As I sit down to write this, the loss to Astros still sits fresh in the minds of Yankee fans everywhere. No one thought the Yankees would get to where they finished, including Yankee fans. Bleacher Report projected the team to finish 81-81. Judge was projected by fangraphs to hit .248/.324/.446/.770 with 17 homers and 52 RBIs. Severino was projected to have a 4.09 ERA in 106 innings. In fact, Gary Sanchez was the only hitter on the team projected to have a better than 3 WAR season.
It was supposed to be a “rebuilding year”. No one thought the Yankees would be in baseball’s Final Four, but they made it. In fact, there were a couple times they were a big hit or a defensive play away from winning the series. The loss surely stings, but at the end of the day, it’s okay.
Judge ended up breaking Mark McGwire’s rookie home run record and put himself in the MVP conversation. While it could’ve been so easy to leave Severino in the bullpen, the Yankees took a chance putting him in the rotation and they were rewarded with the 3rd best starter in the AL behind Kluber and Sale. Didi and Sanchez both missed a month, but that didn’t slow them down, as Didi had career highs in every major offensive category and Sanchez cemented himself as baseball’s best hitting catcher. Hicks was figured to be the 4th outfielder, but quickly took the position from Ellsbury until injury hit Hicks mid-season and slowed him down a lot and he looks to be the CF looking forward after posting 12 DRS in almost 700 less innings than the leader (Buxton with 24).
The trade deadline was probably the most exciting part of the year, as trading for Sonny Gray, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle sets the team up with stud pitchers for the next few seasons. Todd Frazier never really hit after coming to the Yankees, but turned out to be a huge addition just for his clubhouse presence alone. Sonny is still only 2 seasons removed from a Cy Young caliber season, and the further he gets from his injuries the more he looks like his 2015 self.
The Yankees had a remarkable season, and the best part? This is probably the least talented team the Yankees will field for seasons to come.
This year cemented the Yankees young core of Judge, Sanchez, Severino, Hicks, Didi, Bird and Castro for years to come. The earliest out of this group to hit free agency are Didi, Castro and Hicks, and all three of them are still under contract through 2020. The Yankees have their core for the future, and still have more talent to come.
2017 saw Judge, Sanchez, Didi, and Sev climb towards the top of their respective positions, and 2018 will only add talent to that group. There were a ton of players who made their debuts this year, but never settled into the team, including Clint Frazier, Miguel Andujar, Garrett Cooper, and Tyler Wade. All 4 had big moments for the team this year, and all will definitely get chances again with the club in 2018.
2018 should also see the coming of Gleyber Torres, Chance Adams, Billy McKinney, Jake Cave and potentially Justus Sheffield as a September call up. Adams and Torres will be given a chance to earn a spot with the club in Spring Training, and the others should be called up periodically throughout 2018.
This offseason should be relatively quiet, and for good reason. Cashman said the Yankees will do everything it takes to cut payroll and get below the 189 million dollar threshold, which means big signings aren’t happening. With every position filled except 3rd base and DH, the Yankees have some internal options to fill those gaps, including Andujar, Headley and Torres. Torres seems like the most likely option, but coming off his injury he might need some time in the minors to get back into a rhythm. The Yankees could also resign Todd Frazier who played 3rd with a great glove and a bat with some pop. Frazier said he loves playing with this group, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Yankees sign him to a 1 year “prove yourself” kind of deal.
The biggest questions facing the Yankees this offseason are simple: Will Girardi be back and will the Yankees bring back CC? Hopefully the Yankees bring both back.
Yes, Girardi has made mistakes, but he’s human. He’s been the Yankees manager for the last 10 seasons, and in that time he’s never seen a team finish below .500 despite some terrible rosters (I’m looking at you, 2013). Girardi has been said to want to come back, and will sit down to talk to his family before deciding officially. If the Yankees are smart, they’ll bring back the manager that lead a team projected to finish 81-81 to 1 win away from the World Series.
CC was a revelation in the playoffs. In 4 starts this playoffs, he pitched to a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings. Girardi said he wanted the ball in the hands of an experienced veteran in the big games during the playoffs, and it was definitely the right call. CC was a clubhouse leader and enjoyed a nice rebound year, and should be sought after by many teams. CC said he wants to return the Yankees, calling it his home and saying he wants to see this thing through to the very end.
On top of bringing back CC and Girardi, and possibly bringing back Todd Frazier, the only big moves the Yankees will probably make is trying to trade away salary. While no one will take on the entirety of Ellsbury’s contract, a team could be willing to take on a decent amount if they’re in need of a veteran OF. Headley is another contract the Yankees could be looking to move as the 13 million dollars they owe him would be something they’d love to get off the books.
The biggest addition the Yankees are looking at making is Shohei Ohtani, as he will most likely be posted this offseason. Ohtani is cheap, as his bonus can’t exceed the amount a team has in their international bonus pool money, which the Yankees have a lot to offer (the Yankees were allotted 4.75 million, plus the amount they collected during the trade deadline). If the Yankees convince Ohtani to sign with them, that will be the biggest move for the Yankees in the upcoming offseason. As per the posting system, teams that want to speak to Ohtani have to offer 20 million just to be able to negotiate with Ohtani. This money then goes to Ohtani’s Japanese club, but luckily it does not count towards a teams payroll and does not factor into the luxury tax. If it did, the Yankees would not be going after Ohtani this offseason.
2017 was a year to remember. Despite the upsetting loss, the team has so many positives to look forward too. As a Yankee fan, I’ve never been more excited about the future of this team than I am right now.