Yankee fans everywhere have been expecting for years that the 2018-19 offseason would be one filled with big signings and insane contracts. Yankees ownership never explicitly said that they would be going nuts with money this year, but the media and rival execs all painted a picture of the Yankees shelling out upwards of 600 million dollars and rolling out a lineup with Harper and Machado in 2019. Yankee fans were more excited for this offseason than any offseason in recent memory.
Going into February 15th, those days never came. Machado is still a free agent, as is Harper, and the baseball world is at a standstill waiting for these two superstars to sign.
I will never believe the Yankees are out on a top free agent until that player puts his signature on a contract for another team, as the Yankees are known to strike for top talents out of seemingly nowhere, and extremely quickly (see: Mark Teixeira, Giancarlo Stanton). With that being said, just looking at the current Yankees roster construction, it’s pretty hard to see a situation where the Yankees go after one of the two marquee players.
Below is one version (how I would set it up) of the Yankees potential lineup in 2019, with steamer projections (steamer tends to be incredibly conservative with their projections, so don’t be too mad about the numbers you see below):
Aaron Hicks, CF: 135 G’s, .254/.356/.457, 22 HR’s 113 wRC+, 3.3 fWAR
Aaron Judge, RF: 146 G’s .251/.368/.502, 36 HR’s, 135 wRC+, 4.6 fWAR
Luke Voit, 1B: 112 G’s, .263/.336/.458, 19 HR’s, 115 wRC+, 1.7 fWAR
Giancarlo Stanton, DH: 140 G’s, .267/.354/.570, 45 HR’s 145 wRC+, 4.4 fWAR
Gary Sanchez, C: 120 G’s .245/.322/.483, 28 HR’s 116 wRC+, 3.3 fWAR
Gleyber Torres, 2B: 140 G’s, .257/.329/.439, 22 HR’s, 107 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR
Miguel Andujar, 3B: 138 G’s, .279/.321/.481, 24 HR’s, 115 wRC+, 2.0 fWAR
Troy Tulowitzki, SS: 59 G’s, .252/.311/.422, 9 HR’s, 98 wRC+, 0.9 fWAR
Clint Frazier, LF: 25 G’s, .244/.316/.430, 4 HR’s, 101 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR
Now, this is just based off the Yankees saying they’re going into the season with Tulo as their everyday shortstop until Didi returns. It wouldn’t surprise me if Tulo doesn’t even make the opening day roster for the Yankees, which in that situation, I would just slide Gleyber to short and DJ LeMahieu to second, and bat DJ LeMahieu 9th and Frazier 8th.
Looking at those projections, you could be saying “well 8 and 9 could be black holes at positions Machado or Harper could be playing”, which is true. Theoretically, the Yankees could sign one of them to replace Tulo or Clint in the Lineup and make the lineup that much deeper. However, Didi will be back in early August, so that will remove the shortstop hole, and it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to sign a 300 million dollar player to fill a hole for 4 months. As for the OF, Stanton is too young and too athletic to be stuck at the DH position, and he’s actually a pretty good fielder. So signing another 300 million dollar player to play in a position that should really be occupied by a 300 million dollar already on the payroll doesn’t make much sense. Plus, it would be nice to finally give Clint Frazier a shot at left field, but we shouldn’t let that be the reason you don’t sign a superstar.
Lastly, for those who say, “well what about signing Harper and playing him at 1st?” Do you really want a 300 million dollar hitter playing a position that he’s way too athletic to be playing? Putting Harper at first base is a waste of half of his game, and almost instantly sinks his contract.
Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA ratings are borderline predicting the Yankees to win the World series as the team currently stands. PECOTA puts the Yankees at 813 runs scored (most in the majors and only team above 800), a 112 DRC+ (BP’s version of wRC+, also calculated differently because DRC+ is calculates what the player deserved, whereas wRC+ is what actually happened), and also has them in first in the league in almost every offensive category in the sport.
The biggest category that PECOTA doesn’t have the Yankees in first is team record (Yankees currently at 96 wins), and that’s just because the Astros (98) and Indians (97) play in terrible divisions, so they both should be winning that many games.
The Yankees used their money in a different way than just putting it all in making what is already the best offense in the league even better. The Yankees used their money to improve the rotation and push their bullpen over the edge as potentially one of the best bullpens ever assembled. The notion that the Yankees are “cheap” is as asinine as it is just plain wrong, as the Yankees committed another (roughly) 71.82 million a year in payroll for the next few years after all the moves they have made this offseason. Frankly, it’s just smarter business to spread the money around and address ALL areas of a team instead of just spending the money to add to an already top-tier offense.
The Yankees are going to be absolutely fine and will be a legitimate World Series contender in 2019 barring some earth-shattering catastrophe. Yankees fans need to relax and realize not signing the most expensive free agent doesn’t mean the Yankees don’t care about rebuilding.