Are we ready for baseball season yet? March 26th is just around the corner but unfortunately due to world events, baseball season will not be starting anytime soon. In the spirit of waiting around, why don’t we take a quick glance at the Yankees roster outlook five years from now.
The Pitching Staff
The pitching staff looks to have an anchor in the form of new face Gerrit Cole, but behind that we really don’t know much. Luis Severino was supposed to be the second of a 1-2 punch when paired with Cole but his recent Tommy John Surgery doesn’t bode well for that in the near future let alone five years from now. It’s not out of the question that he could come back from TJS as good as (or even better than) before. It could go either way. He could come back and be 2019-2020 Jacob deGrom or he could return to action and be 2016-2019 Matt Harvey. To his credit, Harvey did have success from 2013 to 2015 after his surgery in 2012 — I promise I didn’t choose Mets pitchers on purpose.
After Cole and Severino, the Yankees don’t really know who fills the last three spots on the staff. Masahiro Tanaka will be a free agent after this season and while it’s feasible the Yankees bring him back on a reasonable deal, he will be 36 on opening day in 2025. James Paxton will also be a free agent after this year and it may be a good idea to try and lock him up to a reasonable extension. What many may not realize is that Tanaka and Paxton are basically the same age. There may be a difference in the mileage on each pitcher’s arm, but the fact remains that the Yankees would be looking at a pitching staff where three of the five arms (Cole, Tanaka, and Paxton) are age 34 or higher with significant regular and postseason innings under their respective belts.
There are a number of interesting prospects who could come up and be factors by 2025. There are the obvious current major leaguers in Domingo German and Jordan Montgomery, both of whom will not pitch with the club until July of this year at the earliest. Then you have the top prospects in Luis Medina and Devi Garcia. The Yankees have had some recent success with homegrown pitchers so it would make sense for them see Medina and Garcia as options over the next few seasons. It really is a testament to how much the Yankees have improved their scouting and farm system because I still remember the offseasons from several years ago where the constant question was pitching, pitching, and pitching. At least now they seem to have a handful of potential options, and when you are looking five years out, that’s really all you can hope to have.
Now the offensive outlook has a few interesting possibilities. Let’s start with the players that are contractually locked into a roster spot come 2025.
Giancarlo Stanton is under contract through 2028 (the 2028 season is a team option) but he also has a chance to opt-out of the rest of his 13 year, $325 million deal at the end of 2020. Given his production last year, Stanton would need to have a monster season (or partial season at this point) to even consider opting out so let’s just assume he won’t and lock him in for 2025. The other player we know for sure will be under contract is Aaron Hicks. Hicks just signed a very team-friendly seven-year deal that will have him earning just under $10 million in 2025. Even with his spotty injury history, Hicks is more than likely going to be a valuable part of the roster five years from now. He’ll be 35 by then and there’s a decent possibility he is no longer a centerfielder at that time. That said, shifting him to a corner outfield spot can work and the only thing really standing in his way to this point has been health.
The rest of the current roster has some notable names that will be free agents before we get to 2025. Aaron Judge is in the same boat as the other Aaron. As of the writing of this article, I am officially putting Judge in the “constant injury concern” folder. It pains me to do it but we can no longer argue with the track record. When he plays, he dominates. The operative term in that statement is “when”, though, and because of that we have to consider whether a long-term extension is a smart decision. It’s difficult to imagine the Yankees entertaining that idea given the current events, but all it really takes to change the narrative is Judge putting up his standard slash-line while playing a full slate of games, even in a shortened season.
Then we have Gleyber Torres. Anyone who was watched the former top prospect the last two seasons knows that he has “budding superstar” written all over him.
He’s only 23 and its obvious that he hasn’t even touched his ceiling yet. Having said that, Torres still put up ridiculous numbers last season. He nearly hit 40 homeruns and had an OPS+ of 128. His defense will improve as he adjusts back to his natural position and you can probably count on him being at least 3 WAR player (and likely more) moving forward. Torres is the player the Yankees should really focus on locking up. He is younger than your average star player, has minor injury concerns at worst, and it trending up in terms of production. The only reason not to offer an extension is the fact that he is under team control through 2024. If I’m the Yankees, I would be calling his agent after the 2021 season and seeing what we can work out. Gleyber Torres is the type of player you don’t even let sniff free agency.
The final core piece of the Yankees lineup was the first one to breakout back in 2016, Gary Sanchez. I feel like I am repeating myself a lot by voicing injury concerns yet again, but alas here we are. It seems that there is an extended period every season where El Kraken will be out of action. He’s played three full seasons now and only eclipsed 120 games played once (2017). Granted, he is a catcher so no one expects him to play 150 games every season, but somewhat consistent health from your backstop would be nice.
Even with his lack of games played, in all but one season (2018) Sanchez has proven to be a unique offensive threat. Even with some of his perceived defensive shortcomings, that type of player is difficult to find at a position like catcher. Sanchez will be a free agent after the 2022 season when he will be 32 years old. Given some of the contracts handed out to catchers the last few years, it’s not crazy to think Sanchez cashes in on a big deal. Whether that’s with the Yankees or not really comes down to how often Sanchez can stay on the field.
The rest of the roster is full of unproven commodities and/or players that the jury is still out on. I believe Luke Voit is for real, but we don’t have enough data to feel great about that prediction just yet. Ditto for Mike Tauchman and Gio Urshela. Do I feel good about those players in 2020? Absolutely I do. Do I feel so good that I want Cashman and Company to lock them up to multi-year extensions? Nope, not going to touch that one. Not to mention the Estevan Florials and Clint Fraizers of the world. There is plenty of young and unpredictable talent in the Yankees system. It’s just not realistic to say all those pieces will be with (or perform well with) the Yankees in 2025.
What about the Bullpen? Is it crazy to say that there is no point in predicating what the Yankees bullpen will look like five years from now? Ask yourself in 2015 if you believed your bullpen would have Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman at the backend and Dellin Betances would be pitching with the Mets? That’s exactly the point. Bullpens are volatile in both performance and composition. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2025 bullpen is full of new faces so why even try to predict who they could be.
If there’s one thing to take away from this 2025 outlook it is that the Yankees are set up well to lock down some of their core players while also having enough room to make improvements via free agency over the course of the next few years. It will be interesting to see what happens in the cases of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez for sure, but I’ll be rooting for them to perform the way we all believe they can and hope the Yankees are able to lock them up for the rest of their respective careers.