A week from now spring training will have begun. That’s a beautiful sentence to write. Yankees baseball is nearly here.
1. We did it. Well, we have almost done it. This is the last Yankees Thoughts of the offseason. A week from today, Yankees spring training will already be in its second day and baseball will be back. The grind of the offseason is nearly over, and now it’s time to focus on the next eight months (it better be eight-plus months) of Yankees baseball.
2. Again, the only move left to make for the Yankees (to stay under the luxury tax, which they blatantly want to) is to bring back Brett Gardner, but that doesn’t seem imminent. I still won’t believe Gardner won’t be a Yankee again until he’s not announced on Opening Day, though there has reportedly been no negotiations between Gardner and the Yankees. Gardner’s agent claims the Yankees said they would discuss yet another re-signing of their longest-tenured player once they took care of their more important offseason business. That business has been taken care of for a while. DJ LeMahieu was re-signed. Corey Kluber was signed. Jameson Taillon was traded for. Adam Ottavino was traded. Masahiro Tanaka left the league. Darren O’Day was signed. There’s nothing else for the Yankees to do at this point, and that makes it odd that Gardner and the only team he has ever known aren’t even talking.
3. I have never wanted Gardner back so much. I didn’t want him back after 2018. I wanted the Yankees to sign Michael Brantley. Gardner had lost his starting job to Andrew McCutchen and was coming off the worst year of his career. The Yankees still brought him back. Following 2019, he was undoubtedly coming back whether or not I wanted him after he posted a career-high 28 home runs with the super baseball. Now I want him back because I’m petrified of Mike Tauchman or Greg Allen becoming everyday players once Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks inevitably land on the injured list. It would be very Yankees for the team to not bring Gardner back the one time they actually need him.
4. There will be a lot made about Gary Sanchez’s every waking moment in spring training, but my focus will be solely on the pitching staff. The Yankees’ entire pitching staff aside from Gerrit Cole has dealt with serious injuries the last two years and anytime they are doing anything related to pitching, it could mean a season-ending injury. Any bullpen session, any fielding practice, any jogging, any anything, and I will be watching it as intently as I would watch The Weather Channel growing up when I had a paper due and there was potential for snow and a snow day to buy me an extra day.
5. I have spent the last three-plus months watching my wife open deliveries to our home from her father full of Dodgers World Champions gear. Sweatshirts, T-shirts, you name it, we have it. The Dodgers won the World Series and still decided to pay Trevor Bauer a ridiculous $40 million to pitch for them in 2021. Brian Cashman thought the Yankees would have the highest payroll in the league, but he was wrong, and wrong by a lot. The team the Yankees should be operating like will have the highest payroll. The team that combines player development with their financial might to put together the best possible roster.
6. I didn’t want the Yankees to sign Bauer. Not because of the money. I didn’t want the Yankees to sign a 30-year-old with one great full season to his name (2018) and then a great 11 starts (2020). Bauer had a 4.30 ERA (4.06 FIP) from 2014 through 2017. Then he had that awesome 2018 (2.21 ERA and 2.44 FIP) and a 4.48 ERA and 4.34 FIP in 2019 before his Cy Young 2020. Maybe he finally figured it out for good last season in Cincinnati, or maybe it was just the equivalent of a spectacular one-third of a normal season (which is what it was). I also didn’t want him on the team because of his past with Cole, whether it’s settled or not. The Dodgers have the best rotation in baseball. Dodgers fans think they just signed a sure-thing, though Bauer is anything but a sure-thing.
7. I just wanted the Yankees to do more this offseason. They supposedly didn’t counter an offer by Cleveland for a Francisco Lindor trade. It would have been nice if they had acquired Lindor and Carlos Carrasco. I guess they felt re-signing LeMahieu would be enough, and that maybe Gleyber Torres would show up in shape this season and be able to make routine plays at shortstop. It also means they really believe in Gio Urshela to maintain his 2019 and 2020, and the same for Luke Voit. It means they believe their right-handed, one-dimensional (aside from LeMahieu) lineup can finally come through in October after failing miserably to do so the last two Octobers.
8. I wanted them to do more with their pitching. Why not re-sign Tanaka, sign Kluber, trade for Taillon, keep Ottavino and sign O’Day? None of those moves were tied to each other, and they could have all of those pitchers on their 2021 roster, if not for the imaginary salary cap. Instead, get ready for a steady diet of Michael King, Nick Nelson, Luis Cessa, Jonathan Loaisiga and maybe even a little Tyler Lyons and Nestor Cortes this season.
9. It’s unfortunate the Yankees cut payroll by $50 million for the second time in three years when they could have gone all out to make themselves the clear favorite in the American League. Forget the league, they might not even be the favorite in their division. I’m very worried about both the Blue Jays and Rays, and all Yankees fans should be. The Yankees’ starting pitching isn’t exactly exuding confidence when it comes to health, the bullpen isn’t what it once was and the lineup is the same lineup that failed in October in both 2019 and 2020. Add in a manager that has shown no signs of progress or development after three seasons, and you can see why I’m nervous about the 2021 season.
10. That doesn’t mean I’m not excited for baseball to be back. I’m as excited as I am every year at this time. It’s just hard to see how the Yankees don’t have the same injury problems they had last year and the year before when they have retained all their injury-prone players and then added more injury-riddled pasts to their roster. There will be plenty of time to bring up the Yankees’ roster failures if the team fails, but this is the team Yankees fans have been given to root for this season. For now, baseball is about to be back and that’s all that matters. For now.
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