When the Yankees sign Aaron Judge, the work to overhaul the team will still lie ahead. Here’s a rundown of critical issues needing action.
The Yankees have correctly arranged their priorities for the 2023 season by making AL MVP Aaron Judge their “no excuses” free agent signee.
But beyond Judge is a host of critical weaknesses that need to be addressed before the Yankees can meet the challenge of an ultra-competitive division and the eventual collision with the Houston Astros in the playoffs.
The signing of Anthony Rizzo fell nicely into place amid numerous reports the Astros were hot on Rizzo’s tail, and make no mistake, second to Judge – Rizzo is the next most important offense and defense piece on the team.
Beyond Rizzo at first base, the rest of the Yankees’ infield is subpar and in need of addition by subtraction.
Yankees Priority One: Shortstop
Isiah Kiner-Falefa began the 2022 season with a whisper of hope. But as the season waned into crunch time and eventually the playoffs, his spark had wavered, and his self-confidence was extinguished.
Once again, the crop of free-agent shortstops dominates the free-agent market for the 2023 season. Spotrac lists these players. all of who are in their prime as the top four.
While the Yankees spin their wheels patiently waiting for Anthony Volpe and/or Oswald Peraza to complete their “finishing” in the minors, the haunting reality is that prospects are just that – prospects – until they are not.
Yankees Priority Two – Catching
Arriving from the Texas Rangers in an April trade, Trevino looked like the real thing, even earning a spot on the AL All-Star team. But by October, all he could manage was a dismal one for twenty-two in the playoffs.
While no one questions either player’s defense skills, together with Higashioka’s inconsistency at the plate, Aaron Boone cannot afford to make the same mistake again this year, believing that either player will magically transform themselves into something they are not.
Regrettably, this year’s crop of free-agent catchers, with one exception, is remarkably thin.
Willson Contreras (3.9 WAR and 128 OPS+) is the most desired player in the group, and that is reflected by the aggressive play of the Cardinals and Orioles as they seek to take Contreras off the board.
According to Spotrac, Contreras has a current market value of $16 million annually. Considering the combined $60 million for the cost of Judge and Bogaerts, the decision ultimately rests with Hal Steinbrenner as to how far he wants to extend the Yankees payroll.
Yankees: Addition By Subtraction
Despite what appeared to be a cohesive unit in the clubhouse, the Yankees fell far short of achieving the heights of the Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland Guardians, both of whom overachieved as a team with wildly spirited play when it counted most.
Therefore, change for the sake of change is needed within the Yankees team, if only to shake things up – while simultaneously issuing a warning to everyone – play up to your capability – or else!
Torres still has trade value, but with each year that value is subsiding. Make the move – he is not all he’s hyped up to be.
What to do with Aaron Hicks and the outrageous remainder of his contract? Eat it and let bygones and hopeless hope incinerate themselves.
Harrison Bader is the real deal and his explosive display of power and defensive wizardry during the playoffs proves it.
His presence all but eliminates the need for Hicks, and all that remains is for the Yankees to release their love affair with Hicks in much the same way they eventually did with Gary Sanchez.
Josh Donaldson is another matter, but the downward trend of his offensive skills is alarming and the Yankees should (at least) be exploring the possibility of moving him – perhaps in a multi-player deal in which the Yankees absorb a portion of Donaldson’s salary.
Accordingly, the Yankees and their fans can only rue the day they let Gio Urshela (.285, 13 HR, 64RBI, 3.1 WAR, and 121 OPS+) escape to the Twins.
While Donaldson is a defense wizard, his overall contribution to the team demands he be held accountable – something the Yankees and in particular Aaron Boone seem bent on, giving him a pass.
Are The Yankees Insane?
Albert Einstein, when asked to describe insanity, said it boiled down to doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.
Unless some or all the changes mentioned herein are accomplished, the Yankees will fall prey to Einstein’s definition of insanity, and the result will be yet another season of falling short in the playoffs.
Unless that is, Steinbrenner and his Yankees are content with rewarding their stockholders with another “winning” season that pads the ever-increasing vault of wealth that is (and will always be) the New York Yankees.