The New York Yankees finished the 2023 regular season in 4th place in the American League East. They were eliminated from the postseason earlier than expected and barely cracked the .500 win percentage mark. In fact, they won only 82 games and featured a -25 run differential.
With Aaron Judge hurt for the second half of the year and the Yankees dragging a number of inefficient players along for the ride, general manager Brian Cashman did his best to overhaul a team that desperately needed more competent bats. They lost a few pitchers in free agency, including Frankie Montas and Luis Severino, but their performance was underwhelming anyway, reinforcing the unit with Marcus Stroman and hoping for Carlos Rodon’s bounce back.
The team certainly didn’t get worse this off-season, which is why it’s interesting to consider them a “third-place team,” according to one MLB insider.
Jim Duquette had some criticism for the Yankees’ ability to compete in 2024 via the “Foul Territory” podcast:
“I think they’re (a) third place team in the American (League East),” Duquette said. “That’s not good enough for the Yankees right now.”
The Yankees Are a Better Team Now
The Yankees added a World Series-caliber piece to the equation in Juan Soto and an above-average bat in Alex Verdugo. In 2023, their outfield combination of Judge, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and whoever they could find off the street to play left field certainly didn’t do them any favors. Soto will provide the Bombers with an incredible hitter at the top of the order, and Verdugo, a lefty bat, should support the bottom half, virtually replacing Harrison Bader.
Considering this Yankee team, a third-place roster is certainly an interesting take and one that likely won’t hold true in 2024. Cashman is still scouring the market for additions, and a few trade deadline moves could support the World Series aspirations moving forward, but there are a few categories where improvement is undoubtedly expected.
Notably, hitting with runners and scoring position was a liability last year. With runners on base, the Yankees hit .227/.310/.367, ranking second to last, just ahead of the Oakland Athletics. Fortunately, Soto should overhaul that number by himself. With RISP, Soto hit .299/.439/.576, including nine home runs and 71 RBIs. Pairing him with Judge at the top of the lineup will give the Yanks an elite dynamic to work with.
From an offensive perspective, this team isn’t even remotely the same, so estimating they won’t be competitive is outlandish. In fact, their pitching should see an improvement, given that Nestor Cortes was essentially a non-factor, and Rodon will likely take a step in the right direction. A perfect storm of bad occurred in 2023, making it more probable of an upward trend than reverting back to one of the worst seasons the Yankees have endured in a decade.
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