On Tuesday, Yankees senior vice president and general manager Brian Cashman spoke for over an hour following the announcement that manager Aaron Boone was being brought back on a three-year contract.
After his comments about Boone, Cashman dove into a number of holes the Yankees currently have on their roster. And there are quite a few.
"There are some areas of weakness that have popped up in a lot of categories that hadn't existed prior to this year,” Cashman told reporters.
"I'm in charge of personnel. I'm in charge of bringing in the best talent I possibly can,” said Cashman. “This was a tough team to figure out. This year might have been my toughest year. ... It was somewhat of a Jekyll-Hyde."
Cashman went onto describe the Yankees’ streakiness last season as teetering between “unstoppable and unwatchable” at times.
Although the Yankees won 92 games and clinched a Wild Card berth, it wasn’t the same dominant season we have become accustomed to watching. As a result, they got bounced from the one-game playoff by their hated AL East rivals in the Boston Red Sox, who are now two wins away from their second World Series appearance since 2018.
So, without any further interruptions, let’s dive into the deficiencies that Cashman and the Yankees must address in the offseason to help the team get back to being a force in the American League.
The first one is obvious, and it is a simple fix. The Yankees must go out and find a shortstop after the Gleyber Torres experiment failed miserably last season.
Luckily, there are a slew of star shortstops available on the free agent market this winter, including Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Javier Báez and Trevor Story. And based off Cashman’s comments Tuesday morning, it appears as though he already has this strategy in mind.
"Bottom line, shortstop is an area of need,” Cashman said. “We have to address it."
Although these previously mentioned names won’t come cheap, it would fill a gaping hole for the Yankees, after Torres struggled in this spot for the past two seasons.
According to Cashman, the Yankees tried to acquire a shortstop at the trade deadline after playing Torres there “didn’t play out” the way they hoped.
"Gleyber is best served at second base and we'll see where that takes us,” said Cashman.
For now, it sounds like Torres will be the Yankees’ second baseman next year, as Cashman monitors the rich shortstop market in free agency. It’s time for the Yankees to start spending the way they have in the past.
Playing Out Of Position
This leads us into the Yankees’ next weakness, which is playing guys out of position. Torres is exhibit A of New York’s attempt to fit square pegs into round holes.
Once they finally came to their senses and moved Torres back to second, he finally started to hit. This change shifted Gio Urshela to short and DJ LeMahieu to third.
But the Yankees cannot go with this formula again. If they let Anthony Rizzo walk in free agency, and sign a shortstop, Urshela can go back to third and LeMahieu can play first base.
They could also add a shortstop and re-sign Rizzo, which would put LeMahieu at the hot corner, thus making Urshela a trade chip. And Urshela, despite enduring a down campaign filled with injuries, could still possibly draw a solid return given he is under cheap control for two more years before hitting free agency.
The Yankees are in need of a shakeup and they must start playing guys in their best positions to stabilize their defense and maximize their offense.
Speaking of playing guys out of position, the Yankees also lacked a true center fielder after Aaron Hicks suffered a season-ending injury.
And due to Hicks’ injury woes over the past few seasons, It’s time for an upgrade in center field as well. If the Yankees want to properly allocate their resources, they will shift their focus to signing a shortstop and acquiring a center fielder in free agency or on the trade market.
There aren’t too many center fielders available in free agency besides Starling Marte whose defense isn’t too strong out there. This could pave the way for Cashman and co. to make some calls around the league to see if they can find a trade partner.
Regardless of how they do it, center field is an area of weakness for the Yankees and they can’t go through another full season with Hicks and Brett Gardner in this spot.
Lack of Balance in Lineup
Another aspect that hurt the Yankees for much of the 2021 regular season was the lack of balance in their lineup.
For the majority of the year, the Yankees deployed a predominantly right-handed heavy lineup. That is, until Cashman went out and acquired left-handed bats at the deadline in Rizzo and Joey Gallo.
But Rizzo could be departing in free agency, and Gallo struggled immensely in pinstripes, so the Yankees must do what they can to bring in more productive left-handed hitters. Re-signing Rizzo is a start, and maybe landing shortstop Corey Seager could give them the balance they need.
However, Seager comes with a risk, as he has been historically injury prone in his career. The Yankees cannot afford to take a chance on Seager given his price tag. So, maybe they re-sign Rizzo, bring in a right-handed star shortstop and trade for a left-handed hitting center fielder.
Arizona Diamondbacks’ Ketel Marte is one name who comes to mind that could be available. Although his switch-hitting ability is valuable, he posted an abysmal -15 defensive runs saved in center last season.
Balancing out the lineup is easier said than done and Cashman will certainly have his work cut out for him in this area. But it also is an aspect that must be a key focus for the Yankees’ offseason blueprint if they hope to avoid running into similar issues in 2022.
Gary Sánchez's Defense
It is no secret that Gary Sánchez is a defensive liability behind the plate. But due to his dangerous bat, the Yankees have put up with his woes on defense for a number of years.
In fact, Cashman actually told reporters Tuesday that Sánchez’s defense has improved. But this is far from the truth, as Sánchez posted -10 defensive runs saved as the Yankees’ starting catcher in 2021.
So, maybe they keep him around for his offense next season, but the Yankees should strongly consider moving Sánchez to a full-time designated hitter role. Especially since Giancarlo Stanton stayed healthy in 2021 and began to play more and more in the outfield as the season progressed.
But this would evidently mean either Gallo or Aaron Judge would have to play center field for a full season if Stanton becomes an everyday corner outfielder. This would nix the Yankees’ motives to acquire a true center fielder. It also means Kyle Higashioka would be thrust into the starting lineup as the catcher.
In reality, there aren’t too many capable offensive catchers around the league, which is why the Yankees have held onto Sánchez for so long. Chances are, they won’t be able to replace his bat at the position if they move him to DH or trade him.
Despite Cashman’s positive comments about Sánchez’s defense, he has to be thinking about making a change behind the plate this winter. Not to mention, Yankees ace Gerrit Cole isn’t comfortable throwing to Sánchez given his defensive struggles.
But whatever happens, the Yankees’ decision to keep, move him from catcher or trade Sánchez won’t be an easy call.
Last but not least, the Yankees have often ignored their starting rotation due to a powerful offense and lockdown bullpen.
When in reality, you need strong starting pitching to go deep into the postseason as serious World Series contenders.
The Yankees already have $324 million ace Gerrit Cole, and Jordan Montgomery and Nestor Cortes were solid starters behind him as well. But they lack a true No. 2 in their rotation.
Former ace Luis Severino made it back down the stretch to serve in a long relief role. But he hasn’t pitched across a full season since 2018 and is coming off 2020 Tommy John surgery.
If Severino can revert back to his status as a top of the rotation starting pitcher, it will be an added bonus for the Yankees next season. However, they cannot rely on this becoming a reality.
That is why they must bring in a legitimate No. 2 starter behind Cole instead of relying on injury prone hurlers such as Severino, Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon.
Cashman will have the opportunity to go this route. Marcus Stroman, Carlos Rodón, Eduardo Rodriguez, Kevin Gausman and Robbie Ray all set to become free agents. But Rodón also falls into the injury prone category as well, despite being an All-Star.
Again, It’s not going to be easy to bring in a top starter, but it is an area Cashman must be more aggressive in pursuing prior to spring training.