We recently went over which questions the Yankees need to answer this offseason. Once those are put on the white board by GM Brian Cashman and the rest of the front office, it comes down to which needs should be addressed first — the priority list, if you will.
The Yankees are sure to be active in free agency, and don’t overlook a blockbuster trade by Cashman, either. He knows that this team needs to get things done quickly after a short postseason.
So, with that in mind, let’s rank the Yankees’ needs this offseason:
1. Figure out who will manage in 2022 and beyond
Is it odd that Aaron Boone hasn’t been given a new contract yet? Maybe a little bit. But an educated guess would be that the Yanks are at least still considering whether or not to move forward with him.
Boone took over in 2018 at the start of that championship window, and four seasons later, there’s no 28th title in the Yankees’ trophy case. That’s a problem in the eyes of Cashman and owner Hal Steinbrenner.
The big question they’re trying to answer in the immediate is whether or not that is Boone’s fault. Or it could be possible that they want to change the coaching staff to switch things up, bring new vibes in the clubhouse, and hope that is the key to making it to the World Series.
Either way, this must be decided quickly before anything else can be done this offseason. Personally, I believe Boone returns but his coaching staff gets a shakeup, with hitting coach Marcus Thames a prime candidate to be relieved of his duties.
2. No. 2 starting pitcher
Fans who are still frustrated about what happened in the AL Wild Card Game, don’t take it out on Gerrit Cole when he starts Opening Day in 2022. Yes, it was a bad game all around for the ace, but he still has that designation next year and for years to come.
What the Yanks need, then, is a consistent No. 2 behind him who can possibly be part of a 1-2 punch come postseason action.
In house, the Yanks do have Luis Severino and Jameson Taillon who could vie for that title. However, there’s no telling what Severino will do once he’s in a starter’s role again and Taillon’s first Yankee season was the definition of a roller coaster. New York can’t bank on that after taking a risk with Taillon and Corey Kluber this year.
With Kluber likely walking into free agency himself, the Yankees need to lock someone down who can give a huge boost to the rotation. Is Carlos Rodon, Robbie Ray, or Kevin Gausman the guy? Could Justin Verlander prove he’s ready for another championship run after having Tommy John surgery? And what about Marcus Stroman?
Loads of options and tremendous talent to choose from, but this has to be at the top of the priority list for Cashman once his manager is in place.
There’s no doubt the Yankees will be in the mix with virtually every top dog in this free agent bucket. It’s the best MLB has ever seen, and the Yanks have a hole to fill.
Gleyber Torres created it when he posted a minus-10 defensive runs saved rating at shortstop this season and was moved back to second base, where he looked much more comfortable. And while Gio Urshela can play short, the Yanks love him more at third base where he’s been an absolute wizard with the leather since he was brought up.
It’s a matter of which shortstop makes the most sense for New York, and there are five top options to choose from: Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Trevor Story, Javier Baez and Marcus Semien. Each, of course, has his pros and cons. It’s a matter of who will gel with this championship-ready team and will have the most impact joining the squad.
For an early prediction on the situation, I believe Story or Semien will end up in pinstripes. Seager, with a solid lefty bat and good hands at short, will be getting a handsome new deal that the Yankees might not be willing to hammer out considering they have to pay Aaron Judge soon, if not this offseason. And after the Astros’ cheating scandal, the best all-around talent in this group in Correa may not be the best choice for the fan base and maybe even some in the clubhouse who called him out last year.
Story was connected to the Yanks at the trade deadline this year, but ultimately nothing happened. And Semien is intriguing to get him away from the Toronto Blue Jays, while also being someone who could sign a short-term pact and allow some top prospects in the Yankees’ farm system time to develop more before taking over.
4. Back-End Reliever
Zack Britton is contemplating his baseball future, while Aroldis Chapman was wildly inconsistent this past season. Not a good recipe for success when those two guys were anchoring the back end of the ‘pen when spring training began.
Jonathan Loaisiga and Chad Green picked up the slack there, and Clay Holmes was a surprise trade deadline steal it seems as the Yanks figured out what was going wrong in Pittsburgh. But another arm wouldn’t hurt to give the manager options to work with, especially if Chapman struggles again (he’s also in the final year of his contract).
Craig Kimbrel, Corey Knebel, Collin McHugh, Mark Melancon, Raisel Iglesias, and more are available. It would be good to land someone to further fortify that back end.
5. Figure out First Base
Why drop this on the list? Well, Anthony Rizzo is a free agent now, but he was well-liked in the clubhouse. He’s an option to return if the Yanks really like the fit and what he brings to the table, especially defensively.
However, if a shortstop is brought in, where does DJ LeMahieu go? That forces Torres to stay at second base and Urshela is already at third. So he would be there and Luke Voit could DH?
Again, there are options to work with. But if the Yanks want that patient lefty returning to their lineup, something’s got to give. But compared to the rest of the priorities, it’s the last one that really needs to be worried about.