New York Yankees: Still many questions for the Yankees in 2021

Apr 12, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Domingo German (65) and catcher Gary Sanchez (24) talk during the forth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

This morning the New York Yankees are getting ready to get George M. Steinbrenner Field and training center ready for catchers and pitchers to report on February 17, after the MLBPA rejected the owner’s called for a 154 game season that would start on April 28th. The owners wanted the delayed season to give more time for more arms to be inoculated with the coronavirus vaccine and have a better chance of having some fans in the stands to generate revenue.

The Major League Baseball Players Association for the second time this offseason flatly and immediately rejected the idea. They said a compressed season would allow for more injures that outweigh the coronavirus risk. Also, the owner’s plan would move the end of the season from late October to mid-November. That in itself is problematic with the snow possibility in northern baseball parks. If you recall the contentious negotiations between MLB and MLBPA last before the start of last season, don’t expect this to be the final word. There is still time for several other fights over several remaining issues.

With questions on the coronavirus that is again ramping up around the country for the New York Yankees, several questions are still answered. The Yankees completely revamped their pitching rotation once they found out what funds they would have after re-signing DJ LeMahieu, which was their major priority. The Yankees have added two more pitchers to the starting rotation that did not pitch last season. They now have four pitchers with question marks next to their names, either returning from injury, surgery, or suspension.

Earlier in the offseason, when talking about Domingo German that was 18-4 before being suspended for breaking domestic violence protocol, owner Hal Steinbrenner made it clear that Domingo, would have to show him that he was a changed man to rejoin the team. That being said, very shortly thereafter, it was widely assumed that he would, in fact, be the number two starter behind Gerrit Cole at the start of the season. But the landscape has changed since then with the additions to the starting rotation. Now there are future questions that he may not even make the roster. The front office seems to be doubling down on the changed man factor. GM Cashman and manager Brian Cashman will sit down with him to discuss matters when he arrives at spring camp.

Again, earlier in the offseason, Brian Cashman said he was confident that Luis Severino would be rehabbed from Tommy John surgery and ready to rejoin the team in June or mid-July at the latest. Cashman dropped a bomb during an interview late last week when he said that Severino’s rehab is going well but said that he would be ready late in the summer. The time difference went unexplained. Severino has already had setbacks in his rehab.

With the absence of German and Severino, the New York Yankees starting rotation now looks like this: Gerrit Cole (healthy), Corey Kluber (injuries, hasn’t pitched in a year and a half), Jameson Taillon (coming back from his second Tommy John surgery), Jordan Montgomery (second season since his Tommy John surgery), and Deivi Garcia who made his Major League debut last season and has only 35.1 innings under his belt. Although there are tremendous upsides here, there a several performance concerns as well. The New York Yankees have considerable pitching depth, but will it be enough should one or two of these players be injured?

The questions don’t end with starting pitching. As far as the bullpen is concerned, the Yankees, rather than taking a chance on a rebound from Adam Ottavino, they in a salary dump moved him to the Boston Red Sox. They replaced him with one of the best relievers in the game by adding Darren O’Day to the pen. The Yankees also lost Tommy Kahnle to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Other than some mid-game relievers, namely Adam Warren and Nestor Cortes Jr., they really haven’t addressed the loss of Tommy Kahnle, so bullpen questions have yet to be fully resolved.

In other questions, success in the 2021 season may hinge on catcher Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres’s rebounding. Sanchez had a horrible season last year on both sides of the plate. He didn’t catch particularly well. His offense was mostly missing throughout the season, leading him to be benched for many games late in the season and during the postseason being replaced by Kyle Higashioka, who is better defensive-wise and was hitting well, even with power. The Torres situation is a little different, he wasn’t as bad as Sanchez, but he had only 3 home runs, compared to 38 in 2019. His batting average also dropped 30 points. The Yankees need him to return to his 2019 form.

In addition, the New York Yankees have not made a decision on the return of Brett Gardner for yet another season. There is a lot of sentimentalities here for the return of the 13 year Yankees veteran. Clint Frazier proved last year that he can handle left field but how he will perform in a 162 game season remains to be seen. He could share the duties with Mike Tauctman. The Yankees still have some money left over, the question will be will they bring Gardner back for his defense or will they spend it on another bullpen addition?