The Yankees have been busy all offseason, and they’ve handled their business. They’ve brought back key pieces to their lineup and bolstered their pitching staff, and they’re in pretty good shape to come into the 2023 season as the best team in the American League, although left field remains a question mark. Hal Steinbrenner has been busy signing a lot of checks, and Brian Cashman has been putting that money in the right places. With their flurry of additions in the opening months of free agency, let’s break down where the Yankees have allocated those financial resources so far.
Aaron Judge: 9 years $360 Million
The Yankees had to bring back Aaron Judge, and they didn’t disappoint. Aaron Judge came off of the best offensive season since prime Barry Bonds, with 207 wRC+ and 11.4 fWAR. He set the American League record for HRs, showing off unprecedented power for a non-steroid era hitter and establishing himself as arguably the best hitter in baseball. He’ll be able to permanently man RF as well since Harrison Bader’s addition should give the Yankees stability defensively at a position they’ve struggled to get consistent play out of.
Aaron Judge isn’t just great, he’s also been remarkably clutch for the Yankees as well. With a 12.39 Win Probability Added since 2021, no one has contributed more to winning than Aaron Judge has over the past two seasons. While people will argue his contract won’t age well, his power output should allow him to seamlessly transition to DH when Stanton is off the books right when Judge hits his mid-30s. He has generational power, and he’s the leader of this clubhouse.
Let’s look at how Judge projects for 2023 and what the Yankees can expect from the 2022 AL MVP:
- 6.9 fWAR (2nd)
- 163 wRC+ (2nd)
- 44 HRs (1st)
- 111 Runs (2nd)
- 150 Games Played (T-1st)
Aaron Judge is only behind Juan Soto per Steamer in multiple major categories, though they’re separated by marginal differences. It looks like Judge will remain in the discussion for best player in baseball, though Shohei Ohtani will most certainly look to reclaim his MVP throne from 2021. We know of Judge’s playoff struggles, but no one’s handled adversity in New York better than 99 over the last six years. Their 2nd spot in the lineup is secured for nearly a decade, but he wasn’t the only massive contract the Yankees handed out.
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Carlos Rodón: 6 years $162 Million
The Yankees had been linked to Carlos Rodón for what felt like an eternity, but last night it finally happened. While there were reports about perhaps a $200 million contract, the Yankees ended up getting it done for just $27 million a year over six years. While that’s still a lot of money, having the 10th highest AAV among starters despite being a top 3 pitcher arguably is pretty nuts. There are injury concerns with the 30-year-old Miami native, but last year laid out the blueprint for him to stay healthy. Making 31 starts last season, Rodón avoided an IL stint or any concerning fatigue issues, especially down the stretch.
While 2021 was his breakout season, we saw Rodón better himself in terms of Stuff+, going from a 109.5 to a 114.3, which is a massive jump. A huge part of that is leaning into being just a two-pitch pitcher, cutting his changeup from 12.5% usage to 2.0% usage, and relying on his four-seam fastball and slider more. Since 2021 he’s been a top 3 pitcher in baseball, with some ridiculous production across the board.
- 11.1 fWAR (3rd)
- 2.67 ERA (5th)
- 2.42 FIP (1st)
- 2.88 SIERA (3rd)
- 26.8% K-BB% (4th)
- 0.72 HR.9 (7th)
It’s possible the Yankees have just acquired a pitcher as good, if not a slight bit better than their already elite ace in Gerrit Cole, and that speaks volumes to how great of a signing this was for the Yankees. It balances out their rotation as well, giving them a second LHP to add to the fold to join Cortes as their southpaws. He’s the perfect co-ace for Cole, as they’re both power strikeout pitchers and are opposite-handed to each other, forcing an opponent to throw out new lineups to face the other in order to match that pitcher’s handedness. Projections adore Carlos Rodón for 2023, viewing him as a top 5 pitcher in the sport:
- 4.5 fWAR (3rd)
- 3.14 ERA (4th)
- 2.98 FIP (3rd)
- 11.7 K/9 (3rd)
- 1.06 WHIP (4th)
The Yankees have the best rotation in baseball with Carlos Rodón, but with their massive contracts out the way, let’s look at the return of a key part of their lineup last season.
Anthony Rizzo: 2 years $40 Million
Anthony Rizzo was an unsung hero for the Yankees all season in 2022, posting a 133 wRC+ and hitting 32 HRs in 130 games. He rebounded from a disappointing run from 2020-2021, where he posted just a 110 wRC+ and hit 33 HRs in 199 games, as he was hitting more groundballs and fewer line drives or pulled flyballs. The Yankees changed his offensive profile, giving him a flyball-centric swing that perfectly fit the dimensions of Yankee Stadium.
He had a 49.3% flyball%, the highest rate of his career, which resulted in his best recorded Barrel% (10.9%) and his highest career ISO (.256). He hit just .223 last season, but that’s a result of hitting more flyballs, a batted ball type that results in a low BABIP, thus, fewer of his batted balls converted for hits.
Rizzo is also a leader in the Yankees clubhouse, and while someone who’s very data-centric like myself may tend to overlook things like this, they definitely have an effect on morale. Players are people, and Rizzo has shown that he does a lot of the under-the-radar things for this team. The shift being banned could also He provides a high-contact power bat from the left-handed side to hit between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, and 2023 should still be a huge year for him per projections.
- 2.4 fWAR
- 126 wRC+
- 27 HRs
- 76 Runs
- 131 Games Played
Anthony Rizzo gives the Yankees a secure middle of the order with Judge, Rizzo, and Stanton, and it also secures their left-handed power.
Tommy Kahnle: 2 years $11.5 Million
Bringing back Tommy Kahnle just seemed like a move that every Yankee fan would have been on board with, and they answered. Kahnle has elite strikeout stuff with a nasty changeup and a power fastball, and he should slide in perfectly in the middle of the Yankees bullpen. Kahnle’s injury issues are a concern, however, the Yankees believe in his medical situation enough to give him two years guaranteed. With a 23.9% K-BB% and 68.0% GB% in his 13 outings last year, Kahnle was remarkably effective when he pitched, and his 2.84 ERA proves that his peripherals and run prevention line up.
His changeup is his money pitch, and it’s due to near 14″ of vertical separation he gets off of his four-seam fastball. While 16.2″ of Induced Vertical Break aren’t elite for a fastball, when paired with a changeup that drops that much it becomes significantly better. He’s got an arsenal that works well against both LHBs and RHBs, so he’s versatile for a Yankee bullpen that’s already gross. It’ll be risky, but Kahnle has the chance to give the Yankees top 30 RP production at under $6 million a season for the next two years, and he’s proven he can handle the Bronx.
Tommy Kahnle projects to be a solid reliever for 2023, and if he hits his projections, the Yankees could boast the best bullpen in the entire sport.
- 0.3 fWAR
- 3.50 ERA
- 3.55 FIP
- 9.86 K/9
- 1.20 WHIP
There’s always room for pitching depth on an MLB team, and Kahnle doesn’t just deepen this bullpen, but he also significantly raises its ceiling for the 2023 campaign.
What’s Next For the Yankees?
The Yankees will now pivot to signing or trading for an outfielder who can play left field, with that OF being a left-handed hitter in all likelihood. While many people are down on the Yankees’ offense, they project to finish 8th in Runs Scored per Game as of right now, so a LF could push them toward that top 5. They have plenty of players to move as well, with players such as IKF, Hicks, and Donaldson all being downgrades over internal options. Peraza, a new LF, and LeMahieu serve as the replacements for those three full-time, and top prospect Anthony Volpe isn’t too far behind.
The Yankees added some interesting MiLB depth as well, with James Norwood and Art Warren both showing elite stuff and the latter in Warren striking out 41.5% of batters in his last fully healthy season in 2021. It’s been a successful offseason so far for the Yankees, and while the next few months won’t be as loud, they’ll serve as the final touches for a team poised to make a World Series push in 2023. Improving is the goal, and up to this point, this is a much-improved ballclub from the one who got swept in the ALCS by the Houston Astros two months ago.