The New York Yankees have set themselves up for success in 2020, especially after the record-signing of Gerrit Cole several weeks ago. Owner, Hal Steinbrenner, is keen on taking his team to the World Series for the first time in a decade next season, and it starts with pitching.
The Bombers have embodied their synonymous name in recent years, focusing on the long ball and getting hitters on base to capitalize. However, the plan fell through in the ALCS against the Houston Astros, as their pitchers managed to mow down a majority of Yankee batters, a reality Cashman seeks for his team moving forward.
Having Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke, posed a significant threat to the Yankees, one they were unable to overcome. After stealing Cole away from Houston, the starting pitching rotation is now plush with talent.
Questions remain, though.
Here are three questions the Yankees still need to answer going in 2020:
1.) Is J.A. Happ going to be traded?
With one year left on his contract, Happ will count $17 million against the salary cap, which puts him in a disadvantageous position. The former Blue Jay performed well in 2018 when he was initially traded to the Yankees, logging a 7-0 record and a 2.69 ERA. However, last season, he took a significant step back in his efficiency, earning a catastrophic 4.91 ERA.
The signing of Cole should see Happ the door, but unloading the contract won’t be an easy task.
2.) What will Miguel Andujar’s role be?
With Gio Urshela finishing the 2019 season batting .314, it’s hard to imagine Andujar will simply take over at the hot corner. Utilizing him as the designated hitter seems more likely if he’s not traded. Cashman has dangled the idea of trading him for a relief pitcher, Josh Hader, but nothing has materialized as of yet.
Andujar batted .297 with 47 doubles and 27 homers just two years ago, meaning he’s more than capable of returning to form at such a young age. His defense needs some work, but expect him to be injected into the lineup in one way or another.
3.) Can the Yankees trust Kyle Higashioka?
With Gary Sanchez battling injuries regularly, having a capable backup is essential. When Sanchez is playing well, he’s one of the best catchers in baseball, but his inevitable ailment will hurt the Yankees’ production offensively. The question here isn’t whether Higashioka can handle the defensive tasks, but rather the offensive production Romine left behind.
Romine, who batted .281 last season over 228 at-bats, will compete for a starting job with the Detroit Tigers in 2020. Kyle hit .214 in 2019, logging three homers over 56 at-bats. While the sample size is small, there’s reason to believe he’s not the best option to back up Sanchez. Cashman did add Erik Kratz as competition, but at 40-years-old, the evidence doesn’t justify his quality either.