Yankees Thoughts: 2021 Roster Will Improve, Right?

The Yankees have yet to add to their roster with a month left in the offseason

I’m still waiting for the Yankees to do something. Anything. Well, not anything. They have already done that by trading for Greg Allen and signing Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Lyons and Socrates Brito. I want them to do something that will improve their actual roster, not their Triple-A roster. Spring training is in four weeks, and the Yankees don’t just have holes on their roster, they have glaring holes, big enough to build an underground parking garage.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. Tomorrow will be 14 weeks since the Yankees’ season ended in Game 5 of the ALDS. Since then, the Yankees have done nothing. Nothing. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. I know I keep writing that and talking about it on the podcast, but I feel like it needs to be reiterated as much and as often as possible because it’s embarrassing. I’m sure Yankees ownership isn’t embarrassed, but they should be. As a Yankees fan, I’m embarrassed. The Yankees’ championship window has closed more than expected over the last two years because of injuries and underachieving, and the team isn’t doing anything to avoid having it close even more in 2021.

2. The Yankees’ nickel-and-diming their own free agents has continued this winter their handling of DJ LeMahieu. It’s nothing new for the Yankees and how they have operated for most of the Brian Cashman era. Pay other team’s players, but not your own. It’s the same way of business that was used in signing names like A.J. Burnett (five years and $82.5 million), Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years and $153 million), Brian McCann (five years and $85 million) and Carlos Beltran (three years and $45 million). None of those four finished their contracts with the Yankees, and in terms of Burnett, Ellsbury and McCann, they paid them to play for other teams because of how badly they wanted to get rid of them. None of them were coming off the types of back-to-back seasons LeMahieu just provided atop the Yankees’ lineup, and none of them was as needed as LeMahieu is with this team.

3. Let’s say the Yankees don’t re-sign LeMahieu. If that happens, if not for needing to take care of a now-four-month-old, I would draw the curtains and stay in bed for the entirety of the baseball season. But let’s say it does happen. This would be the Yankees’ Opening Day lineup:

Aaron Hicks, CF
Aaron Judge, RF
Giancarlo Stanton, DH
Luke Voit, 1B
Gleyber Torres, SS/2B
Gary Sanchez, C
Clint Frazier, LF
Gio Urshela, 3B
Tyler Wade/Thairo Estrada, 2B/SS

This is dangerously close to happening.

4. The Yankees don’t just need to re-sign LeMahieu. They also need starting pitcher. And they don’t need starting pitching in terms of It would be nice to have another starter, they need starting pitching in terms of The Yankees might not be a playoff team without at least one more starter. This is the Yankees’ current “rotation”:

1. Gerrit Cole
2. Jordan Montgomery
3. Deivi Garcia
4. Clarke Schmidt

5. That’s not a rotation, it’s just the names of four starting pitchers. Three of which weren’t in the planned 2020 Opening Day rotation. Montgomery wasn’t trusted to start a postseason game until the Yankees were forced into starting him, Garcia wasn’t trusted to be given an actual start in a postseason game, and Schmidt, well, the Yankees thought they were better off letting Michael King and Jonathan Loaisiga open games in a 60-game season rather than let their top pitching prospect start and didn’t let him start a game until the final game of the 2020 regular season. As for the fifth starter, take your pick between a scumbag, King, Loaisiga, or some irresponsible combination of Jhoulys Chacin and Nestor Cortes.

6. The bullpen isn’t looking too great either. The Yankees finally decided Jonathan Holder had ruined enough games for them and let him go. Loaisiga keeps getting used in high-leverage spots when he can’t get out of them. Nick Nelson flopped in his first cup of coffee in the majors. Luis Cessa … well, he’s Luis Cessa. Tommy Kahnle is both injured and a Dodger. Adam Ottavino is an untrustworthy right-hander who the Yankees only allow to face right-handers making $9 million. That leaves Chad Green, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman. It would have been nice to add Liam Hendriks, but the Yankees passed, letting the White Sox sign him.

7. I don’t know what the Yankees’ strength is as of now. I guess by default it’s a LeMahieu-less lineup since that four-man “rotation” is set up to destroy the bullpen on days when Cole doesn’t start, though there’s not much of a bullpen to destroy. With that lineup, which is currently the team’s “strength,” expect 18-20 strikeout games to become the norm.

8. I do think the Yankees will re-sign LeMahieu because they have to. They don’t have a choice. They don’t have another option. What would their backup plan be? A middle infield of Torres and Wade/Estrada? Bring back Didi Gregorius and move Torres to second base? Sign Michael Brantley two years after they should have and have yet another outfielder/designed hitter on the roster? All of those options suck. You know what doesn’t suck? Re-signing the defending batting champion, the team’s leadoff hitter, the most versatile defender on the team and the one Yankee you actually want to see in the batter’s box when needing a big hit.

9. As for starting pitching, I think we should expect Masahiro Tanaka re-signing with the Yankees. In last week’s thoughts, I listed the available starting pitchers not named Tanaka and not having the baggage of Trevor Bauer. It’s an ugly list unless you’re trying to build the 2015 All-Star team. The same way the Yankees don’t have a choice other than to re-sign LeMahieu, they don’t have choice when it comes to Tanaka, or at least it doesn’t seem like they have a choice. Both will only cost money, which is the Yankees’ greatest resource, but both were previously Yankees, and again: the Yankees don’t like to pay their own players.

10. The other option would be to trade for a controllable starting pitcher, which is something Cashman loves to do, even if he’s awful at picking which controllable starter to obtain. The Yankees failed Sonny Gray and he failed them in his short time in pinstripes, only to find his Oakland self in Cincinnati, and the Yankees traded for the inconsistent and oft-injured James Paxton, and as a Yankee, he was … wait for it … inconsistent and oft-injured. The Yankees have to do something to improve their starting pitching, and they only have one month to do it before spring training.

My book The Next Yankees Era: My Transition from the Core Four to the Baby Bombers is now available as an ebook!

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