What a year it’s been for the New York Yankees. Going into play on September 14th, the Yankees are 79-66 and only 3 games behind the Red Sox for the division lead. While a Wild Card appearance looks more probable than a division crown, the fact the Yankees are even a playoff team is amazing. On February 6th, Bleacher Report predicted the team to have an 81-81 record, good for 4th in the AL East behind Boston, Baltimore and Toronto in that order. This was a fair prediction, considering no one knew what to expect of Judge, Sanchez, Severino, Sabathia, and Greg Bird. Severino, Judge and Sanchez came out of the gate on fire, with Judge cementing himself as the Rookie of the Year by the start of June after a historic first half, and Severino has put together a remarkable bounceback season, giving himself a potential Cy Young case. While Sanchez had missed the first month and half with an injury, it didn’t slow him down at all. Coming off his historic first taste of the bigs, Sanchez quickly showed he was here to stay, as he is currently hitting .279 with 30 home runs and 83 RBIs this season (as of 9/14). Sabathia has been great this season to the point where he could potentially be resigned by the team. Bird has had a lost season, dealing with injury after injury, but when he was healthy, he was showing signs of what he can do.
The Yankees almost certainly won’t win the world series in 2017 (remember it’s baseball, so never say never), but with the team’s rebuild happening at a much faster rate than expected, the future looks brighter and better than ever. There is one question that remains though, and that is: what should the Yankees do this offseason?
The answer is simple: basically, they should do as little as possible.
Before we dig deeper, here is what I project (and hope) the Yankees to look like in 2018:
- Rotation: Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, Masahiro Tanaka, Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams
- Bullpen: Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson, Adam Warren, Chasen Shreve
- Lineup: C Gary Sanchez, 1B Greg Bird, 2B Starlin Castro, 3B Gleyber Torres, SS Didi Gregorius, LF Brett Gardner, CF Jacoby Ellsbury, RF Aaron Judge, DH Chase Headley
- Bench: UTIL Ronald Torreyes, OF Aaron Hicks, 1B Tyler Austin, C Austin Romine
- Potential Mid-Season Callups: OF Clint Frazier, OF Estevan Florial, SP Justus Sheffield, 3B Miguel Andujar, OF Billy McKinney, OF Jake Cave
There’s a lot about this that could change. While it probably won’t happen, Tanaka could decide to opt-out of his contract leaving another spot open for the rotation. The Yankees could also decide to go full blown youth movement, decide to put Ellsbury and Gardner on the bench or trade them and start Frazier and Hicks. They could decide Chance isn’t ready, decide to keep him in the minors and resign Sabathia. However, based on how the Yankees have been in recent years, I expect this to be the roster going into Opening Day 2018.
The best part about this potential team? The payroll. After 2017, the team will be losing the contracts of Sabathia, A-Rod, Matt Holliday, and potentially Tanaka. Also, only seven players (seven if Tanaka opts-out) will be making over 10 million in salary, with the rest of the players under team control. With this, the Yankees will finally be under the luxury tax threshold, allowing all their penalties to reset and let them go crazy in the potentially legendary 2018-19 FA class.
Now that you’ve seen the potential team, it’s time to talk about what the team should do to get better. That answer is very very simple: almost nothing.
The best player that will be available this offseason is Yu Darvish for pitching, and JD Martinez for hitting. Neither player truly fits into the Yankees new team model, and therefore the Yankees shouldn’t sign either player. There is only one move the Yankees should make this offseason:
- Land Shohei Otani. Otani is a 23 year-old two way superstar in Japan. In his career, Otani is slashing .286/.359/.505/.863 with 47 homers and 163 RBIs at the plate, and has pitched to a 2.57 ERA with 605 Ks in 528 IPs. In 2016, Otani set the Japanese record for fastest pitch, clocked at almost 102 MPH. Otani announced he’d be coming to MLB recently, leaving some people surprised. Because of his age, Otani is considered an ametuer free agent, meaning he’ll still be under the age-restrictions of teams only able to sign him for the amount they have in their international bonus-pool money. The Yankees have traded for the max amount of bonus pool money they can have, leading many to believe they’re going to try and land Otani.
Outside of Otani, the Yankees shouldn’t do anything unless unexpected something happens. Say Tanaka does opt-out, unless the team signs Otani to replace him, they could easily consider bringing Sabathia back on a one-year deal.
The only big move the Yankees should consider this offseason is trying to trade for Stanton. Stanton will almost certainly be traded this offseason as the new Marlins ownership said they want to cut payroll to save money. If the Red Sox traded for Stanton, they’d 100% be the division favorites going into 2018, and with the Yankees finally winning again, they can’t allow a trade like that to happen. This, along with signing Otani, should be the only moves the Yankees make this offseason.
The best way for the Baby Bombers to show they can win, is to let them play. Sure there will be growing pains, and the team might not be able to compete in 2018. However, if the team keeps signing older players, we'll never know what the rookies are able to do. If the Yankees make no moves this offseason, except for Otani and Stanton, they’ll be under the luxury tax threshold for the FA class after 2018. If Yankee fans can hold out one more year, 2019 could be an amazing year for the Bombers.