📌 Join the BPCrew Chapter in your city and meet up with more Yankees fans! 👉 CLICK HERE

One position the Yankees can still upgrade

Here’s a quick-and-dirty summary of the Yankees offseason so far as it pertains to names you care about:

  • Signed Gerrit Cole
  • Re-signed Brett Gardner
  • Lost Didi Gregorius
  • Lost Dellin Betances
  • Lost Austin Romine
  • Release Jacoby Ellsbury
  • Released Greg Bird

By most fan and expert opinions, it’s been a successful winter. The Yankees addressed their number one need with Cole and have the depth to cover the losses of Didi, Dellin, and Romine. Since the Cole signing the Yankees have been pretty quiet, so I posed the question: If you could have the Yankees make one more meaningful addition to the 2020 team, what area would it be?

Twitter Results: Bullpen

As I expected, most people answered bullpen.

Last season the Yankees had the second most valuable bullpen by fWAR behind only the Rays (7.6 to 7.5). They ranked seventh in innings pitched, sixth in SIERA, fifth in ERA-, and ninth in K/BB ratio. (TL;DR – the Yankees bullpen was really freakin’ good and there are a bunch of nerd stats to prove it.)

The big five are all returning for 2020: Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, and Adam Ottavino. Jonathan Holder will hopefully be more like his 2018 version when he posted a 3.14 ERA and 3.04 FIP, than his 2019 version when he was demoted to the minors for ineffectiveness. There are other options like Luis Cessa, Ben Heller, Jonathan Loáisiga, Stephen Tarpley, and Brooks Kriske who will all have an opportunity to step up if one of the big five falter – like Kahnle did in 2018 when Holder stepped up. Even if the Yankees don’t add another piece, their bullpen projects to be one of the best in baseball once again. Yes, they’re losing Betances, but he only threw eight pitches in 2019. So why does everyone want them to add another bullpen arm?

I think it comes down to recency bias. The last thing people saw was Green giving up a 3-run bomb opening Game 6, Chapman getting walked-off by Altuve, and Ottavino not getting anyone out in the playoffs. To me that was more fatigue than anything. Assuming the Yankees rotation is better next year, the bullpen won’t have to throw so many regular season innings.

Bronx Pinstripes Team Results: Bullpen

The BP team agrees with Twitter (uh oh). I think part of the reason people are voting bullpen is because it’s the easiest part of the team to just “add” without having to replace.

The Yankees have been linked to Josh Hader this offseason. Would I like the Yankees to acquire Hader? Duh. He’s pure filth and under team control. He would make an already dominant bullpen downright unfair. It would be like adding NOS to a Ferrari. Fun? Yes. Needed? No.

Making The Case: Infield

Despite letting Gregorius walk, the Yankees are bringing a strong infield to the table in 2020. Up the middle they are as strong as any team in the majors. Gleyber Torres projects to be an improved defender at shortstop and DJ LeMahieu is arguably the best defensive second baseman in the league. Did I mention they both rake?

There’s no doubt the Yankees are weaker at the corners. Gio Urshela had a breakout 2019 but is no sure thing to repeat. Miguel Andujar, Luke Voit, and Mike Ford are all defensive liabilities. Adding another infield glove, as @Kradley and @Sean_NYY3 point out below, could be a welcomed addition.

The Yankees might already have what they need in Tyler Wade. He can play strong defense up the middle and actually wasn’t an automatic out when he was called up in late August, slashing .279/.340/.465 through the end of the regular season.

Rumored additions of Brandon Belt and Joe Panik have swirled, but I don’t see either of them as upgrades over what the Yankees already have on their 40-man. Barring a significant but unlikely trade (*cough Lindor cough* or *cough Arenado cough*) I don’t see a clear path to upgrading the infield.

Making The Case: Outfield

Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner, and Mike Tauchman to open the season. Aaron Hicks sometime in the second half when he’s recovered from Tommy John surgery. Clint Frazier waiting in Scranton. The outfield depth chart is loaded on paper but is like a house of cards.

Judge spent time on the IL in each of the last two seasons. Stanton missed most of last year with a mystery box of injuries and was not healthy enough to play in the ALCS. Brett Gardner somehow stayed healthy in 2019 but typically gets banged-up in the second half of seasons. Mike Tauchman missed the final three weeks of the season plus the playoffs with a calf injury. Hicks doesn’t exactly have the reputation of being a quick healer. Can Frazier actually catch the ball?

@theGreatOne2142 offers Yasiel Puig as an option and @JasonSm75682050 would like to see another Cameron Maybin-type (or maybe just Maybin himself?). Puig is a good player but looking for a multi-year contract, which rules him out. Is adding a veteran backup outfielder like Maybin better than Clint Frazier? Maybe. If Frazier plays defense like he did last year, then yes, but there’s no way he is that bad… right?

I’m not ruling out Frazier being traded but at this point he’ll be the secondary piece, not the primary. The Yankees should add outfield depth like they did with Tauchman and Maybin last season, both moves proved valuable.

My Pick: Starter

The Yankees rotation has exciting potential in 2020. Cole projects to be the most valuable starter in baseball. A fully healthy Luis Severino has top-10 potential. James Paxton has elite upside if he can replicate his second half performance. Masahiro Tanaka is no schlub either, and I feel much more comfortable having him start the third or fourth game of a playoff series versus the first.

Whoever pitches the fifth day – JA Happ, Jordan Montgomery, Michael King, Luis Cessa, etc. – will give the Yankees a chance to win, which is all you can ask for out of your fifth starter. I don’t rule out the Yankees utilizing an opener in certain situations, which they were pretty successful with in 2019.

Beyond 2020 is a different story. Tanaka and Paxton will both hit free agency next winter. Cole ($36 million) and Sevy ($10 million) are under contract, and the list of 5th stater options can all remain under team control as well. I cannot fathom a scenario in which the Yankees allow Happ to pitch 165 innings this season thus allowing his $17 million 2021 salary to vest. That means, at this time, the Yankees have two out of five starter positions filled with certainty for 2021.

It may sound silly to be worried about the 2021 rotation when the 2020 season hasn’t even begun, but it brings me back to the original question: If you could have the Yankees make one more meaningful addition to the 2020 team, what area would it be? For me it’s still starting pitching.

Who saw Severino missing five and a half months last year? Who saw Tanaka being wildly inconsistent for the entire regular season? Who saw Paxton hitting the IL? Who saw Happ giving up juiced-ball bombs left and right? Who saw the Yankees having to use an opener so often in the regular season and in an ALCS elimination game? My point is, as the baseball cliche goes, you can never have enough starting pitching.