Yankees face a pivotal decision to determine their future

yankees, aaron judge
May 31, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; New York Yankees designated hitter Aaron Judge (99) waits for a pitch during an at-bat against the New York Yankees at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees‘ 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night further underscored a frustrating trade deadline period. Despite a dire need for offensive support, the Yankees limited their acquisitions to two bullpen additions.

General Manager Brian Cashman stood by his decisions, asserting that the team still possesses the potential to win and selling off rental players was not a viable option, given the potential return.

“In terms of the sell stuff, there’s certainly a lot of players here that are talented, that playoff teams would like to get their hands on. But in terms of trying to pry that away from us, it wasn’t really worth it. I’d rather just keep it and take a shot,” Cashman explained.

Yankees’ Direction: An Unsettled Strategy for 2024

The Yankees seem to have faltered in establishing a clear direction. They needed to decide whether to reset for the 2024 season by acquiring prospects or actively seeking improvements to pursue a World Series run.

Their inactivity during the trade deadline served as a painful reminder of why the Yankees have struggled this year and have been associated with some of the least successful trades in recent times. Recalling the trades bringing Isiah Kiner-Falefa and Josh Donaldson to the Bronx, or Frankie Montas, whose appearances in pinstripes have been sparse, can be disheartening.

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The Critical Choice: Prospects vs. Expiring Contracts

The Yankees now face a critical decision: to offer their prospects opportunities at the MLB level or to persist with players on expiring contracts who may not impact their future performance.

Players like Harrison Bader and Kiner-Falefa, among others, are likely to leave the team post-2023 season unless they secure new deals. This opens the door for new additions. If losses continue to mount, management must provide younger players with opportunities. Currently, the Yankees lag 11 games behind in the AL East and are 3.5 games short in the Wild Card race.

Financial Reset: A Hard Look at Aging Contracts

The team is burdened with several aging contracts and underperforming veterans, hampering their future spending plans. Thus, a desperate attempt to reset their financial situation and stay below the luxury tax threshold is underway.

After Aaron Judge’s $360 million, nine-year contract, owner Hal Steinbrenner clearly signaled an intent to curb expenses, a sentiment Cashman echoed post-deadline. This raises questions for the off-season when the Yankees have roughly $50 million to spend but significant needs to address, coupled with a thin open market. Shohei Ohtani is the star of the upcoming free agency class, but options dwindle rapidly beyond him.

The Future: Looking at Potential Acquisitions

At the very least, the Yankees are likely to pursue Cody Bellinger to secure the centerfield position for the long term. Bellinger is excelling in the 2023 season and also offers the versatility to play first base down the line.

However, concern grows for the team’s future strategy. With a solid farm system and several promising prospects, reluctance to play these potential stars raises questions. Thus, how the Yankees choose to navigate this crossroads will significantly impact their trajectory in the seasons to come.