The New York Yankees the last few years have been moments away from another World Series ring. For the last few years, whether it is in the starting rotation or in the bullpen, pitching has been the Achilles heel for the Bronx Bombers. Injuries also factor into the same set of issues.
Brian Cashman and the front office on Friday woke up from their three-month hibernation and made some moves. They re-signed second baseman DJ LeMahieu to a six-year/$90M contract and signed former Cy-Young winner Corey Kluber to a one-year/$11M deal. Avoiding arbitration with many players on the roster followed those deals.
But the real question is: do the Bronx Bombers have the talent to finally win a World Series? Let’s examine each position on the roster to see if the Yankees are for real.
The starting rotation for the last few seasons has been a revolving door for the New York Yankees. General manager Brian Cashman made multiple trades for starters like Sonny Gray, J.A. Happ, and James Paxton in the last 3-4 years. However, those arms did not stay more than two seasons in the Bronx.
Signing Kluber is a big help for this rotation since it does not look like New York has any interest in retaining Masahiro Tanaka. Gerrit Cole, pending any injury, is set to be the lead horse of the rotation. Kluber will most likely enter as the number two starter. Until Luis Severino returns in the middle of the season from Tommy John surgery, Domingo German will likely slide into the third starter role.
The last two spots are likely being handed to Jordan Montgomery and top prospect Deivi Garcia. Most likely, Garcia will take the backseat to get some more time in the big leagues. It is also worthy of noting that Aaron Boone could mix in Jonathan Loaisiga and Michael King as openers on bullpen days.
However, once Severino returns, the survival of the fittest will occur. Montgomery, German, or Garcia will have to take the backseat or possibly transition to a bullpen arm.
Overall, the New York Yankees have improved their starting staff compared to last year’s plagued rotation. Happ and Paxton are gone with Kluber arriving along with Severino and German eventually returning. Performance and the number of injuries will determine this rotation’s fate.
In 2019, the Yankees had one of the best bullpens in baseball. Aroldis Chapman, Zach Britton, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, and others contributed to the hitter shutdown from the 6th inning on almost two years ago.
Unfortunately in 2020, the switch flipped on this group of pitchers. A few days after Opening Day in July, Kahnle damaged an ulnar collateral ligament tendon in his elbow, resulting in Tommy John surgery and ruling him out for the rest of the season. Kahnle would later sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020.
Adam Ottavino and the rest of the bullpen from then on struggled tremendously. The bullpen made history in the worst way possible by giving up ten runs in one inning to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Questions keep swirling the team about whether closer Aroldis Chapman can close out big games. In the last two seasons, he has given up two game-winning home runs to Houston Astros’ second baseman Jose Altuve and Tampa Bay Rays’ first baseman Mike Brosseau. For the Yankees to be able to stay in big games, it is up to Chapman to hold the fort.
Over the past two seasons, Aaron Boone’s decision on having bullpen games has affected the bullpen, leaving them short-handed at times. However, in the new analytical age of baseball, that will not discontinue anytime soon.
Despite Boone’s love for using the bullpen, it is up to the players to execute in big situations. With a promising starting rotation, the bullpen cannot fall further back when the surrounding pieces are getting better.
The Yankees ultimately bought into the Gary Sanchez brigade when they traded veteran catcher Brian McCann to Houston in 2016. However, ever since Joe Girardi‘s departure, the numbers have gotten worse for Sanchez.
2020 was the worst year in his short career thus far. Sanchez hit 10 home runs and wheeled in 24 runs batted in, but hit .147 over 49 games. His defensive woes came back once again as well. Sure, statistically Sanchez performed better than years prior, but the overall performance from the veteran catcher was not the greatest.
Being different from Girardi, Boone is more of a players’ manager and will not rip players as Girardi did. Girardi also was a former catcher. Boone benched Sanchez towards the end of the regular season in a series against the Blue Jays, even though Sanchez started a few days after. So, Boone did not firmly bench Sanchez as many would want.
Kyle Higashioka deserves to retain the backup catcher role, as he did well for a backup. 2020 was Higashioka’s first year as the backup after the team did not re-sign Austin Romine. Higashioka has been with the organization since 2008.
In order for the team to click on all cylinders, Sanchez cannot isolate himself in terms of effort on the field. He needs to have a career year or else his time will be up in the Big Apple.
Gleyber Torres is the biggest focus for this infield defensively. A year after Gregorius’ departure, Torres returned to his natural position of shortstop as a full-time starter in 2020. He had the second-lowest fielding percentage of his career, though committing the second-fewest errors at shortstop last year. Much like Sanchez, Torres will need to adjust to his natural position, or else the Yankees may have to think about his future in the Bronx.
Giovanny Urshela will miss part of spring training recovering from surgery that removed a bone spur. This is Miguel Andujar‘s last shot as a Bronx Bomber if the team is not already shopping him around the league. The Yankees transitioned Andujar to a part-time outfielder to get him more field reps as well as occasionally playing him at his normal position. Andujar will need to start the year well on offense in order to stay in the big leagues. He started last year on the wrong foot and the Yankees immediately optioned him to the alternate site. Whether Andujar plays in left field or at third, he will have to make the most of his chances in order to stay a Yankee.
For first baseman Luke Voit, he will need to continue making strides on offense. In a pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he achieved a career-high in home runs (22). His power on offense overshadows his defensive play. Many Yankees’ critics hate his defensive play, but the truth is he is not a glove flashing fielder like former Gold Glove winner Mark Teixeira.
The Yankees’ have three reserve infielders in Mike Ford, Tyler Wade, and Thairo Estrada. Both can play outfield, but as far as hitting goes Estrada is the better player. Wade tends to flash his glove better when he does at all. Ford is primarily a first baseman who will occasionally flash the glove and show some offensive power.
Though the moves seem pointless, the Yankees signing Socrates Brito and trading for Greg Allen are depth moves or any pending injuries for the three big bats. However, that is if both make it onto the active roster.
Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier are the primary reserve outfielders for this ballclub. Although many suggest trading the “Red Thunder”, Frazier is a quality depth option for an always plagued outfield. After a defensively abysmal 2019, with more playing time, Frazier bounced back and clicked on all cylinders in 2020.
Tauchman did not have a great year, though the bar is low for the veteran outfielder.
The objective of this position group is to stay healthy in 2020. The best ability is availability, speaking of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Both will need to refrain from getting injured as both have power bats and are a major part of this team’s fate. Not to mention, they need to cut down on the strikeouts.
At this point in the game, many have given up on the “Chase for 28” campaign. However, with promising additions to the rotation, the New York Yankees are to be taken seriously as possible World Series contenders.
The Tampa Bay Rays traded some key pieces away, so they may be on the decline. As for the rest of the AL East, the Toronto Blue Jays and their young core will give the Yankees some divisional competition.
With a promising bullpen turnaround, offensive execution, and the ability to stay healthy, this team has the tools to win their 28th World Series title.