For fans of the New York Yankees and the other 29 MLB teams, it was an exciting few weeks after the World Series was won by the Atlanta Braves, as teams prepared for the 2022 season. Most teams did everything they could to bolster their chances to make the postseason by adding key pieces to their teams. Then came the big funk; the owners and players couldn’t agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The result was Commissioner Rob Manfred locking out the players.
The old CBA expired on December 1, and the hot stove frenzy came to an immediate halt. Before the expiration, 25 of the top 50 free agents went to new teams, but now with the lockout, all of that has come to a halt. Owners and players can’t even talk to each other. No new contracts, no trades, no nothing until a new agreement can be reached. With the sides still far apart and not negotiation in good faith, it could spell for a long lockout and even a delay in spring training.
Much to the chagrin of Yankee fans, their team didn’t really take part in all the fun. Yankee GM Brian Cashman remained mostly inactive as other teams, some making major moves to improve their teams. The Yankees hired a few coaches and picked up a couple of pitchers in the Rule 5 draft, but that was just about it. Now the Yankees have to wait until there is a new CBA. Although many of the best free agents have already been signed, there still are options for the Yankees, but they will have to act quickly.
“As a team and as an organization, we must grow, evolve and improve. We need to get better. Period,” chairman Hal Steinbrenner said in a statement after the Yankees re-signed manager Aaron Boone to a new three-year contract. But that has not happened; it’s just been talk and not much of it. Instead, the Yankees have taken a wait-and-see attitude, and some insanely huge contracts have been signed by some of the best free agents available.
The Yankees could still salvage the offseason if they are smart and act quickly. Even though they have not supplemented their need for a shortstop, number two starting pitcher, help at first base, and an upgrade in center field, there is still time to make those needs a reality.
Looking at the shortstop situation, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, and Javier Baez, three of the best shortstops in free agency, are already gone to new teams, some for some incredibly big contracts. That leaves Trevor Story and Carlos Correa, who likely will not go to the Yankees. The Yankees seem to be centered on Andrelton Simmons, who is pretty washed up, and the better choice of Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who would be a definite upgrade to Gleyber Torres. The Yankee might be able to get him on a short contract while they await the development of Anthony Volpe or Oswald Peraza.
However, the Yankees could still surprise with a mega-contract for the services of Carlos Correa, much like they did with Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole.
One thing we have learned is never to try to outguess Brian Cashman. To make that happen, owner Hal Steinbrenner will have to open the purse, knowing that a hefty contract extension will soon have to be offered to superstar Aaron Judge.
On the pitching front, the Yankees let two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber go to the Tampa Bay Rays, leaving them without a one-two punch that will be needed going into the postseason. However, the Yankees did make a play for the Astros Justin Verlander, who was coming off Tommy John surgery. The Yankees offered a one-year deal, but he apparently has accepted an offer for the same money ($25 million) from the Astros for two years and a third-year option.
Just like shortstop, some of the best starting pitchers are already gone. Noah Syndergaard has gone to the Angels, Robbie Ray has gone to the Mariners, and Kevin Gausman has signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. Max Scherzer went to the cross-town Mets. Eduardo Rodriguez went to the Tigers. Cashman will have to work his magic with those big names off the market.
As far as center field is concerned, they already have an everyday center fielder in Aaron Hicks; the problem with Hicks is his injury history and ability to stay on the field. The Yankee front office has more than mentioned a backup if he can’t remain healthy. There are still several center fielders available that the Yankees should consider. Kevin Pillar, Brett Gardner, and Odubel Herrera are all available. The smart move would be to trade for Bryan Reynolds or Cedric Mullins; both would cost plenty. One free-agent target, the Yankees, were actively pursuing is Japanese star outfielder Seiyu Suzuki. However, he isn’t the perfect fit.
Likewise, at first base, the Yankees have holdover Luke Voit who is at best adequate, but he too has health problems. So the Yankee should upgrade that position by re-signing Anthony Rizzo. If they want to go big, Freddie Freeman is the best first baseman out there, but it will cost big bucks.
The big question for the Yankees and its fans, is once a new CBA is agreed upon, will owner Hal Steinbrenner open the purse to allow the rebuilding of a championship team? They have the money if they want to spend it. The other is, will Brian Cashman pounce early enough before his options are gone?