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Whenever the MLB Players Union and Owners get their act together, the MLB will be back for business. When that day comes, the New York Yankees have work to do. The Yankees have a lot of holes on the team that they need to fill. Once the lockout ends, GM Brian Cashman needs to get to work too quickly retool this team for the 2022 season.
Their up and down 2021 season ended in disappointing fashion with a Wild Card game loss to their hated rivals the Boston Red Sox. Now they are losing ground to the rest of the league in free agency, including cross town rival New York Mets. The final month of the season and playoffs expose many weaknesses for the Yankees.
The Yankees are in a holding pattern with the luxury tax number, which almost seems like it's been for a few years. The Yankees have been outspent by countless clubs because they don't want to be tax players anymore. But they Yankees have played cheap until they thought better of it. Back in 2006, Bubba Crosby was going to be the CF of the future until the Yankees signed Johnny Damon. The Yankees waited until the last minute in the 2009 offseason into they pulled the trigger on Mark Teixeira. Infamously in 2013, the Yankees watch Robinson Cano go to Seattle to get under the 2014 luxury tax threshold. Then the Yankees spent a total of $458MM on Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka. We need Hal Steinbrenner to go against logic and go all in. Here are some of my suggestions on how they can quickly rebuild this team.
Upgrade at the Shortstop position
The Yankees are prepared to move off of Gleyber Torres at SS and upgrade this off season. There's no shortstop on the market on the level of Carlos Correa or Trevor Story. There's advantages and disadvantages to both, but the path to an upgrade clearly runs through them.
The Yankees were slow to the Hot Stove season this year. They already missed out on free agents Javier Baez, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. Actually, Seager and Semien are now the Texas Rangers’ new double-play combo as Seager got 10 years, $325MM. If the Yankees strikeout on Correa or Story, then the only way to upgrade will be with defensive minded SS like Andrelton Simmons or Freddy Galvis.
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Correa is the sexy pickup at shortstop to upgrade. He's coming off a monster season and is a World Series champion. Correa is a career .277 hitter, but this season Correa hit .279 with 26 HRs (career high) and 92 RBIs. Correa is a star on offense and on defense, which makes his price tag very high. He is looking for well over $300MM and will test the Yankees willingness to approach the luxury tax threshold. The top shortstops signed massive deals last offseason as stars Fernando Tatis Jr. (14 years, $340 million) and Francisco Lindor (10 years, $341 million) all secured the bag. Will the Yankees pay that much for Correa?
Story on the other hand has been linked to the Yankees for a few seasons. The Yankees almost pulled off a trade for him at the deadline so he's a player the Yankees are easily interested in. Sorry us a .272 career hitter and while his average dipped in 2021, he still hit 24 HRs and drive in 75 RBIs. Previously, Story hit .291 in 2018, .294 in 2019 and .289 in 2020. His average do might possibly make him a cheaper option for the Yankees than Correa. Story might not get the money he's looking for and accept a 1-year deal for $25MM. Story could possibly bet on himself with a one year deal then enter next free agency season when less elite shortstops are available.
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The Yankees believe two of their best prospects, Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe, are very close to being major League ready. The Yankees might not want to block the shortstop position with free agents, but can they afford to wait? Fans have gone 12 years without a ring and the 2010s was the first decade in over 90 years they haven't won a World Series.
Aggressively pursue 1B Freddie Freeman…
Another big issues with the Yankees this offseason is the spending. Yankees don't want to go over the luxury tax. They've waited until after the lockout to understand what the luxury cap number is before they pursue free agents. Freddie Freeman is one of the examples of them waiting to get a clear picture of the luxury tax.
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Freeman has the numbers the Yankees have lacked at 1B for years. But his last two seasons have seen his numbers slide. Freeman hit .222 with a .755 OPS in the Covid shortened 2020 and .248 with a .783 OPS last season. That's compared to Freeman hitting .294 with a .901 OPS from 2014 to 2019. Despite the numbers, Freeman is an upgrade over the often injured Luke Voit. The biggest issue is that Freeman’s going to be very expensive. He reportedly rejected 5 years / $135MM from the Atlanta Braves this offseason. Freeman is looking to be in the 6 years / $180-200MM range. That might be out of the Yankees budget unless they deal some pieces.
...or trade for first baseman Matt Olson
Oakland Athletics have made it clear that stud 1B Matt Olson is available via trade this offseason. The Yankees have been linked to Olsen for a few years now and are showing interest in him this offseason. The A’s are looking to cut costs every offseason and Olson is set to make $12MM this season then will get a nice pay day when he becomes a free agent. The trade rumors have even added 3B Matt Chapman to the mic, which would check off multiple boxes for the Bombers.
Photo Credit: San Francisco Chronicle
Olson is there perfect fit for the Yankees; he's a left-handed power bat, plays excellent first base and is cost friendly. Olsen is the perfect fit for the short porch in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have been desperate to find left handed bats to balance a poorly constructed right-handed lineup.
Olson made his first All-Star team last year and has two Gold Gloves under his belt as well. Olsen slashed an awesome .271/.371/.540/.911 with 39 HRs and 111 RBIs. Olson slots right into the middle of the lineup and he is more cost effective than Freeman. Their issue is the A's will want a haul for him. They are eyeing 3-4 of the Yankees to 20 prospects for Olsen. SS Oswald Peraza, RHP Luis Gil, RHP Yoendrys Gomez and C Austin Wells are names being floated around in a trade. That might be a steep price to pay.