Want to hear a joke?
The 2020 home run king, a former MVP and the first player to win a batting championship in both the AL & NL walk into Petco Park. The punchline: the Tampa Bay Rays knock them all out of the playoffs.
Don’t get me wrong, the Rays are a great team. I love the big bats of Ji-Man Choi, Randy Arozarena and Yoshi Tsutsugo. Also, I love their stable of 98-mph pitchers, especially sidewinder Ryan Thompson; I also sincerely hope they win the World Series.
After the Red Sox struggles over the past few years, it’s nice to have a real rivalry going in the AL East again.
However, despite all this hype, I’m still missing the Yankees. Aside from that awful losing streak the Yanks faced in the middle of this pandemic-shortened season, this team was just as exciting as any previous Yankees roster from my lifetime. Simply put, I’m already excited for Opening Day 2021.
New York’s starting rotation should be much better next year. Hell, their whole pitching staff should be much better next year. Cole is the clear No. 1, and we have a number of guys behind him who are ready to make a big impact on the team.
Jordan Montgomery started slowly but finished the season hot, and stands to come back as an established piece of the Yankees rotation. Prospects Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt debuted this year to much acclaim. Schmidt worked as a reliever this year, but will eventually work into a starter’s role.
On the other hand, Garcia earned himself high praise from his idol, Pedro Martinez. Yankees fans should also be excited to have Luis Severino returning from injury.
Now the question becomes, what do the Yankees do with J.A. Happ, James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka? The Tanaka question will need to be answered sooner rather than later, as his contract has expired. When it’s time to put pen to paper, the Yankees will most likely re-sign the 31-year-old right-hander. After all, he’s the second starting pitcher in franchise history to win at least 10 games in each of his first six MLB seasons.
Personally, I think that the Yankees best rotation consists of Cole, followed by Montgomery, then Garcia, Tanaka and finally Severino. I could see Schmidt stepping into an extended relief role next year, like Chad Green this season, and eventually working himself into a starter role. The Yankees will also have Tommy Kahnle back from Tommy John surgery.
But, there are still 2 other big decisions to be made with the pitching staff pertaining to Domingo German and Aroldis Chapman. The MLB suspended German this year after a domestic violence incident. The Yankees are unsure whether they’ll bring him back.
Aroldis Chapman has given up the home runs that have knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs the past two years. However, GM Brian Cashman said earlier this week he believes Chapman remains the Yankees best option at closer.
Now, here’s where it gets tricky. The Yankees need to re-sign 2B D.J. LeMahieu, full stop. They cannot let this guy walk. The same goes for 1B Luke Voit. Without those 2 players, this year would have been an absolute wash.
The team will also most likely re-sign Aaron Judge, although after he missed most of the season with a recurring injury. He also floundered in the majority of the playoffs. Because of this, Judge probably won’t receive the monster deal that he is hoping for.
Aaron Hicks thankfully has a few years left on his contract, so the Yankees don’t have to worry him just yet.
Another important part of this offseason is Gio Urshela. The Yankees 3rd baseman put on a gold glove performance all year and is an essential piece in the middle of the lineup.
If the Bronx Bombers take all of those contracts on, what do they do with Stanton? He also dealt with a recurring injury this year, but had a monster run in the playoffs. Is that enough to justify the monetary risk of bringing him back once again?
What about Sanchez? Gary struggled all year behind the plate, and wasn’t so hot at the plate either. Cole and Montgomery both prefer working with catcher Kyle Higashioka, a 13-year Yankees veteran. Higgy actually earned himself starts in a majority of the Yankees games this postseason, putting Sanchez’s future with the team in even greater doubt.
Then there’s shortstop Gleyber Torres, who was notably streaky at the dish this season. His performance has been trending up over the past few seasons. But in a press conference earlier this week, Cashman said the team would evaluate all circumstances surrounding the shortstop position.
Finally, there’s left field to consider. By all means, Clint Frazier earned himself a position on this team. He’s a dangerous hitter, a great teammate and has a cannon of an arm. But, 16-year Yankee vet Brett Gardner hasn’t made any announcements about whether he intends to continue playing or not.
Personally, I don’t want to see Gardy in another uniform, but I also don’t think he’s emptied the tank yet. The Yankees’ best bet would be to give Gardner a one-year deal and protect themselves in case anyone gets injured.
Look, I think the 2021 Yankees could be a scary team. The appetite for a World Series has never been greater for the organization and they’ve got the pieces to do it.
They just need to be smart with the pitching staff this offseason. The contract situation is critical. The Yankees best strategy is to put their proven guys in positions to succeed, instead of following the front office analytics that have let us down in the past.
New York Yankees for 2021 World Series champs? I sure hope so.