Yankees Thoughts: One Roster Move Left to Make

The luxury-tax threshold leaves the Yankees enough room for one more player

The Yankees’ roster seems like it’s all but complete. I still think a certain bald, left-handed outfielder will be a Yankee again in 2021, and aside from his return, what you see right now is what the Opening Day roster will be.

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees.

1. Can we get an announcement from the Yankees that they have officially signed DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber? What’s holding this up? Neither are actually Yankees yet and that worries me. What is preventing either of them from signing their reported contracts? I need these deals wrapped up, so I can stop lying awake at night and thinking about it. As of now, Tyler Wade is an everyday player for the Yankees and Jordan Montgomery is the No. 2 starter. Sign the contracts.

2. The Yankees are right up against the luxury-tax threshold, and they aren’t going to go over it. I know they aren’t going to because they spread out LeMahieu’s money over six years. If they didn’t care about the luxury tax (which they shouldn’t because they’re the Yankees), LeMahieu would be getting his $90 million over four years at most. It’s disappointing the Yankees are scared off by paying interest on their roster and an amount that is so inconsequential for the organization. Hal Steinbrenner isn’t going to have to live off of ramen noodles from a styrofoam cup for the next year if the Yankees go past the threshold. The Steinbrenners would make much more money than they would have to pay in luxury tax by hosting more home playoff games and possibly winning the World Series for the first time in 12 years.

3. The Yankees have seemingly enough room to bring back Brett Gardner on a very cheap deal. I didn’t want Gardner back after 2018, but now he’s needed. Not because he’s good. It’s because he’s a better option than Mike Tauchman or Greg Allen, and we’re the inevitable Aaron Hicks injury and Aaron Judge injury away from Tauchman or Allen playing an important role on the 2021 Yankees. This is all based on the Yankees finally making Clint Frazier the everyday left fielder, but after Aaron Boone’s lineup management in the postseason, that’s not guaranteed.

4. The Blue Jays aren’t screwing around. After an unexpected postseason berth in an expanded postseason field, the Blue Jays are surrounding their young, very good, inexpensive core with established major leaguers. Three-plus years ago, the Yankees reached the postseason unexpectedly and made a run to Game 7 of the ALCS. How did they surround their young, very good and inexpensive core? By cutting payroll by $50 million, that’s how. The Blue Jays recognize their window is just opening. The Yankees, on the other hand, are doing everything to help their already-opened window close. While the majority of the teams in the league are purposely tanking and fielding non-competitive teams to save money and increase the bank accounts of their billionaire owners (Cleveland currently has a $35 million payroll, which is the equivalent of Gerrit Cole and Luke Voit), the Blue Jays are going for it.

5. The AL East is now a three-team race. Even with the trade of Blake Snell, the Rays were still going to be a problem for the Yankees, and now the Blue Jays are as well. The Blue Jays finished one game behind the Yankees in the 2020 standings and had passed them in the standings for a period of time. Sure, it was a 60-game season, but it showed the Blue Jays could hang with the Yankees for at least 60 games. Now with their team having that much more experience, coupled with the addition of George Springer, and who knows who else before their roster is complete, the Blue Jays are a decent threat.

6. I say “decent” because the Blue Jays still lack starting pitching. They have less quality starting pitching than the Yankees and the Yankees have basically done all they can to have the most incomplete rotation for a team expected to contend for a championship. After Hyun Jin Ryu, the Blue Jays’ next best starter is Robbie Ray, who had a 6.62 ERA and 6.50 FIP in 12 games and 11 starts for Arizona and Toronto last season. Ray had been good in the three seasons before last (3.72 ERA and 4.09 FIP), and maybe he shouldn’t be evaluated on 51 2/3 innings in a shortened season. His 1.897 WHIP did happen, and it’s hard to ignore.

7. Even if Ray were to return his 2017-2019 self, having Ryu and Ray atop their rotation isn’t worrisome for the Yankees because they are both left-handed and the Yankees would have nine right-handed bats against them in any start. Now if the Blue Jays were to go out and sign Trevor Bauer then I would start to be really worried.

8. I don’t want Bauer on the Yankees, but I don’t want him in the AL East or on the Mets. I don’t want him standing in the way of the Yankees and a division title, and I also don’t want the Mets to be good because they’re the Mets. I want Bauer to end up with the Angels. The Angels suck and continue to waste the career of possibly the best player in the history of baseball. They aren’t signing Bauer away from being a threat. They need much more than the outspoken right-hander who has had one great full season in his career (2018) and then 11 great starts in 2020. Someone is going to overpay for Bauer because it’s a weak free-agent class for starting pitching. Let it be the Angels.

9. J.A. Happ signed with the Twins. A one-year, $8 million contract for the 38-year-old left-hander. I want to laugh at the Twins. I’m not going to go. With ALDS wins over the Twins in 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010 and 2019 and the one-game playoff win over them in 2017, the Twins are more than due to break through in the postseason, specifically against the Yankees. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Yankees and Twins meet in October and to have the Twins finally beat the Yankees with Happ leading the way. That’s the way this works. A former Yankee and goes on to haunt them. Recently, Eduardo Nunez did it. So did Nathan Eovaldi and Steve Pearce and Brian McCann. Eight shutout innings from Happ against the Yankees in the ALDS seems about right.

10. It seems like spring training is going to start on time. Who knows if that will actually happen, but with less than a month to go until the scheduled start of it, there hasn’t been any word of it being delayed. That means we are so very close to the return of baseball, and it feels fake because I have been under the idea since the end of the 2020 season that the 2021 season would be delayed. It still could be, though as of now, we are a few weeks away from the 2021 season beginning. That makes me happy.

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