Author: Matt Imbrogno Page 1 of 15

Rounding Out the Edges

With the signings of DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber, the main thrust of the Yankee roster is more or less filled out. At the very least, the lineup seems set:

C–Gary Sanchez

1B–Luke Voit

2B–DJ LeMahieu

3B–Gio Urshela

SS–Gleyber Torres

LF–Clint Frazier

CF–Aaron Hicks

RF–Aaron Judge

DH–Giancarlo Stanton

Kyle Higashioka and Tyler Wade are assuredly two of the four bench spots, with new addition Greg Allen and holdovers Mike Ford, Miguel Andujar, Thairo Estrada, and Mike Tauchman up for the final two spots. Tauchman and Allen are both out of options, so we can presume–for now–that the fourth outfield spot will be a battle between those two.

The rotation also looks more set with Kluber joining Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, and some combination of Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, Domingo German, and, eventually, Luis Severino. Honorable mention to Mike King. The bullpen, though untouched by these acquisitions, seems set as well: Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Chad Green, Adam Ottavino, Luis Cessa, Joanthan Loaisiga, Nick Nelson, Albert Abreu (presumably, since he’sout of options) with the still optionable Ben Heller, Brooks Kriske, and Miguel Yajure in reserve.

All in all, this a roster I feel mostly confident in. The lineup is obviously fantastic and the bullpen’s top-three is as good as any in the Majors. The bench may not be sparkling, but the players there are likely good for their roles. At the least, the rotation has one of the best pitchers in baseball and serious upside.

But if we look closely, we can see some rough edges to this team. If a middle infielder goes down, they could be in trouble, same with an outfielder. The bullpen looks strong, but Ottavino is on shaky ground, which helps tire out Green and Britton as bridges to Chapman, which we’ve seen bite the Yankees in the playoffs of late. And that rotation has a lot of question marks beyond Cole.

In order of need, I’d say the Yankees need another starter, another infielder, and another reliever. I’m not wild about either Allen or Tauchman as backups, but I think there’s enough glove for both of them to make it work, considering the strength of the rest of the outfield. Do I think they could do better at 4th/5th OF? Yeah, for sure, but it’s lower on the list than the other items.

Getting any one of those–starter, IF, RP–would be tough given where the Yankees are in terms of their self-imposed budget. After the Kluber signing, they have just under $6 million to play with. If they’re going to stick to Plan 210, any signing(s) they make would be for depth, not impact. I’m of two minds on this.

The first mind says that, given the roster and even the title of this post, depth is what they could use right now. The roster is strong as it stands, could easily win the division, and make noise in the playoffs.

But the second mind says ‘yikes’ to that rotation. As good as Corey Kluber is, he’s pitched all of, uh, basically nothing since 2018. Deivi is still (mostly) unproven. Domingo German is a complete mystery and relying on a TJS recovery version of Luis Severino is not comforting. Something more than depth or a lottery ticket is needed to make me feel better about the rotation. But is it out there?

The team doesn’t seem to want to bring Masahiro Tanaka back, which saddens me deeply, and I doubt they go big splash with Trevor Bauer. It’s possible that the amount they spent on Kluber means they’ll blow past $210M–or maybe surpass it in the season–but they could just as easily close up the free agent shop, so to speak.

Given the budget constraints–however self-imposed–and the 40 man roster crunch–Kluber and DJLM make 42–it’s likely that the improvements I’d want for the Yankees would have to come by trade. Luis Castillo, maybe? That could be pie in the sky and I’m terrible at coming up with trade scenarios, so we’ll leave it there.

Regardless of my two minds, the Yankees have a great roster and only need to round out the edges. Whether they do that ‘roughly’ by just adding depth or ‘smoothly’ by getting someone to make a big impact, this team is going to win lots of games. Probably.

Addressing Current Needs with Yankees of Old Part 2: A Fuller Roster

Earlier this week, Randy, Bobby, Derek, and I drafted former Yankee seasons to impose on 2021 for the greatest impact. We stipulated that it had to be from our lifetimes, just to make it a little narrower. Ironically, Randy, the oldest among us, picked the most recent Yankee season. Now, instead of just limiting to four picks, I’m going to run through the years to pick the best season from each position and make a ‘roster’ of seasons/players to pick from.

Catcher: 2007 Jorge Posada. .338/.426/.543. Enough said, right? One of the best seasons by a Yankee catcher ever.

First base: 2002 Jason Giambi, as Randy mentioned in his write up and the podcast. .314/.435/.598. By OPS+ (172) this is actually Giambi’s third best season ever, behind only his monster 2000 and 2001 campaigns. Big G was and is underappreciate by Yankee fans, but his addition to this team would be a boon (as much as we love Luke Voit, of course).

Second Base: 2012 Robinson Cano. Derek mentioned this at the end of his writeup the other day and I have to agree. .313/.379/.550 (149 wRC+)? Hell yeah. That would make people forget about DJLM, right? Not that we want to do that, but you know what I mean.

Third Base: 2007 Alex Rodriguez. 54 homers. .314/.422/.645. This is one of the best seasons by a right-handed batter, ever, let alone Yankee seasons. Grand by any stretch of the imagination, this season alone could will the Yankees into the playoffs.

Shortstop: 1999 Derek Jeter as I mentioned in the post. Probably should’ve won MVP.

Left Field: Despite the Yankees being generally great for my whole life (1987), left field hasn’t been a shining spot for them. My first thought was 2004 Hideki Matsui (.912 OPS/137 OPS+, 31 homers, 162 games), but I’ve settled on 1988 Dave Winfield. In the year I turned one, Winfield hit .322/.398/.530/.927 for a 159 OPS+. As much as we all love Clint Frazier, it’s doubtful he does that this year.

Center Field: 1998 Bernie Williams. .339/.422/.575. A 160 OPS+. Led the league in batting average. Socked 26 homers. Walked 74 times to only 81 strikeouts. This was Bernie’s best season and the best season by a Yankee CF since Mickey Mantle, probably (though Bernie really just had to best himself there, right?). This sort of up-the-middle offense would be killer.

Right Field: 2017 Aaron Judge. This season should’ve won MVP. And even though he’d be replacing himself, which is a little amusing, it’s hard to argue against .284/.422/.627 and 52 homers. Like the A-Rod season, this alone could lift the 2021 Yankees (with everyone else around, of course) to the playoffs.

Starting Rotation: 2011 CC Sabathia, 1997 Andy Pettitte, 2001 Mike Mussina, 1997 David Cone, 2010 CC Sabathia.

Bullpen: Just every single year possible of Mariano Rivera. Let’s take his eight best, then? 1996, 2008, 2005, 2004, 2003, 1999, 2009, 2011.

What would your roster be? Let us know in the comments!

New Year’s Resolutions

Like it was for my holiday wish list post, it’s that time of year again. Let’s make some New Year’s resolutions for the Yankees. On a personal note, I’d like to finally stop procrastinating so much, but I’ll get to it later.

Let’s start with Giancarlo Stanton. The playoffs showed us how things are supposed to go with G: a slugger whose bat can change the game and carry the team. When healthy, he’s performed. While it’s not necessarily in his full control, let’s have him resolve to be fully healthy in 2021.

From the lineup to the bullpen we go. Aroldis Chapman. I know this isn’t fully in his control either, but, please, can he resolve to not give up a back-breaking, season-killing home run in the playoffs again? Two years in a row is more than enough.

Now onto a bench player after two star cogs in the machine: Tyler Wade. On paper, Tyler Wade should be perfect for the Yankee bench. He’s a speedy lefty who can play the middle infield positions and fake the outfield, and who walks a lot. He just needs to hit better. If he could up his contact and cut his strikeouts, he’d been a boon to the roster, not a drag on it. A resolution for Wade? Just make more contact.

To make this brief, my last one will be for the front office. If they’re not going to play in free agency, then they need to resolve to improve the team at the deadline when needed. That might mean a tweak or an extra piece, which I’m sure they’d be willing to do. But it could also mean a big splash to push them over the edge, which they’ve been relatively reluctant to do. If they’re going to limit themselves when they shouldn’t, they need to do the opposite later on.

Happy New Year, folks. Thanks for reading in this wild and crazy year.

Post-DJ Part Two: Spending the Money

A little less than a month ago, I wrote about the possibility of a post-DJ LeMahieu life for the Yankees and included a bunch of options to replace him. If you’d asked me then if I thought that I’d write a follow up just a few days before Christmas, I’d’ve said no. Yankees or not, I figured DJLM would’ve signed with a team by now. Well, he hasn’t and the Yankees haven’t done anything in Major League free agency, so it’s given my mind time to wander. How could the Yankees spend if they don’t sign LeMahieu?

Without signing him, the Yankees would have about $35 million to play with before the first luxury tax barrier. In reality, it’s a little over that, but for the purposes of this exercise, we’ll say it’s $35M. For simplicity’s sake, too, I’m going to ignore the roster crunch that would happen in either of the scenarios I’m about to present. There’d be ways to work this out and this is a lot of wish casting anyway, so let’s roll with it. All salary assumptions are from MLBTR and reflect the contract’s average annual value for tax purposes.

My first plan is the ‘stick to the plan’ plan in which ‘stick with the plan’ means keeping Gleyber Torres at shortstop, even if LeMahieu signs elsewhere. Here goes, with $35M to spend:

–Sign Kolten Wong for $8M ($27M remaining)

–Sign Jose Quintana for $9M ($18M remaining)

–Sign Liam Hendriks for $10M ($8M remaining)

–Sign Brad Hand for $M ($1M remaining)

This gives the Yankees a viable replacement for LeMahieu, some starting depth, and good bullpen depth, too.

My second plan is a bit of a more nostalgic, get-the-band-back-together type plan.

–Sign Didi Gregorius for $13M ($22M remaining)

–Sign Masahiro Tanaka for $13M ($9M remaining)

–Sign Marc Melancon for $4M ($5M remaining)

–Sign Cole Hamels for $4M ($1M remaining)

All of them–except Hamels–have been Yankees at one point and are good enough to bring back. Hamels is a personal favorite and would be decent rotation depth with Tanaka back, too.

One thing we should not–aside from the aforementioned roster concerns–is that MLBTR’s salaries have shot pretty low. Hell, they project LeMahieu himself to get only $17M AAV. Additionally, I put the Yankees right up against the edge of the tax, which they may not want to do, in case they actually want to shop around at the trade deadline.

Even if they are a little more convoluted, there are paths to follow without LeMahieu; they could even be pretty successful! The simplest route–and the one fans likely want most–is to re-sign LeMahieu and go from there. There’s obviously still time to make that happen and build around that move. If they don’t though, the Yankees have options for that money.

A Yankee Holiday Wish List

‘Tis the season, isn’t it, folks? Whether you’re in the midst of celebrating Hanukkah or gearing up for Christmas or Kwanza, or the Winter Solstice, or whatever you celebrate, it’s the holiday season. In that spirit–and in the spirit of keeping safe and healthy in our celebrations this holiday season–here’s a list of my holiday wishes for some Yankees.

Gary Sanchez: For Gary, I wish a year of no tinkering and no tampering with his approach behind the plate. We’ve heard via Luke Voit that Gary is already working to correct his poor hitting in 2020 and that’s what he needs. What I think he doesn’t need–and I’ve expressed this before–is another round of fiddling with his catching. Sanchez will likely never be a great blocker, maybe not even a good one, but even without the tampering last year, he was a decent framer. He also calls a good game and has a rocket arm. Let him focus on what he’s good at behind the plate so that his struggles and adjustments there don’t carry over to the plate like they did in 2020.

Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, and Luke Voit: For these three, I wish for fully healthy and productive seasons. The former is asking a lot, especially so of Hicks and Judge, but I so badly want these three to play 140+ games in 2021 to show off what they can really do. Given their levels of talent and previous levels of production, all three could be MVP candidates with full seasons under their belts.

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