After a few days of mourning and reflection, some Yankees news. It’s best to categorize things since there is a lot of news (and opinion from me) .
Managers and coaches. All are expected to return. I do know some people a little peeved at Boone and/or Rothschild. But no changes are expected to be made, with all of the staff coming back. One suggestion I would have had: Bring back Tony Pena to work exclusively with Gary Sanchez. Sanchez clearly took a step backwards this year without former good defensive catchers ex-manager Joe Girardi and ex-coach Tony Pena there to guide him. I’d bring back Pena. But improving Sanchez—on both sides of the ball—-is a priority.
Speaking of defense, it’s not only Sanchez, but the infield corners need work. Voit did a great job, but defensively, he reminds me a bit of a second version of Jason Giambi. We know that Andujar is a work in progress. But what about SS now that Didi Gregorius is expected to miss at least half of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow? Who will replace Didi? Move Gleyber Torres over and re-sign Walker to play 2B? Keep Torres at 2B and re-sign Hechevarria for SS? Ronald Torreyes (who I don’t think of as an everyday player)? Or go full out for Manny Machado for SS until Didi is ready, then move Manny to 3B and figure out what to do with Andujar at that point (move to LF, move to 1B, trade for a need (pitching?) at the deadline)? The OF defense was fine, but LF is a “?” for next year and we’ll get to that.
Catching. See above with Sanchez. They need to improve on catching depth. Keeping Erik Kratz (38 but now in the NLCS with Milwaukee) could have helped. But Kyle Higashioka as #3 has not proven he can hit. There isn’t much below Higashioka, and the new recent kids that were drafted 1 and 2 in the draft are years away. A little more and better catching depth behind Romine and Higashioka would be welcome. Also, Sanchez has to be what he should be. 2018 was disastrous for him.
Infield. Improve the defense, as mentioned above. I’d keep Torres at 2B and not mess with him by moving him around. As for 1B, is Voit the real deal or a mirage? Boone states that Voit has a leg up, deservedly, on Bird for 1B for 2019. The Yanks would benefit more if Bird realized his potential since it would balance the lineup better. Losing Didi’s lefty bat would hurt, even if they do sign Machado. After all, Sanchez, Voit, Torres, Machado, Andujar, Judge, Stanton …. all righty bats. Hicks is a switch-hitter. Where is the lefty bats for Yankee Stadium? But performance matters, and Voit clearly outperformed Bird in 2019. But is he for real? If not, could Bird rebound or is he trade bait? Could Andujar handle 1B or LF if Didi returns (and Didi is a free agent after 2019) and Machado (if the Yanks sign him) moves to 3B from SS when Didi comes back? With Didi out, what the Yanks do here is a major question mark, at least until Machado is signed by someone. As for infield depth, it will be interesting to see if Hechevarria and/or Walker are re-signed. And you still have Torreyes. I am not sold on Tyler Wade because he hasn’t yet shown he can hit MLB pitching.
Outfield and DH. Set except at one position. Stanton, Judge and Hicks are set. The question mark is LF. It is very doubtful the Yanks would sign Bryce Harper, even if Harper would balance out the lineup better than Machado. Do the Yanks bring back Brett Gardner? They can exercise his $12.5MM option or buy him out at $2MM. Do they buy him out and re-sign him for less than $12.5MM? How is the health of Clint Frazier? Here is a position where it will be interesting to see what the Yanks do. They like McCutchen, but he is a free agent, and will he be affordable? If they bring McCutchen back, no need for Gardner. If not, does Gardner come back but platoon with Frazier? And the albatross, Jacoby Ellsbury, is still there. What to do with him? Frankly, and I hate to disappoint Yankees’ fans (for I like Gardner, too). I’d buy Gardner out and let him walk. He is 35 and coming off a .236 season. His OPS+ was just 86. If you do bring him back, it’s as a fourth OF. But you are stuck with Ellsbury unless the Yanks could dump his salary. I’d like to bring McCutchen back as the starting LF (lineup balance once again a problem, though), and have Ellsbury and Frazier in reserve. Frazier because of his youth (still only 24), Ellsbury for no other reason than you are probably stuck with him. To bring back and make room for Gardner, the Yanks must somehow dump Ellsbury.
Starting Pitching. You can’t have a postseason where your starters go five innings or less. You need a stud like a Sale, Verlander, Cole, etc., that will go at least six and hopefully seven innings. So far, Luis Severino has not stepped up in the postseason. J.A. Happ is a free agent and I would try to re-sign him, but at 36, to no more than a 2-year deal. The Yanks are also expected to get Patrick Corbin who is a free agent. Corbin, a lefty, was 11-7, 3.15, with 246 strikeouts for Arizona this year and is a 2x All-Star. He’s from NY state and he and his family grew up as Yankees’ fans. If you can get BOTH Happ and Corbin, then I let CC go. CC turns 39 next July, and really doesn’t give you length out of a starter anymore. You can’t have starters that just give you 4-5 innings, no matter how good your bullpen is. You need some length out of your starters. Besides, how much confidence do you have in CC’s health (his knee was just operated on again and cleaned out again)? You need to turn to youth and get younger and Gardner and CC are hitting the ages where performance is only going to decline and health becomes an issue. So if you have Severino-Tanaka-Happ-Corbin that is a solid four and you can open #5 up to who wins the job, Sheffield, Adams, Loaisiga, German, etc. Break in a youngster. I’m not sold on Cessa. And this Michael King may be a real dark horse. But breaking in one of those youngsters would be easier if both Happ AND Corbin are signed. (or sign Corbin, let Happ go and make a blockbuster trade for a stud pitcher? And no, even if Kershaw opts out, I don’t see the Yanks going after Kershaw. He is great, but his injury problems and postseason failures do concern me). I don’t expect Lynn back and recent reports are that the Yanks are going to work hard to move Sonny Gray. Jordan Montgomery could return late next season.
Bullpen. Pretty solid here, with Betances, Chapman, Green and Holder set. Robertson and Britton are free agents and the Yanks must bring back one (if not both) of them. Cole and Kahnle are probably expendable and it will be interesting to see what the Yanks do with Kahnle. Do they drop someone like a Cessa or German into middle relief? What about Montgomery when he comes back from TJ surgery? May want to bring him back slowly. Boone does have to learn to get guys up earlier though. One fault I saw with Boone this year was that you could see a pitcher in trouble, and you looked to the bullpen and no one was warming up. By the time someone was warm and in the game it was too late. You want depth out of your starters, but you can’t roll the dice and push them when they are clearly out of gas, either. Keep an eye out for Tarpley as a lefty out of the bullpen next year, especially if the Yanks do not retain Britton.
Anyway, you know moves are coming. Some will be HUGE and we’ll see what happens.
Ex-Yankee manager Joe Girardi has apparently talked to the Reds and Rangers about a managerial job with one of them. Ex-Yank Eric Chavez is a consideration for the Angels’ job and ex-Yankee Hensley Meulens (SF bench coach) for the Twins’ job. Ex-Yankee Coach Joe Espada may be getting a look, too. He’s currently bench coach for the Astros.