With the MLB draft nearly over, the focus of the season returns to the Major League roster and the hot stove begins to warm.
After all, we’re less than two months away from the trade deadline, and there are no waiver deals to be made this season. With new rules, it’s July 31 and that’s it.
Therefore, the Yankees and every other team need to make decisions on their roster and depth earlier this year. Waiting around until August 31 to add a depth infielder or starter isn’t an option this time around.
So that got me thinking: What exactly are the Yankees needs right now? Where can they shore up the roster?
If one believes that the team can get even a modicum of health in the coming months, the Yankees have only one clear place to add to their roster: Starting pitching.
That health is a major caveat. With Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Luis Severino and Dellin Betances, the team’s two most powerful hitters, starting shortstop, ace starting pitcher and best weapon out of the bullpen are all out.
While each seem within 1.5 months of returning, they’ve each had setbacks or suffered serious enough injuries that we’d be getting ahead of ourselves to assume they’ll each return without issue.
But it is fair to believe the Yankees will get some of those players back. Even if all they got was one of Judge or Stanton, they’d still have a strong lineup, complete infield and the best bullpen in the Majors. Once you get any more of those reinforcements, the Bombers start to look like a juggernaut on the level of the Astros and Dodgers, just in need of fine tuning around the edges.
The Yankees’ infield is shored up, though not how we thought it would be before season. Troy Tulowitzki’s injury wasn’t hard to forecast, but Gio Urshela more than making up for Miguel Andujar was. Urshela’s emergence eliminates need to get a Adeiny Hechavarria-type as a late-game defensive replacement.
If you don’t believe in Urshela, well, the Yankees could potentially go with LeMahieu at third once Didi returns and wait to get a long-term 3B this offseason. There will be plenty of Anthony Rendon rumors and while he represents a significant upgrade, the team may not have the Minor League haul Washington wants in return.
In the outfield, there’s already strong talent with Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks and Clint Frazier. However, with Frazier’s defensive issues, the team needs Stanton and Judge back as much for their gloves as their bats. If the team gets both back to full health, great! The team can fire on all cyliners. Otherwise, one would suffice in terms of depth and defense.
Meanwhile, the team finally has their five non-Sevy starters healthy for the first time in a month. It bodes well for the Bombers to have that handful on turn, but how long can they keep it up? J.A. Happ has struggled with the long ball and Domingo German will eventually run into an innings limit.
James Paxton and CC Sabathia very well may need another IL stint each for their respective knees. Severino, slated for a return after the All-Star break, is coming off a shoulder injury, which is unpredictable in terms of its impact on his performance.You wouldn’t guess it a few years ago, but Masahiro Tanaka is their most reliable asset in the rotation.
Therefore, while the team can ride its current position players, upgrading starting pitching is a must, even if they add more of 4th/5th starter instead of a potential frontline pitcher. Dallas Keuchel can be had for just money while Madison Bumgarner, Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and others could be options on the trade market.
Beyond the rotation, the only spots of clear spots of weakness on the roster would be the 24th and 25th men, the backup catcher and long reliever. Still, finding an upgrade over Austin Romine or Luis Cessa shouldn’t be necessary as the team looks for a division push and long postseason run. Adding a starting pitcher could lead to German taking over as a super-charged long-man towards the end of the season.
The front office has an imperative to shore up the rotation and can hold off on further upgrades for the moment. More injuries may pop up, or a standout player may falter, creating room for upgrade. However, for the moment, it’s up to the talent on the field to come together, assuming the rotation is properly addressed.