Dec. 03, 2017
Yankees offseason preview 2018
The Yankees, who entered 2017 season with low expectations, defied every expectation they faced with a young talented roster. They finished their season on the top spot for AL Wild Card, with a 91-71 record. They were able to blow out the Twins in the AL Wild Card Game, and then they managed to upset the 102-win Indians in 5 games of the ALDS. Despite their great chance of making and winning the World Series, they fell short with a Game 7 loss in the ALCS to the eventual World Series champions Astros.
The offense had been tearing up all season. Aaron Judge had a monstrous rookie season, leading the AL with 52 home runs, finishing his season with a unanimous AL rookie of the year and a runner-up for the AL MVP. Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius contributed a lot to the powerhouse offense. The offense led the league with 241 home runs.
On the pitching side, Luis Severino had an excellent season, and he finished 3rd in AL Cy Young voting. Masahiro Tanaka, who will be staying for the final three years of his 7-year $155 million contract, had dominated September and October. CC Sabathia, who is heading for free agency, pitched a solid season. Despite slowing down in the second half after a midseason trade from the A’s, Sonny Gray will have three more years to prove. Also, the bullpen did manage to shut down opponents late in the season. Chad Green has been emerging as a mid-game reliever. David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, both acquired in the midseason trade from the White Sox, were effective late in the season. Aroldis Chapman, who had a turbulent season, had much firepower to close out games in September and October.
However, after Joe Girardi left the team following the Game 7 loss in the ALCS, the Yankees spent more than a month searching for a new manager. Last Friday, they eventually hire 2003 ALCS Game 7 hero Aaron Boone to be their next manager. Now, Brian Cashman got a lot of priorities in the offseason, in order to contend for the World Series, next year.
With Greg Bird, who missed much of the season with ankle injury and contributed big in October, has a lot to prove for the next season, the Yankees need a veteran to work in first base. Chase Headley did try playing at first, but after Bird came back, Headley played much as a DH. The Yankees should explore options to trade Headley away. If the Yankees are able re-sign clubhouse favorite Todd Frazier, he told Brendan Kuty of NJ.com that he is open play different positions other than third base. Also, although he is unlikely to start next season in the majors, top prospect Gleyber Torres will have the potential to play at the major-league level, and he could be called up earlier this season. On the other hand, the outfield will get crowded when the Yankees enter the 2018 season. With Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, and Judge likely starting in the outfield and Clint Frazier on the rise as the fourth outfielder, Jacoby Ellsbury is the odd man out. Although it is going to be tough to trade him because of his big 7-year $153 contract with 3 years remaining, there are some teams, who need outfielders, might be willing to take his contract. The Yankees should try to re-sign Sabathia to a one-year deal. Of course, Severino, Tanaka, and Gray will return in 2018. The Yankees should look for the 5th starter to boost the rotation.
In addition, Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani (aka the Japanese Babe Ruth), who was officially posted last Friday, is the biggest free agent that a lot of teams are coveting for. As a pitcher, he can throw 100-plus mph; as a hitter, he can hit the ball 500-plus feet. Cashman told Mike Mazzeo of NY Daily News that Otani can be a perfect fit for the Yankees. If Otani signs with the Yankees, he could join the rotation, and he could be in the starting lineup as the DH. The Yankees can offer $3.5 million of international pool money to sign him. (Cashman received additional international pool money, as a part of the Gray trade.) Just remember, he has until December 22 to sign with a MLB team.
If the Yankees are able to do something productive with their offseason, while trying to stay under the luxury tax threshold, they could prepare for big free agent signings. But for now, their goal for 2018 is to find the right pieces in order to build a contending team, if they want to win their 28th title in franchise history.