Welcome to 2017. Six weeks from today, pitchers and catchers will report to spring training in preparation for the coming baseball season. Thus begins the long journey to crown another World Series champion.
It wouldn’t be an offseason without some talk of the New York Yankees becoming a title contender in 2017. There are several key items remaining on their offseason shopping list before anyone can consider them a playoff candidate.
Pitching is the team’s top priority, but multiple media reports suggest the Yankees need to clear payroll before adding another starter to the mix. Aside from two free agent signings (DH Matt Holliday and RP Aroldis Chapman) and one trade (C Brian McCann to the Houston Astros), the Yankees have been relatively quiet on the transaction front this winter.
Here are three aspects of the roster that must be rectified before the Yankees can become title contenders in 2017:
Trading Gardner Must Be Resolved
The Yankees have been shopping both OF Brett Gardner and 3B Chase Headley all winter, but there’s no real urgency to unload either player unless they receive an unbelievable offer. Gardner has a team-friendly contract (owed $12.5 million in 2017, $11.5 million in 2018 with a $12.5 team option or $ 2 million buyout in 2019), which makes him the ideal target in a possible trade.
Trading Gardner will add more assets to the organization’s already deep depth chart, which will serve them better in the standings long-term. However, no team has sparked Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s interest enough as he has turned down several trade proposals this offseason.
Trading for Starting Pitching is a Attractive Fit
In today’s baseball, there is no such thing as having too much starting pitching. Right now, the Yankees starting rotation consist of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and not much else. So far this offseason, the team has done very little to improve this situation. You can expect Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Severino and Luis Cessa to battle for the final two spots in the starting rotation this spring.
Keep in mind, these young starters will have their workload monitored all season and probably be placed on an innings limit. This could spell trouble for the Yankees come August and September, especially if one or two of these young pitchers are shutdown because they’ve reached their limit in the middle of a pennant race.
It would be wise for the Yankees to acquire a young starting pitcher with tremendous upside and still under team’s control. The trade dialogue with the Chicago White Sox regarding lefthander Jose Quintana suggest the Yankees aren’t done dealing. An acquisition of this nature comes with a price as the Yankees will have to trade away some of their prized minor league talent.
The Curious Case of Aaron Judge
Aaron Judge is an imposing figure inside the batter’s box, but he has trouble hitting off-speed pitches. It’s hard to ignore the fact that Judge struck out in 44 percent of his at-bats last season. Too often, he killed potential scoring rallies by his inability to make contact and drive the ball into the gap for extra base hits.
It will be hard for the Yankees to profess they’re on a youth movement kick and fail to have Judge as their starting RF on Opening Day. Yes, the organization expects him to take hold of this opportunity and fulfill all expectations because no smart talent evaluator defines a major league career by 90 at-bats. The reality is that Judge will strike out a lot, but so do the majority of the power hitters in today’s baseball. He’s the future of the Yankees.