The New York Yankees finished with an 82-80 record and missed the postseason in 2023. We don’t need to tell you that qualifies as a disappointing year in the Bronx.
Such a bad year (for the Yankees’ lofty standards, that is) brings some lessons with it. It’s up to the organization to learn from them and move on, though. Can they? That’s the million-dollar question.
Three lessons the Yankees learned in 2023:
1. Stop investing in aging talent
In recent years, the Yankees have made important investments in Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, Josh Donaldson, and other veterans who, inevitably, end up struggling because age catches up to all of us.
It would be a better long-term strategy to focus on spotting talent on the draft, through trades, and in international free agency and finding the right resources to develop this talent appropriately.
The Yankees are learning the hard way that they just can’t have too many long-term commitments at the same time. It really hamstrings offseason expenses, and when these players start to decline (like Stanton and LeMahieu), they become payroll and on-field liabilities: it’s hard to stomach their production in many cases, and it’s even harder to trade them.
2. Commit to your prospects
A good, sustainable team will sign free agents only when a pressing need or a really good opportunity presents itself. The most efficient way to build a team that is good and deep over time is by putting an emphasis on the farm system.
Opinions on the Yankees system are mixed, but they really put together a strong group of pitching prospects in the last couple of years: Drew Thorpe, Will Warren, Richard Fitts, Yoendrys Gómez, Matt Sauer, Chase Hampton, Brock Selvidge, Clayton Beeter, Brendan Beck, Jhony Brito, Randy Vasquez, and more. Those are the names that will carry the pitching staff in the foreseeable future, but they need an opportunity.
Perhaps there hasn’t been that much success in the position player department, but the system has produced three potential 2024 starters in Anthony Volpe, Austin Wells, and Jasson Dominguez, plus intriguing guys like Spencer Jones, Ben Rice, Oswald Peraza, and more.
Again, it’s one thing to produce them. It’s an entirely different one to give them an extended chance, though, and that’s what the Yankees should commit to.
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3. Invest in durable players
When the Yankees gave Carlos Rodon a huge six-year contract, perhaps they got carried away by his very solid 2021-22 run. However, he isn’t the poster boy for durability.
That doesn’t mean he won’t eventually return value, but his injury-riddled 2023 campaign is proof of what could happen if the Yanks don’t focus on bringing in players with a good record of durability.
It could happen that they invest in durable players, and then things go south: Luis Severino and, to an extent, Frankie Montas are examples of this. However, looking at a player’s recent health record should become a priority from now on.
This point should have an addendum: the Yankees need to be more responsible when managing injuries. For example, Montas was injured before the team acquired him in 2022. Another example is how they mismanaged Anthony Rizzo’s symptoms after his collision with Fernando Tatis in late May. Responsible organizations need to be on top of these details.