Yankees Offseason To-Do List
As gray slush covers New York City, the New York Yankees’ front office staff are trading their parkas for shorts at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego. The Winter Meetings is an annual conference where MLB franchises, players and agents — as well as baseball job seekers and media members — flock to a hotel in a “warm weather state” to discuss various baseball-related topics.
Though job fairs and writers’ meetings are interesting, for most fans the main event of the Meetings are the swirling rumors: “This team is trading their best player!” “That free agent is about to be signed!”
For teams, however, the Meetings are important because of the trades and transactions that are actually completed. As I am not yet a member of the Yankees front office and am just a fan stuck in slushy NYC, I want to start my own rumors and propose my own transactions. The following is what Chana Weinberg would do if she was the general manager of the Yankees. These are not predictions. Rather, this is what should be done, what needs to be done, for the Yankees to finally get past the AL Championship Series and win the World Series.
The Yankees’ top priorities this winter are to acquire a backup catcher, one or two left-handed bats with power, a front-end starting pitcher, a back-end starting pitcher and a backup infielder. This must all be done without reaching too far into their deep cache of quality minor league pitchers and while maintaining the flexibility to have a World Series-quality team for years to come.
Backup Catcher: Re-sign Austin Romine
With the departure of Austin Romine to free agency, the Yankees have depleted most of their organizational catching depth. Therefore, I propose they either re-sign Romine or trade for a good defensive catcher with a quality bat. Kyle Hisashioka is already in the organization but gives minimal offensive contribution, so Romine, who showed his ability to hit last season, is a good option to come back and contribute.
What complicates this is that Romine is rumored to be looking for a starting catcher job, not a backup position. If this is indeed the case, the Yankees should sign Tyler Flowers, a comparable free agent. Or they can trade for Phillies’ backup Andrew Knapp by sending them cash considerations and a minor league arm not in their top ten prospect list. With all that said, the simplest solution would be to just re-sign Romine, who is already familiar with the Yankees pitching staff, to a two-year $4.5 million deal.
Left-Handed Power Bat: Trade for Josh Bell
In a recent article for The Athletic, former general manager Jim Bowden proposed that the Yankees trade for Josh Bell, the all-star first baseman of the rebuilding Pittsburgh Pirates. In this trade, Bowden has the Yankees give up Miguel Andujar (the 2018 Rookie of the Year runner-up), Luke Voit and a minor league pitcher. I am not in the business of predicting if these deals will happen, but I do think it would be a worthwhile trade — consider the Yankee lineup with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Josh Bell and Giancarlo Stanton: that’s a lot of home runs. Trading both Voit and Andujar somewhat depletes the Yankees’ infield depth, but with the versatile DJ LeMahieu and the Tyler Wade-Thairo Estrada combination, they should be good to go. The Yankees should also re-sign Brett Gardner to have another strong lefty option in their lineup. Gardner has the right kind of power for Yankee Stadium, with its “short porch” in right field, and that would be helpful.
Front Line Starting Pitcher: Sign Stephen Gerrit Cole
When Gerrit Cole put on his Boras Corp. hat at the conclusion of the World Series, it was clear that a bidding war for his superb pitching would shortly commence. The Yankees seem to be involved in this bidding war, but again, I am not in the school of predicting what the Yankees will do. They have also reportedly met with 2019 World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, the second best starter on the open market. The Yankees need to sign one of these pitchers. After losing to the Astros again this year, the Yankees need to stockpile power pitching at the top of their rotation — in addition to having a strong bullpen — to have a better chance of advancing in the postseason. But who to pay? And how much?
As GM of the Yankees, I am ready to spend big. But for which pitcher? Strasburg allowed more runs than Cole, who topped the league in run prevention. Another factor to consider is how the pitcher will play in Yankee Stadium and in the small AL East division ballparks. The rate at which Strasburg gets ground balls is higher than Cole’s rate, which is important in the home run friendly parks. That being said, Cole strikes out more batters per nine innings. You also have to consider who will be better on the back end of the deal, when you will inevitably be overspending on the pitcher who is not as good as he was when he signed the contract. Considering the number of teams willing to spend, ultimately it will all come down to where the pitcher wants to go — the two California natives will need to be convinced to switch coasts. I will offer Cole a seven-year $252 million contract to play for the Yankees. Imagine a Yankees rotation with Cole, Severino and Paxton as the top three.
The Yankees current roster is very talented. The mere possibility that they will get a full season’s worth of play from Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Luis Severino is enough to give confidence that they will be able to win another 100 games in 2020. But nothing is guaranteed, and that is why in past years the Yankees have become experts at adding value at the margins. The transaction proposals here are only the big splashes; as GM, I would recommend strengthening a middle-infield utility bat and adding options at the back of their rotation to help the team get through the long, six month season. Another aspect to consider is payroll, how much a player should be paid and the continual change in the ways teams value different types of players, but that is a matter for another article.
Eventually, the Winter Meetings will end and most of the rumored transactions will not occur. There will still be time to improve rosters before the season begins, but the Yankees will have to re-acquire their parkas and transact from a distance. If, by the end of the offseason, they will have followed some of my advice, the 2020 season will be thrilling. Then again, I’m just a fan in slushy NYC.
Photo Caption: Yankee Stadium
Photo Credit: Wikipedia