I hate to be blunt, but in this case, I don’t know any other way to say it- the New York Yankees simply aren’t as good as people think they are. The Bronx Bombers entered 2021 as the favorites to win the American League East crown only to fight their way into the second AL wild card spot. There, they didn’t put up a real fight and squandered any hopes for a deep postseason run after a loss to the Red Sox.
New York limped their way to the finish line this season, led by their pitching, but at times stalled by a streaky offense. But making the postseason, the Yankees boil down into a very flawed roster. They’re a team that strikes out too much, doesn’t hit for average and doesn’t shine defensively. For a moment, I’ll take the reins of the Bombers front office, and with these moves, New York can enter next season with confidence heading into October:
Free Agency: Re-sign 1B Anthony Rizzo; sign OF Juan Lagares, LHP Brad Hand and C Yan Gomes
Despite his hot start after being acquired from the Cubs, Rizzo did not finish the regular season as well as he would’ve liked. Even so, Rizzo provided a nice change of pace in a Yankee lineup that was made up of mostly right-handed hitters last year. His swing is perfect for the short porch at Yankee Stadium, and his defense is as steady as it comes. His days as a star are likely behind him, but surrounding Rizzo with a lineup of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Gallo will keep him producing at a high level.
The idea to sign Juan Lagares to the squad is mainly to take over Brett Gardner’s role: a fourth outfielder that can play solid defense and put together at-bats. While his offense won’t amaze anyone, Lagares has been one of the better outfield defenders in Major League Baseball for the last several seasons. And to be completely frank, it won’t be difficult to match or succeed the offensive campaign that Gardner just recorded.
It was only a few short seasons ago where Brad Hand was one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball. However, in 2021, Hand is more of an afterthought after he was designated for assignment in August by the Blue Jays. This is a Yankee-esque move, as they’ve signed veterans in the past in an attempt to turn them back into solid contributors (look at Corey Kluber). He won’t be the closer, or even the setup man in New York, but Hand could be a very efficient middle to late-inning arm out of the pen.
Signing Yan Gomes is mainly the result of a trade that will be covered in more depth later in this article. In Gomes, New York would be acquiring another player that isn’t expected to produce much offensively, but is as steady of a defender as they come. In this scenario, he’d likely be used in an even split with Kyle Higashioka for playing time, meaning there won’t be a primary catcher for the Yankees, but instead two defensive-minded players that can give each other plenty of rest over the course of a long season.
Trades: Acquire UTIL Ketel Marte from ARI, OF Tyler Naquin and RHP Luis Cessa from CIN, LHP Drew Pomeranz from SD
Last season at the trade deadline, the Yankees sold for the bats of Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo; Marte is the guy they should’ve had at the end of the day. The Bombers are a team that strikes out more and hits less than the league averages. Marte would address both those needs and fill a spot at the top of the Yankees lineup. Plus, he’s under control on a team-friendly deal until 2024. He’d fill a spot on the infield, likely second base, which would move Gleyber Torres back to shortstop and DJ LeMahieu to third base, making Gio Urshela an elite bench piece. To acquire a controllable star from a team in the middle of a rebuild, New York would need to send at least a couple of highly-touted prospects to Arizona. In this scenario, Arizona would acquire SS Oswald Peraza and RHP Luis Medina, the Yankees third and eighth-ranked prospects.
The Yankees seem to want to move on from Luke Voit, and center field is a position that they need to secure before next season. Assuming the designated hitter becomes a universal position next season, Cincinnati could be looking for another big bat after coming up short of the playoffs this season. They’d get that bat in Voit, sending Naquin and former Yankee reliever Luis Cessa back to the Bronx. Naquin was one of the best defensive center fielders in 2021, and he was on pace to put together his best offensive season as a pro, if not for a couple of injuries that caused him to miss time. His presence would help address a weak bottom-third of the Yankees lineup, while a Cessa reunion will help the bullpen in middle-relief innings. Along with Voit, New York would be sending LHP and number 17-ranked prospect Brock Selvidge to Cincy.
Acquiring reliable reliever Drew Pomeranz from the Padres is probably the most unlikely trade proposed here, given San Diego’s playoff hopes moving forward. However, maybe they’d be enticed to part with the lefty if it meant acquiring catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielder Clint Frazier from the Yanks. Sanchez has been a very polarizing player since debuting in the Bronx, hitting a ton of home runs but failing to hit for average and striking out way too much, all while playing terrible defense. Frazier, once a high-end prospect, has failed to live up to expectations in the majors and missed most of this season after being placed on the injured list. Both seem to have overstayed their welcome in New York. Sanchez can add firepower to a weak-hitting catching core, and Frazier could carve out a solid bench role or prove that the hype he received as a prospect was real with a bounce-back campaign and bolster San Diego’s lineup. Either way, the Yankees would be happy sending both players away for Pomeranz, who can work through multiple innings whenever a starter fails to make it deep into a game.
In addition to these moves, the Yanks will be looking forward to the return of RHP Luis Severino as a starter and a full-season of RHP Luis Gil. When all moves are finalized, New York will have a much more well-rounded squad heading into next year, adding offensive weapons while making an already deep bullpen even deeper, and substantially addressing a defensive unit that was questionable throughout the entire 2021 season. The Bombers have disappointed each of the last few years; if they make these additions to bolster their team, they could return as favorites for their first AL East crown since 2019.