|Yankee Stadium. Photo by Jason Schott.|
After the Yankees season ended meekly with a sweep at the hands of their nemesis, the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series, making it 13 years the win-or-bust Bronx Bombers have not won a World Series.
This seemed to finally be the offseason that the Yankees would finally switch things up and realize their formula - win a ton in the regular season every year but fade in the playoffs - was running stale.
The biggest concern is, of course, whether they bring back free agent outfielder Aaron Judge, who is really the epitome of the problem. He hit a Yankees and American League record 62 home runs, but in the postseason, he hit just .139, or 5-for-36, with two home runs and three RBI. For his career, he has hit .211 with 13 home runs and 25 RBI in 44 games.
That being said, if they bring back Judge, it's hard to argue with that because he is their biggest star by far and brings in a lot of revenue.
The thing is, it's a 26-man team, so you General Manager Brian Cashman (yes, even though his contract expired, he's still here) could change the players around him. The past two weeks have shown that likely won't happen, that they still believe they are thisclose to a championship.
This began when the Yankees decided to bring back starting pitcher Luis Severino, as they picked up his one-year option for 2023, as the offseason commenced on November 7. Unlike the Mets locking up closer Edwin Diaz immediately, likely to prevent a bidding war, what was the hurry on Severino?
Like Judge, Severino is a lifelong Yankee, so there is a sentimental factor there, but he largely missed the entire 2020 and '21 seasons, and then the 2022 season was a mixed bag. He went 7-3 with a 3.18 ERA (earned run average) in 19 starts in the regular season, and openly questioned why the Yankees put him on the 60-day injured list in July when he had a low-grade right lat strain. He returned in late September, and then was winless in his two playoff starts.
Then, the Yankees brought back first baseman Anthony Rizzo on a two-year contract, with a club option for 2025. This made a lot of sense, as Rizzo has fit in like a glove since he arrived at the 2021 trade deadline from the Chicago Cubs.
This past season, the 33-year-old had a .224 batting average, a .338 on-base percentage, and a .480 slugging percentage, with 32 home runs and 75 RBI.
The Yankees then made a mystifying move on Friday as they decided to bring back shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa on a one-year contract.
Kiner-Falefa had a disappointing first year in pinstripes, after being long sought-after by Cashman brought him in from the Minnesota Twins, where he spent a day after he was traded from the Texas Rangers during spring training. Though they got rid of catcher Gary Sanchez in the deal, the trade was largely a flop, as they also sent third baseman Gio Urshela and absorbed the bloated contract of fading star third baseman Josh Donaldson.
When the Yankees got Kiner-Falefa, he had a reputation as a good defender, but that was exposed by his 16 errors. At the plate, he wasn't much better, as he hit .261 with four home runs and 48 RBI.
Kiner-Falefa's performance was so bad, he was benched in the playoffs for two rookies, Owaldo Cabrera, whom they brought in from left field; and Oswald Peraza, who played just 18 regular season games.
The thinking is that IKF will basically hold the position until they deem top prospect Anthony Volpe or Cabrera ready to take over the position on a day-to-day basis, and it basically takes them out of the sweepstakes to lure Xander Bogaerts or Dansby Swanson to The Bronx.
In another move showing fans to not expect a lot of changes, on Friday, the Yankees agreed to terms on a one-year contract with right-handed relief pitcher Lou Trivino. When they brought him in from Oakland, the thinking was he would be a reliable reliever, but he underwhelmed, as he pitched in 25 games, and allowed six runs (four earned) on 25 hits and 10 walks, which gave him a pretty high WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 1.292.
The one move the Yankees could make that would switch things up would be if they sign outfielder Cody Bellinger, whom the Dodgers declined to offer a contract for the 2023 season. While he has had a tough couple seasons (in 2021, he hit .165 with 10 home runs and 36 RBI, and in 2022, he hit .210 with 19 HR and 65 RBI), he still has a lot of appeal.
Bellinger has one of the most recognizable swings in baseball, a wind-up motion that makes him a home run threat every time he's up, he is a left-handed hitter, and since he earned $17 million in '22, could probably get him for less. Also, the name has a certain ring with Yankees fans because his father, Clay, played for the Yankees, and won two World Series rings in 1999 and 2000.