500,000 buyout.