The Yankees have reached the quarter pole of the 2023 season. See what you think about these observations of the team so far.
Typically, the Yankees are judged by nearly everyone on a higher plane than most teams. Whether valid or not, any season that does not end with a parade down the Canyon of Heroes has failed. For the most part, the team self-imposes this standard, and the 2023 season is no different.
By now, the Yankees’ place in the American League East standings is familiar to everyone. The Yankees have had more than their share of injuries to key players, and a fair, though incomplete, summary of their season to date can be assessed solely around that.
But the best of the best play through injuries as a team, and the depth of an organization is necessary to replace injured players temporarily. The bottom of the Yankees’ batting order sheds enough light to suggest the team has had few answers in filling these spots.
But let’s go beyond the injuries to assess the team in other ways…because sooner or later, players like Giancarlo Stanton, Luis Severino, and Carlos Rodon will return to a clubhouse filled with the same players that take the field tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays.
**** The Yankees do not have a genuine leadoff hitter.
Until the series with Tampa Bay, Aaron Boone has used Anthony Volpe in this spot, but for all the things that Volpe does well, it’s apparent he needs more seasoning regarding pitch selection. Forty-eight strikeouts versus eighteen base-on-balls (.303 OBA) is not cutting it.
The problem was accented by Boone’s use of Gleyber Torres in the leadoff position yesterday. Torres’s 22 walks (.345 OBA) versus 21 strikeouts is an improvement, but it’s a stretch to view him as a major league leadoff hitter, especially for someone in his sixth season with the Yankees.
**** Do or die, Giancarlo Stanton must assume a regular role in left field.
DJ LeMahieu is 34, Anthony Rizzo is 33, and both need occasional partial rest as the Yankees’ DH. Aaron Judge also requires a day, and Harrison Bader, an accident waiting to happen for how he plays, needs consideration by Boone.
Sooner or later, Brian Cashman will plead the fifth, acknowledging that he overrated Aaron Hicks from the get-go when he made the trade with the Twins, only to double down on his mistake by handing Hicks $70 million based solely on his player’s potential.
Cashman will find a team willing to eat a portion of Hick’s $15 salary for 2023, which will (finally) be that. In the interim, Jake Bauers looks like a good fit as a fourth outfielder, and the Yankees can also give Estevan Florial (.290 BA, .422 OBA, .980 OPS) another chance and an honest look as a fourth outfielder.
**** The Yankees must give Luis Severino an extended no-holds-barred look.
Severino becomes a free agent at the end of the 2023 season, and with only 120 innings pitched in the last four years, the Yankees need something substantial to measure him with.
Severino will likely cause a stir this winter as teams line up, hoping to catch lightning in a bottle based on Severino’s competitive Cy Young 2017-2018 seasons.
But the Yankees need to know what Severino (29) has in the tank at this point of his career.
**** The Yankees bullpen needs to be restocked.
Michael King and Wandy Peralta cannot pitch every day. Clay Holmes needs a reset, and a good portion of the remaining corps (Jonathan Loaisiga, Scott Effross, and Lou Trivino) are down for the count with injuries.
Albert Abreu is unreliable, while Ron Marinaccio and Jimmy Cordero are serviceable at best. Cashman can check the MLB Transactions list daily, as relievers are incredibly guilty of quick turnovers by teams.
**** The Yankees must deter the return of Josh Donaldson.
Donaldson is a volatile player. He has been rightly tagged as “The Angriest Player In Baseball.” He is not a good fit in the Yankees’ clubhouse, and his batting skills have evaporated since he arrived here.
$21 million (Donaldson’s salary) is on the line in 2023, and the Yankees should be watched closely to see if the organization dares to do the right thing with Donaldson.
**** Aaron Boone needs to step it up
Boone needs to make his presence known in the Yankees’ clubhouse. The criticism of Boone as Cashman’s lackey has some integrity, but there are ways that Boone can quietly circumvent Cashman as the person who is in daily contact with the Yankees’ players.
Boone, like most managers, has his favorites, which is best seen by his faith in Loasiga and Clay Holmes. With both players currently on the IL, Boone appears lost in finding a comfort zone with the rest of his bullpen, save perhaps for Wandy Peralta.
This has led to justified criticism and calls for his head by fans and the media. His reputation as a patsy hasn’t helped, either.
But at some point, Boone must realize he has power too. Boone has not burned any bridges in the dugout or clubhouse, and he will likely garner the support of crucial Yankees if and when he decides not to play both sides of the fence at the behest of Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner.
If it becomes personal, as with the Hicks and Donaldson refusal to write their name(s) in the lineup, then so be it…
**** The Yankees Starting Staff Needs Constant Monitoring.
Gerrit Cole is a horse, but he is not inhuman. Better now than later, the Yankees must consider giving him an extra day or even a skip in the rotation to preserve his health when the Yankees need him most in October.
The 31-pitch effort in the first inning of his last start was scary, and the pitch clock makes it worse, causing additional stress and the chance of injury.
Similarly, Nestor Cortes is already showing signs of laboring and stress due to a career-high 158 innings pitched last year.
It behooves me (and perhaps you, too) why there is a need to baby these pitchers when you consider Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, or Jim Palmer would top 20 complete games in a year. In the ’90s, Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux, and Randy Johnson would get to 10 or 12. Or that Carlton would complete 306 innings in one season.
But that is the way of baseball now, and if nothing else, the Yankees need to protect the monetary investment (nine years, $324 million through 2028) they have in Cole.