The Yankees have had a successful offseason thus far. Keeping Aaron Judge was mandatory, but adding Carlos Rodón was not something I anticipated heading into this winter. Frankly, I was prepared for a Judge-and-done hot stove season. Kinda like what happened with Gerrit Cole a few years ago. So in that sense, I’m happy to see my expectations exceeded.
Still, I look across town and am feeling a bit of jealousy. Steve Cohen just signed Carlos Correa. The Mets already had a star shortstop in Francisco Lindor, so Correa will play third. This, in spite of the Mets’ solid incumbent options at third base (Eduardo Escobar, Brett Baty, Luis Guillorme). It’s not a perfect analogy because the Yankees’ didn’t have a third baseman at the time (Aaron Boone got hurt playing pickup basketball), but it is reminiscent of A-Rod moving to the hot corner with Derek Jeter already in tow.
Meanwhile, the Yankees don’t have a very high floor at shortstop or third base right now. And for the second offseason in a row, the Yankees did not make a splash with a plethora of star shortstops available. Whether it was Correa (twice!), Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Corey Seager, or Trevor Story, the Yankees doubled down on their prospects. Yes, we can dream on Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe. They might be great! But hey, the Mets could have rested their laurels on Baty as the third baseman of the future. They even could have played Escobar there everyday until Baty was ready.
This would be an easier pill to swallow if the Yankees already had an undeniably good option at shortstop. Sure, Peraza might be really good! He was impressive late last year and probably deserved an opportunity sooner. Still, he’s not of the caliber of any of the free agents that were available the past two offseasons. Volpe could be really good too, but again, what are the odds that he’s actually better than any of the free agents who were available?
Like the Yankees’ prospects, Baty could develop into a great player himself. But the odds of him being better than Correa? Not that great. Cohen saw an opportunity to raise the team’s floor in the short- and long-term and didn’t hesitate once there was a second chance to get Correa. Plus, the Mets can more comfortably move Baty in a trade to address a need elsewhere. If the Yankees had signed one of the free agent shortstops, it would be a lot easier to part with Volpe or Peraza in order to acquire someone like Bryan Reynolds, for example.
Hal Steinbrenner is a budget hawk and always has been. He’s made that crystal clear, and even implied some dissatisfaction with Cohen’s move at Judge’s re-introduction. I have no expectation that Steinbrenner will change, but that doesn’t mean it won’t continue to annoy me. Sure, Cohen is by far the richest owner in the league. He’s not a have among 29 other have nots, though. Hal is at the helm of the most valuable franchise in baseball, but his investment in the team does not correlate with the club’s ever-growing revenues.
We can simultaneously be thrilled that Judge is back and that Rodón is here while also harboring some frustration about missed opportunities. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. The Yankees are an improved team and there’s still time to address other needs before spring training rolls around. It just would have been easier to do so by spending, especially in back-to-back star studded shortstop free agent classes.