The New York Yankees have a ripe opportunity to flip the script this off-season and get right back into World Series contention next year. A disappointing 2023 campaign exposed multiple flaws in the team’s roster-building strategy.
Investing in aging talent with expensive contracts certainly didn’t do them any favors, but the Yankees have moved on from Josh Donaldson and are looking to reset and add multiple positions.
Fortunately, a number of talented, young prospects are ready to make an impact in the future, keeping costs down and opening up the Yankees checkbook to invest in star talent. Two players in particular stand out among the rest, and while baseball is certainly a team sport, players of this magnitude would put the organization back on track and help supplement any potential time missed by Aaron Judge.
Both Judge and star pitcher Gerrit Cole indicated that the batting order lacked balance, and they deteriorated quickly when their superstar hitter wasn’t available.
Let’s take a look at what a perfect off-season would look like for the Yankees.
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Two Acquisitions That Would Put the Yankees Back in the World Series Fold:
First and foremost, the Yankees should do themselves a big favor and acquire Juan Soto from the San Diego Padres if they are willing to move him.
Soto is one year away from hitting free agency, but the Yankees could acquire and extend him immediately, given he wants to stay on the East Coast. Soto has the perfect archetype for what the organization needs to start investing in long-term.
Soto has played at least 150 games since 2019, except for the Covid season. This past year, he played in every single game, all 162, hitting .275 with a .410 OBP, .519 slugging rate, including a career-high 35 homers, 109 RBIs, an 18.6% walk rate, 18.2% strikeout rate, and 155 wRC+.
If Judge and Cole want more balance in the batting order, Soto will provide elite contact qualities and phenomenal slugging prowess. The team could utilize him as their lead-off hitter, giving Aaron Judge a 40% chance of having a runner on base at the beginning of games, or they could slide them into the cleanup role, moving Giancarlo Stanton off that spot. The flexibility Soto would give the team would be extremely exciting, and if owner Hal Steinbrenner wants to commit to his promise when he extended Judge on his $360 million deal last year, adding elite pieces should be a priority.
General manager Brian Cashman has invested a substantial amount of money in aging players, but if there’s anyone to take that gamble on, Soto has a low risk and high reward probability. He’s only 24 years old and has already put multiple seasons together of elite offensive performance.
Comparably, the Yankees are starting to call up some of their prospects who are 24, and landing a player of that magnitude at such a young age is rare. He would give the Yankees a chance at the World Series every single season for the next decade, and the Yankees have the farm system to get the job done.
The next player on the list is Japanese star pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Fortunately for Steinbrenner and Cashman, Yamamoto will only cost money, and he fits the bill perfectly, given his youth. At 25 years old, Yamamoto has pitched three consecutive seasons with at least 170 innings, showcasing his durability.
With Gerrit Cole getting older and Carlos Rodon coming off a down season and the first year of a six-year, $162 million deal, investing in Yamamoto would give the Yankees a potential ace for the future. Given his consistency in the JPPL, there’s a reason to believe his transition should be seamless.
Yamamoto doesn’t give up many home runs, and he strikes out a considerable amount of batters, a perfect option for the Bombers. Of course, the Yankees may elect to take a cheaper route if they are keen on extending Soto after a prospective trade.
Nonetheless, an elite starting pitcher and one of the best offensive players in baseball would turn the Yankees around instantaneously. It would give them the luxury of committing to some of their cheaper prospects and allow them to develop their offensive identity in real-time. In addition, Soto still has one year left of arbitration, meaning his cost will be nominal ahead of his big extension.