Recently, I used to be discussing the problems besetting the Yankees with a high baseball-operations official from one other workforce. The government let me prattle a bit then basically did the game’s model of speaking an insane particular person off a ledge:
“You are overcomplicating this. They have to fix catcher and shortstop,” the official mentioned. “They have a lot of good players. They have just wasted time with [Gary] Sanchez and trying to make Gleyber [Torres] work at short. If they fix those two spots, they are going to keep being really good.”
I feel it’s a little deeper than that, together with not trusting Aaron Hicks to be a beginning middle fielder defensively or to remain wholesome, plus some total questions on how bonded the clubhouse was in 2021. But, normally, I do agree that if the Yankees restore catcher and shortstop, that will do a lot to maintain them a 90-plus win contender.
There actually aren’t glamour strikes at catcher, except they tackle the 4 years at $95.5 million of Philadelphia’s J.T. Realmuto contract. And, belief me. I have already got been mentally juggling Realmuto trade ideas: The Phillies would save the $54 million distinction between Realmuto and Hicks (4 years, $41 million) to earmark elsewhere whereas including a a lot wanted middle fielder, plus the prospect-challenged group additionally would obtain two younger pitchers, like Luis Gil and Clarke Schmidt.
But my suspicion is that the Yankees simply emphasize, at catcher, an economical robust defender who is just not a whole zero on the plate, similar to Manny Piña, in free company, or Tucker Barnhart if the Reds don’t choose up his $7.5 million choice.
This, although, has been the long-anticipated glamour free-agent marketplace for shortstops. Even after Francisco Lindor signed final April with the Mets and Brandon Crawford prolonged just lately with the Giants, there nonetheless are Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien and Trevor Story.
The Yankees made a July trade-deadline push for Baez. But I feel they noticed him as a short-term reply for his or her defensive nightmare at shortstop. The hatred for the 2017 Astros sign-stealing scandal nonetheless pulses within the Yankees’ group — inside which many harbor the assumption that if Houston had not cheated, the Yanks would have gained all of it. So, I simply can’t consider they might swallow that to signal Correa. There appears to have been a gradual falling out of affection with Story. I consider if the Yankees have been going to play huge for a shortstop, it could be Seager or Semien.
Will they play huge?
Part of the reply is what’s the system? The 2021 Yankees went below the edge to reset their tax share. But the collective bargaining settlement will expire in six weeks, and it has not but been negotiated if there might be a tax within the subsequent CBA, and what the thresholds and penalties might be if the system returns. Hal Steinbrenner will in all probability need to know the principles earlier than approving one other huge outlay.
And it could be “another” huge outlay. Cole and Giancarlo Stanton are owed roughly $60 million between them yearly via 2027 (Cole is signed via ’28, Stanton has an choice that 12 months). Aaron Judge might be a free agent after 2022. Add one of many two huge free-agent shortstops, and the Yankees can be paying not less than $110 million yearly (in all probability extra) to 4 gamers, who for many of these years can be of their 30s.
What else would possibly give Steinbrenner pause?
1. He has seen the Rays win the AL East the previous two years, they usually aren’t doing it by spending on the high of the market. 2. The Yankees’ two greatest, closest-to-the-majors prospects are each shortstops, Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe, so the workforce would possibly simply want a stopgap, not an costly shortstop. 3. High-end free company is the riskiest aspect within the sport. If you suppose the crackdown on sticky substances doesn’t have the Yankees questioning if they’ve a far much less dominant model of Cole than they believed they have been signing, you’re fallacious.
And but, the Yankees have gained one division title in 9 years and one World Series since 2001, and Steinbrenner has been motivated to make huge outlays if the stimulus is true, together with to maneuver into the brand new stadium in 2009, when the notion crested after 2013 that the Yankees have been squeezing dimes, and to provide the largest contract ever to a pitcher (Cole) when it was perceived that was the lacking piece to a title.
Also, Steinbrenner can look to his Western doppelganger. Clubs are always seeking to capitalize on the inefficiencies out there. The defending (and maybe quickly repeat) champion Dodgers have uncovered one: If most groups are going to deal with a luxurious tax like a wage cap, then a wealthy workforce can actually differentiate itself. The Dodgers’ payroll is north of $260 million. No workforce is inside $50 million. The 2021 Yankees’ $205 million-ish payroll is much like what they have been spending in 2005.
Semien is a superb participant, and if the Yankees landed him, they might be higher. But Seager matches them nicely. The Yankees have been crammed with too many all-or-nothing hitters, particularly right-handed ones. Seager is lefty. He has energy. But he’s a hitter, and his .306 common over the previous two seasons is the sixth-best (minimal 600 plate appearances).
In 2021, he had a close to similar stroll price (11.7) and OPS (.915) to Judge (11.8 and .916), however Seager struck out in simply 16.1 p.c of his plate appearances in comparison with 25 p.c for Judge and 24.5 p.c for the Yankees as a workforce.
Unlike somebody similar to Joey Gallo, who by no means performed in a giant sport earlier than becoming a member of the Yankees, Seager’s Dodgers have been within the playoffs yearly of his profession (since 2015) and he was each the NLCS and World Series MVP final 12 months. Los Angeles is just not New York, nevertheless it additionally isn’t Arlington, Texas. Seager has performed in a giant market with expectations, and (if it issues) Seager’s dad is from upstate New York and he has plenty of household sprinkled within the metropolitan space. More vital: Seager is understood for his seriousness about baseball and for being glorious at blocking out distractions.
The draw back? He has nice arms, however is simply a mean defender at brief. But merely making the performs (which he does) would make him a improve for the Yankees. Plus, his offensive profile and arms counsel he may transfer to 3rd when Peraza or Volpe is able to man shortstop (there is also lineage, Seager’s brother, Kyle, has been the long-time Mariners third baseman).
Seager has performed in additional than 140 video games simply twice, lacking most of 2018 after needing Tommy John surgical procedure. Since then, he had a 2019 hamstring harm that value him a month and he missed 2 ¹/₂ months this 12 months after his hand was fractured by a Ross Detwiler pitch. From his June 30 return to the top of the season, Seager hit .335 with a 1.009 OPS.
And, in fact, there’s the query of value. Fernando Tatis Jr. signed for 15 years, $341 million, Lindor for 10 years, $340 million. Neither has aged nicely — Tatis as a result of harm and issues whether or not he can nonetheless man shortstop, Lindor due to uncomfortable and underwhelming leads to New York. Still, anticipate Seager’s agent, Scott Boras, to argue for extra, citing that neither Tatis nor Lindor was even a free agent capable of discount with a number of suitors. He will be aware his shopper gained’t flip 28 till April. He will level out all of the positives I simply did (and far more). And it will likely be this straightforward: Is Steinbrenner keen to spend?
The 5 costliest free-agent signings in Yankees historical past are Cole, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia and Jacoby Ellsbury. Boras negotiated all of them, besides Sabathia.
The Yankees have a necessity at shortstop. How far will Hal Steinbrenner go to unravel it?