The New York Yankee season is over, falling short of another World Series win. The “Boss” George Steinbrenner, if alive, would say it’s another failed season. If you consider not winning the World Series failing, then he is correct. But there is a lot to be said about getting to a wild card berth, win or not. Many other AL teams can’t say that. But the one with the biggest payroll; more is expected of them. The Yankees have not had a losing season since 1992. But the last World Series they won was in 2009.
Manager Joe Girardi won the 2009 World Series. But after not repeating for the next eight years and amongst complaints about being too strict, the Yankees moved on from Girardi and hired Aaron Boone. Boone has been mostly successful in bringing the team to 100 wins, 103 wins, 33 wins in a short season, and 92 wins this year. But, regardless of that success, he has never gotten the team beyond late-season failures.
With each passing year, New York Yankee fans, even the most ardent fans, have become less patient waiting for the Yankees to win. Some fans have given up and moved on to other teams and even other sports. This isn’t good for business and baseball, although a game is a business. Principle owner Hal Steinbrenner and company have to figure out how to turn this team around. Yankee stadium never had a sell-out crowd this season. That is lost dollars, lots of them.
After a very inconsistent season that certainly cost them a trip to the World Series, the New York Yankees have many questions that must be answered before they try this all over again. And this year, there are more questions to be addressed than usual. So let’s have at it.
Renew Aaron Boone’s contract?
In 2018 Aaron Boone was hired as the new Yankee manager on a four-year contract that was over last night. So the Yankee organization has to decide whether to renew his contract or move on from the one-time manager.
When Boone was hired, many Yankee fans said, “Aaron who?”. Boone was never a great baseball player and had never managed even a minor league team. Others have learned to dislike him; still, others think he has done a good job. Most managers in baseball were catchers who seemed to have a better understanding of all baseball operations—Boone, who spent most of his career with the Cincinnati Reds primarily as a third baseman.
Boone will receive most of the blame for this poor season, although much of that blame can be placed on the hitters themselves, as Boone can’t hit for the hitters or pitch for the pitchers. Many fans question his decisions and his lack of holding bad players responsible for their play. Boone, with his style, constantly praises the team when they lose. An excellent example of that is his praise of Gerrit Cole after last night’s wild-card loss saying he threw some good pitches.
However, one must be cautious in blaming Boone. Many believe that Boone was hired to be a mouthpiece for Brian Cashman, the Yankee front office, making the significant decisions and Boone following them, only to be allowed to make minor decisions on the field during games. However, even those skeptical of that theory admit that the Yankee office and analytics department have too much influence over how the games are played.
Examine the organizational philosophy?
With so many questions unanswered about why this team can’t win big year after year, is it time to examine how the whole organization is run? Under the present philosophy, whether Boone is brought back or not, they would only hire another yes man that would be subject to the highly analytics-based front office.
All baseball teams receive the same analytics; it differs in how they are communicated and how they are executed. A manager who uses those stats exclusively and ignores what he sees on the field or who is hot and who is not will lose a lot of games. Analytics are a guide, not a user manual.
Should the Yankees hire a Bruce Bochi, Buck Showalter, or the like, it would require an entire shakeup of how the organization runs. Neither of these guys are yes men and would be challenging to work with under the present makeup. But it’s fair to mention that Bochi’s management style has brought the San Francisco Giants to win 107 games this season for the most in baseball and with less talent than the Yankees.
Brian Cashman will have much to do with if the Yankees are willing to examine themselves. Cashman is the driving force for how the Yankees perform. But many times in the past, Cashman has been slow to act. Lingering questions with Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez are examples of that. Last season he failed to act to improve the team. This year got two lefties to balance the lineup that fans have been screaming about for years.
Exceed the luxury tax threshold?
Do the Yankees need to exceed the luxury tax threshold to win finally. No!. Spending a lot of money has not helped them much. Better run and better-managed teams have gone further season after season. The Oakland Athletics and the Tampa Bay Rays have done it on about 30% of the Yankees payroll.
Extend Aaron Judge’s contract?
This may be the most challenging question to address in this off-season. If the Yankees offer Judge a contract, it will be huge. The question is do the Yankees want to spend that much, and if they do, how badly will it tie their hands on solving the other team’s needs.
Judge turns 30 next year, and based on his injury record, signing a long-term contract with him is risky at best. This season is the first season he has been healthy since 2017. Between 2018 and 2020, he played in only 243 games. So the question remains how much and for how long. It is doubtful that the Yankees will go more than six years, even though Judge has said he wants to retire a Yankee, according to Bryan Hock.
Aaron Judge’s value is at its highest and could draw the most if the Yankees were willing to trade him. The Yankees could get a quality pitcher, a shortstop, and a few choice prospects for him. However, whether an extension could be agreed upon would most likely be a Derek Jeter-like situation, taking less than he is worth.
How to fix the Yankee outfield?
During this season, the Yankees have had either a drought or glut in the outfield. Aaron Judge is a solid right fielder, and Joey Gallo will be with the team in left field through 2022. However, the Yankees don’t have a true centerfielder with any kind of future. Brett Gardner has been adequate in the position, but it becomes more doubtful that the 38-year-old will return each year. In addition, Aaron Hicks (yes, remember him?) has yet to prove he can stay healthy.
If they fix that, they still have Tyler Wade and Giancarlo Stanton options to add to the mix and give days off.
Obtain a real shortstop?
There is still the ongoing question about Gleybe Torre’s worth to the team. Late this season, the Yankees finally realized they made a mistake trying to make Gleyber Torres a shortstop. Torres is no longer a 22-year-old with a bright future; he has become tarnished goods. He will turn 25 in December and is coming off of two back-to-back poor seasons on defense and offense. The Yankees, to a degree, have overlooked his poor defense because he led the team in 2019 with 38 home runs, but since then, he has only 12 long balls. What the Yankees should be most concerned about is his lack of growth.
The Yankees have moved Torres to second, where he has played better but not by much. That pushed a Gold Glove second baseman DJ LeMahieu, into being a utility player. Unfortunately, LeMahieu’s performance has not been as good since the move. While the Yankees have one of baseball’s top prospects, Anthony Volpe, he probably won’t be big team ready for another year or two. With Torre’s continued poor play, the Yankees should at least inquire about options in free agency this offseason.
What to do with the catcher situation?
Oh boy, this question yet again. Gary Sanchez has been one of the most controversial Yankee players since he became the Yankees lead catcher in 2017. That was a year that was pretty good for the young man. But since then, he has not duplicated that performance and has often been criticized for his performance behind at backstop. He continues to be a less-than-average defender and has had a poor batting average.
Last year, he had a disastrous season, hitting only .147 and losing his starting status in favor of backup catcher Kyle Higashioka, a better defender. Sanchez is still around because when he is hot, he can hit the long ball and has a rocket of an arm preventing many stolen bases. He has hit more this year with an average of .204 but still strikes out too much. With the other questions facing the Yankees, it is doubtful they will move Sanchez.
What to do with the loose ends?
The Yankees have two obvious loose ends. One is whether to renew a contract with first baseman Anthony Rizzo and, if they do, what they will do with Luke Voit. I wouldn’t be surprised if Luke Voit is not with the Yankees next season. He could be used in a trade. With the glut at DH, his use to the club is limited. He also has not been able to stay healthy while with the Yankees. If the Yankees choose to replace Gleyber Torres at short, he too will become a trading piece.
How to reinforce the pitching staff?
The New York Yankees certainly need to beef up the pitching staff. Jameson Taillon is under contract through 2022 and is arbitration-eligible as of today. Also, as of today, Corey Kluber is a free agent. That leaves Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery as the Yankees starting rotation. The organization will have to examine what place Luis Severino and Domingo German have going forward and if they need to replace Kluber if he doesn’t sign with the Yankees.
At the beginning of the season, the Yankees had one of the strongest bullpens in baseball. Unfortunately, as the season progressed, they lost much of their strength. Set up man Zack Britton underwent Tommy John surgery to keep him out until at least the end of the 2022 season. Justin Wilson and the Yankee’s best long reliever Luis Cessa went to the Reds in a salary dump. Darren O’Day, the sidearmer, had a shoulder injury followed by a hamstring strain that kept him away from the team for the rest of the season.
In a major disappointment this season for the bullpen, on July 31st Tommy Kahnle revealed that had a partially torn UCL and required Tommy John surgery. The Yankees outrighted him and he choose free agency. Just days afterward he signed a new contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Yankees picked up a few arms at the trade deadline, Andrew Heaney proved useless. These losses and moves left the bullpen short of components and overworked.
Not knowing if Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, or Clarke Schmidt will be ready for the big time in 2022, the Yankees may have to go shopping to bolster the starting rotation and the bullpen. Unfortunately, any moves they make may have to wait until the end of spring training, when they can further evaluate their options.