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.

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16 Comments

  1. Smurfy

    Thank you Matt, what I read encouraged me that the starting staff is a hopeful combo of high quality experience and incredible potential. Read the critics, and realize, perhaps, why you backed into it so.

  2. Why is everyone still in love with Tanaka? Have you all forgot that he’s lost his best pitch (splitter) for 2 years now and how badly he’s pitched in his last 4 postseason starts? I love Tanaka as a person and am OK with him pitching in the regular season, but the postseason? No way.

  3. JG (Ben Francisco)

    If Judge, Hicks, and Stanton stay relatively healthy while Sanchez and Torres bounce back, it is very conceivable that the offense is better for the whole year. The pen will be fine, but I would like someone else. The rotation is very dicey and for a team with a lot of resources and competing in a title window, there is a lot of uncertainties and things they need to get lucky about.

    • Mungo

      I’m not concerned about the offense. Sure, I’d like a little lefthanded balance, but this team will score runs. We are two to three wins worse and down one productive lefty bat without Gardner. Greg Allen will not replace Gardner. So either Gardner has to return or they need another lefty bat, so that’s a ding to the team currently. Regardless, the offense is more than good enough, especially in what’s a weakened AL. Is anyone trying to improve short of the White Sox? The pen will be solid as constructed and will be even stronger once the season is underway. The starting pitching, however, is a significant problem. It could come together, and heading into October we’ll be looking at Cole, a resurgent Kluber and a returned Severino as an awesome threesome for the postseason. Too much can go wrong though with that scenario. Right now I see Cole and a bunch of arms that will more than fill out the backend of the rotation. We’re still lacking a #2 and #3, or even someone we can be sure will eat innings. They had to add more.

      • Smurfy

        No, I disagree that Mr. Steinbrenner has to spend another penny to make me happy with the hopeful prospect you presented, till yer wisdom kicked in. I want to hope for a rotation of Cole, Kluber (he has Know-how for sure, pitches, probably), Severino, German, and Montgomery (who qualifies for 4th, almost 3rd, s.t. his new endurance). Loaisiga has got to be near zeroing in that outrageous two-seamer to be dominant, and Schmitt, Majure’ Ah, he’s spent plenty for me.

  4. dasit

    trying to remain optimistic for 2021, but…

    i don’t trust (or like) chapman and ottovino
    i don’t believe judge or stanton will play anything close to a full season
    i don’t believe sanchez will magically turn it around
    i’ll miss tanaka even more than didi

    • Could not agree more.
      Despite the fact Cashman seems to be caught up in all thing Cashman, I think he is going to have to move some of his “untoughable” pieces including trading Voit for a #2 and a left handed bat. Sign Didi, move Torres and let LeMahieu play first base, teach Stanton to actually play a position, first base, unless in addition having agreed to a full no trade, Cashman gave him an only in the outfield clause.

  5. Alex

    This team easily looks worse than last season. Bringing it back with the exact same group of players yet again is extremely uninspiring, and barring Kluber staying healthy and returning to close to his Cy Young level with the Indians, the rotation is still a mess. With all the dead money there is on this roster, it’s clear that moving salary (especially this offseason) is going to be extremely difficult to make a salary relief trade without giving up significant prospect capital so Hal is going to have to be willing to go over the luxury tax or Cashman is going to have to actually make a trade for someone cheap like Castillo for this rotation to even look respectable.

    Tyler Wade and Mike Ford are not MLB quality players and it would be embarrassing if the Yankees guaranteed them roster spots going into the season. Higgy catches the pitching staff well and has earned an opportunity this season and Tauchman showed enough in 2019 to warrant another chance but Ford and Wade are wasted roster spots. Surely you can find better backups even on minor league deals.

    • CentralScrutinizer

      Tauchman”s 2019 was a mirage. His underlying batted ball metrics were not good despite his top-line stats and he was seriously exposed in 2020. He was riding an unsustainable > 450 BABIP for a while on bloopers and dunkers but when his luck ran out and the soft hits stopped falling in his numbers cratered. Higgy is no better than replacement. Fine as a backup but untenable as a starter on a contending team.

  6. CentralScrutinizer

    Standing pat, even for strong teams is usually a big mistake. From the standpoint of starting pitching the Yankees have done worse than stand pat – they’ve regressed. If Montgomery and a huge question mark like Kluber are effectively the #2 and #3 starters then the Yankees are in trouble. I like Garcia and think he will be effective but he’s still developing and may well have an innings limit. There’s no way to tell what the Yankees will get out of German or Severino (if and when he returns). Schmidt has next to no experience above AA, King is at best a 5th starter on a contender.

    Now, as you say, Cashman may have an ace up his sleeve in terms of an under-the-radar trade but Ill believe it when I see it. You correctly point out that the team is lacking in depth. The bench pieces (Wade, Tauchman, Allen, even Higgy) are unexciting. I’m not going to lionize Higgy because of his bromance with Cole. He’s a replacement-level player and will be badly exposed if he has to play a lot, which is a possibility with Sanchez” injury history and complete ineffectiveness last season.

    The OF situation is even worse. Do you really want to run Tauchman or Allen out there on an extended basis if Judge is out? That will be as bad as when they were running Neil Walker and Shane Robinson out there in 2018 because Hal wouldn’t g out and get a real OF until it wouldn’t cost him more than he wanted to spend. Who’s the DH if Stanton is hurt?

    I think this team needs to do a lot more than just “round out the edges”. The roster has serious deficiencies because Hal is much more concerned about the bottom line than he is about winning.

    • Who’s the DH if Stanton is hurt? Miguel Andujar, who had an OPS over 850 in his rookie season.

  7. DanGer

    I know people freak when you do this but if take out Ottavino’s 6 run stinker from Sept 7th, his 2020 ERA drops from 5.89 to 2.95. He didn’t allow a run in 19 of 24 appearances.

    • CentralScrutinizer

      LOL. He was stapled to the bench in the post-season because Boone had lost trust in him. He walks too many guys and is useless against lefties. Overrated and overpaid.

  8. I am wondering what team you are talking about?
    If it is the Yankees you are seeing something I do not see. Here is my Yankee reality:

    1. Cole and lots of questions in the starting rotation. Kluber is 100 years old.
    2. Bullpen, inconsistant Green, Very Shakey Ottovino, suddenly inconsistant Chapman and no Tommy Kahnle
    3. No left handed bat added to a right heavy lineup.
    4. A shortstop, catcher and first baseman that do not defent at a major league level
    5. Hicks, Judge and Stanton are hurt all the time it seems.
    6. No bench, Tyler Wade, really?

    These 6 realities and the fact that Steinbrenner is cheap, despite having arguably the richest team in baseball, I am not optimistic about 2021.

    • Jesus, some people just love to complain. Bad things can go wrong for any team, and the Yankees are one of the best teams in baseball. If Cash can get a legit #2, the Yanks might be the best team.

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