Updated: Oct 7
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Another season in the books and another season the Yankees have failed to win the World Series. It's World Series or bust in New York and it's been a bust going on 12 years. The Yankees have made the playoffs for 5 straight years and don't have a World Series appearance to show for it.
It was a roller coaster season for the Yankees, as they got off to a slow start and played sub .500 baseball up until the all-star break. Trades for Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo reignited the Yankees and they went on a torrid run of 21-8 in August. But 15-12 September saw the Yankees forced to play into the wild card game and unable to chase down the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees aren't good enough to compete with the Tampa Bay Rays consistently, and now add the Red Sox to that list as the Yankees went 10-9 in the regular season against the Red Sox. It's been 5 years that this team was supposed to get over the hump and clearly they're just not built well enough to make a run into the playoffs.
There are question marks for Brian Cashman to answer this offseason. Who will play shortstop and center field next season? What to do with Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez? Let's start to unpack it all.
A season to forget for Gerrit Cole
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The big headline will be the $324 million pitcher who failed to pitch past the third inning in his biggest game so far as a Yankee. Gerrit Cole has had an up and down 2021 season. He got off to a great start highlighted by his masterful complete Game shutout performance against the Houston Astros. Cole's season on paper is Cy Young worthy; 16-8 record, 3.23 ERA, and 243 strikeouts. But the eyeball test says that he wasn't the best pitcher this season. Cole's hamstring injury and a stint on the covid list clearly affected he's effectiveness in the second half.
Cole pitched to a 5.13 ERA in September and while he said there injury wasn't an issue, clearly something was off. Cole had never pitched fewer than 5 innings in the postseason in his career. Cole only lasted 2+ innings Tuesday and matched his shortest outing in the majors. Cole will forever be linked to this performance until he changes the narrative much like Alex Rodriguez did in 2009. I expect them to have a bounce back season next year determined to make good on why the Yankees paid him over $36 million per season.
The "Budget" Yankee experiment didn't work
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The Yankees offseason wasn't quiet, but didn't make the huge splash that you normally expect from that high payroll yankees. They opted to bring in Jameson Taillon (coming back from Tommy John surgery) and Corey Kluber to reinforce a shaky starting rotation. While Talion show signs after a rocky start, injuries hailed his September. Talion finished the season with a 8-6 record on a 4.30 ERA. But in July, Talion was 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA.
Corey Kluber was also coming off of major injury this offseason and the Yankees took a one-year deal flyer on the picture to see if he can regain his Cy Young form. Kluber pitched well, including a no-hitter this season, but injuries saw him on the shelf in the second half. Overall, the 2 time Cy Young winner was 5-3 with a 3.83 ERA for the Yankees. But he's a free agent and might look to cash in on his performance.
The Yankees should have Luis Severino and Domingo German for a full season next season along with Jordan Montgomery and Nestor Cortes. Cortes was forced into a starter role for the Yankees and was brilliant. You can look at him as a solid back end starter now.
With the collective bargaining agreement coming up this offseason, the Yankees like many other teams should be able to spend. The days of staying under a self-imposed luxury tax cap at $189 million should be out the window. The Tampa Bay Rays have frustrated the Yankees over the last 10 years by spending less and winning more. The Yankees can't compete with the rays by spending less, they don't have the tools in other areas that the rays have. The Rays traded their best pictures this off season and still are the best team in the American League. There will be a lot of free agents out there for the Yankees to grab and if they are as frustrated as the fans are it's time to start spending some money.
What to do with Sanchez, Torres, Gardner & Hicks?
Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres came up in the majors with a lot of promise and were seen as the cornerstones of this Yankee team. Now there's doubt in the minds of many if you even bring these guys back in 2022.
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Gary Sanchez is the hardest question to answer. You get you get some home runs with Sanchez, but you get a lot of strikeouts, sub .200 hitter, and poor defense at best. Kyle Higashioka is the better defensive catcher but is a light hitter at .181 batting average. Gary Sanchez has got multiple chances every season to be the Yankees future catcher, but is never broken through. With no real catching prospects on the free agent market, unless there's a trade to be had you might have to bring back Sanchez for one more year.
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Gleyber Torres was seen as the future of this ball club along with Aaron Judge. He hit 38 home runs in 2019, and was seen as an MVP candidate that season. He was only 22 years old and the future was bright. But his power has diminished this year and his defensive play at shortstop was horrendous. The move back to second base has clearly helped him in September as pressure of playing defense at shortstop is gone and his back came to life. It's hard to move on from a 25-year-old stud like labor, but he's not a shortstop. There's a lot of sexy names out there at shortstop this off season (Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Javier Baez, Trevor Story and Marcus Semien). Combined shaky defense and sometimes a lack of hustle, it's easy to want to move on from Torres. They had a down year from DJ LeMahieu, who was struggling with injuries, and Gio Urshela is your 3B. They have to move someone or ship them out.
Aaron Hicks, remember him? He was supposed to be the Yankees center fielder for the next few years, but injuries have kept him off the field more than on it. A sweet swinging switch hitter is a perfect fit in centerfield, but he's 32 years old and coming off of major knee injury. There aren't many options out there with Sterling Marte and Kevin Kiermaier. Marte is 33 years old and right handed, not what we want to add to already right-handed lineup. Yankees need to decide if Joey Gallo, who's under contract for one more season, will be back in New York. After the trade while he did hit some home runs, he was not a factor on offense. He might be a trade candidate and Aaron Hicks might have to be the centerfielder for the next few years.
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Brett Gardner has a team option for one more season, and is one of the few left-handed bats the Yankees have. His defense is a plus, but his hitting has been poor. Gardy did finish with a .250 batting average in the second half. He wants to come back for one more run for a title, he'll have to exercise his player option and come off the bench.
The fundamentals of baseball need to be addressed (errors and baserunning)
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Whoever the Yankees decide to bring in in the off-season or retain, there needs to be an emphasis on the fundamentals of baseball. It was sickening to watch this team field hit situationally and run the bases. Early in the season they were on pace to have the lowest percentage of extra base hits taken (XBT%) and outs on base percentage (OOB%) in American League history. To add insult to injury, their base running error last night in the fourth inning ultimately sealed their fate for the season.
Third base coach Phil Nevin sent Aaron Judge home Giancarlo Stanton's rocket off the green monster while they were down 3-1 and he was out by a country mile at home plate. Instead of having runners on second and third with one out and having the Red Sox on the ropes, the Yankees had run around second with two outs and Joey Gallo promptly popped out to end the ending. Yankees also had errors in the field led by Gleyber Torres.
Giancarlo Stanton earned his pinstripes
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Giancarlo Stanton has been much maligned in New York since that trade in 2018 from the Miami Marlins. The four-time All-Star and former NL MVP has been anything but for the Yankees as injuries have kept him mostly off the field. But Giancarlo was the Yankees hottest hitter in last two months of the season. He hit .327 in August and .286 in September, with 19 combined home runs and 50 RBIs.
Stanton finished the season with a .273 batting average 35 home runs and 97 RBIs. But the number that managed the most is 140, that's the amount of games that he played this season after playing 18 games in 2019 and 23 games in the covid shortened 2020. Stanton not only played DH but played the outfield due to injuries and still was able to get it done. If anything, there should be no more question marks about having Stanton on this ball club.
Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo must come back
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Aaron Judge is the unquestioned leader on this Yankee ball club. While his young career has been riddled with injuries that robbed them of his all-world potential from his rookie season, he is in line to be the next Captain on this ball club. Judge will be 30 years old this season, and giving long-term contracts at that age is always a questionable baseball move. Yankee should have locked him up 3 years ago, but now here we are. It'll be interesting to see what the Yankees do with Judge but there's no way they let him go. After playing over 140 games this season hitting .287 with 39 home runs and 98 RBIs, Judge is ready to cash in.
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Anthony Rizzo was a mid-season pickup at the trade deadline, and one name that the Yankees weren't linked to. But after being a rock at first base and hitting timely home runs, how can you not bring Rizzo back? Luke Voit was injured most of the season, is not nearly as good on defense, and his hitting suffered because of injuries. I said the Yankees should trade him in the offseason to bring in valuable pieces, now he has no trade value whatsoever. It's time to move on from Luke Voit and give the reins to Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo is a great Fielding first baseman, leader in the clubhouse, and a left-handed back the Yankees desperately need.