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Free agent profiles: Infield depth

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Did you realize that the triumvirate of Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, and Jordy Mercer accumulated 170 plate appearances in 2020? That was nearly a third of the team’s total plate appearances at second base and shortstop. Both DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres spent some time on the injured list which quickly exposed the Yankees’ lack of depth up the middle.

This problem was something we clamored about last winter when Didi Gregorius departed. It’s something the team needs to address this offseason even after re-signing DJ LeMahieu or acquiring a shortstop like Francisco Lindor.

Here’s how this should play out. If LeMahieu returns, the Yankees still need to bring in another infielder capable of playing shortstop. Going another year of Wade/Estrada just isn’t going to cut it. If it’s Lindor (or another shortstop), Torres can act as the reserve shortstop when he’s not at second base. That doesn’t mean the team should rest on their laurels, though. In fact, it might make it easier to obtain a bench infielder upgrade since said target wouldn’t have to be able to play shortstop (though it’d still be nice).

With that in mind, let’s get into a few options that the Yankees should look into this winter.

Free agent profile: Charlie Morton

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There’s no question that the Yankees need to bolster the starting rotation. A team that resorts to smoke and mirrors in Game 2 of a playoff series is a team in need of pitching help. The Yankees may have Gerrit Cole, but things thin out really quickly after him, even with the promising Deivi García and Clarke Schmidt in the wings. Bringing back Masahiro Tanaka will help, but frankly, the Yankees need to do more than just that. That’s where someone like free agent Charlie Morton comes in.

Background & Performance

Morton was born in New Jersey but grew up in Connecticut and apparently was a big Yankees fan. The Braves drafted him out of high school in the third round of the 2002 draft, but it took him a while to make the big leagues. He debuted for Atlanta in 2008, but was dealt to Pittsburgh the following summer for Nate McLouth.

The righty put together some solid yet unspectacular seasons in Pittsburgh before a brief stay in Philadelphia. It wasn’t until 2017 with Houston that he truly broke out at 33 years of age. Since, Morton owns a 3.34 ERA and 3.27 FIP in 546 1/3 innings. He doesn’t necessarily go deep into games (5.6 innigns per start in that timeframe), but he’s undoubtedly effective when on the mound. During that same timespan, he’s fanned 28.4 percent of batters, walked 8.0 percent of opponents, and allowed just 0.84 homers per nine innings.

News & Notes: Winter League Opener, Yadier Molina rumor, and a James Paxton update

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Awards season trudges on as the hot stove remains pretty quiet. Tonight, we’ll find out the AL and NL MVPs. As you know, DJ LeMahieu is a finalist in the AL. The Yankees haven’t had an MVP winner since A-Rod won in 2007. The winner will be announced on MLB Network at 6 p.m. eastern. While you wait for that, here’s the latest Yankees-related news:

Domingo Germán to start Dominican Winter League Opener

If we are to believe Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner, Domingo Germán’s future with the Yankees is still up in the air. Tonight could be his first step in a return to pinstripes though, as he starts the season opener for Toros Del Este in the Dominican Winter League. I don’t know what Hal needs to see from Germán in order to bring him back next year, but it very well could be lip service. Frankly, I fully expect the team to bring him back without (publicly) addressing any rehabilitation following his domestic violence suspension.

Also of note, Miguel Andújar and Gary Sánchez will Germán’s teammates, though Gary isn’t expected to report to the team until next month. We’ll see if Miggy is in the lineup tonight.

If you want to watch the game this evening, you can register here. It’s $15 for the full season, which is a bargain.

News & Notes: LeMahieu rejects QO, Yanks interested in Simmons, and MiLB affiliate news

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The hot stove season is underway, sort of. Things are pretty quiet on the rumor mill and only a couple of notable transactions have occurred. Robbie Ray re-signed with Toronto earlier this week and Marcus Stroman accepted the qualifying offer to remain with the Mets. The Yankees have some qualifying offer news too, which leads us right into today’s notes.

DJ LeMahieu will reject qualifying offer

This isn’t a surprise. Today’s the decision deadline for players who received the qualifying and LeMahieu will not accept. If my understanding of the qualifying offer rules are correct, the Yankees are now eligible to receive a compensation pick after the fourth round of next year’s amateur draft should LeMahieu sign elsewhere.

The median contract value per FanGraphs’ crowdsourcing for LeMahieu is $42 million of three years, which is an absolute bargain. The average was a bit higher at 3.45 years and $62.1 million ($18 million AAV), but still very reasonable for the second baseman. I’d be very happy if the Yankees could bring him back at either of those prices, although their sights could be elsewhere. Hell, we let him walk in our plan released yesterday.

The VF314 Official 2020-2021 Offseason Plan

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We’re a couple of weeks later than last year, but better late than never. It’s time for us to unveil our Official Offseason Plan for the Yankees. Everyone on staff has discussed and debated various decisions the Yankees have ahead of them this winter and are ready to share our consensus today.

As a preface, this plan is a bit conservative and would get the Yankees under the $210 million luxury tax threshold. It’s not clear whether or not the Yankees will exhibit austerity this winter, though there have been hints in the media. That led to some difficult decisions that you’ll see unfold below. That said, we are planning to share another less-stringent plan soon. It’ll be more fun, we promise.

With that, let’s dive right in.

Option decisions

We wouldn’t do anything differently than what the Yankees actually did. On the option front, Zack Britton stays while Brett Gardner and JA Happ depart.

Team Free Agents & Qualifying Offers

DJ LeMahieu: It’s tough to say goodbye, but something coming later will explain why.

Masahiro Tanaka: Another really tough goodbye here. Tanaka was terrific for seven years in pinstripes, but in trying to fit under the $210 million tax threshold, it just couldn’t be done.

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