Yankees Look to Polish Roster With Eyes on 28th WS

On. Nov. 20, the New York Yankees traded top-rated southpaw prospect Justus Sheffield to the Seattle Mariners in return for lefty ace James Paxton. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

It’s come to that point in the offseason where Yankees fans can stop thinking about the painful end to 2018 and look ahead to the future peaks and valleys of the 2019 campaign.

If 2018 told us anything, it’s that these Baby Bombers are on the rise and show the promise of a new Yankee core. With recent acquisitions, returning stars and trade rumors swirling within the white facade of East 161st Street, this team will have a shot to represent the American League in the Fall Classic.

With the final roster yet to be fully constructed, there are many unknowns surrounding this Yankee team. This week, I’m going to discuss the options they have and how I feel they could affect the look and performance of the team in 2019.

Didi Gregorius

In 2017 Sir Didi Gregorius established himself as one of the best shortstops in all of baseball finishing the year with a .287 average, 87 RBIs and a then Yankee record of 25 dingers by a shortstop. Gregorius followed up that performance in 2018 with a .268 average, 86 RBIs and the current Yankee shortstop record 27 homers.

Following the Yankees’ Divisional Series loss to the Boston Red Sox this past season, manager Aaron Boone announced that Gregorius would need to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair damage in his right elbow. Boone went on to add that he believes Gregorius suffered the injury playing the field during game one or two of the ALDS.

With the injury Gregorius is set to miss a major chunk of the 2019 season, leaving the seemingly established infield of the Yankees in flux. For Rookie of the Year finalist and third baseman Miguel Andújar, fielding was certainly an achilles heel as he committed 15 errors in 136 games. Second baseman Gleyber Torres’s defensive performance was even worse, committing 17 errors in only 123 games compared to Gregorius who committed only six errors over 132 games.

Defense was clearly a weakness for the 2018 Yankees. Game after game, their offense would dig them out of holes, only to be relinquished at the hands of poor defense. If this team wants to win a 28th championship, they desperately need to figure out their infield situation. We can only hope that these inexperienced youngsters and utility players like Neil Walker can hold down the fort during Gregorius’ absence if they decide against signing anyone in free agency.

The Starting Rotation

The Yankees’ 2018 starting rotation was certainly nothing to write home about. Sonny Gray simply couldn’t pitch in New York, veteran CC Sabathia couldn’t stay healthy and Luis Severino had one of the most bipolar seasons I can remember.

At times, injuries and incompetence on the mound led the team to settle for minor leaguers like Jonathan Loaisiga and Domingo German who had their bright spots, but are certainly not the type of quality arms that could lead this team to its goal of a 28th championship.

Looking ahead to 2019, the rotation has made its fair share of improvements this offseason with General Manager Brian Cashman’s decision to trade Yankees top prospect Justus Sheffield to the Seattle Mariners for the up and coming southpaw, James “Big Maple” Paxton.

The Bombers already have their core group of semi-proven youngsters in Torres, Andújar, Severino, Judge and Sanchez. Going into 2019, Sheffield was going to be what those players once were: a project. The Yankees may be past the period of crafting young talent and rebuilding. They have spent the past four years doing just that. Now it’s time to go for it, and the acquisition of an arm like Paxton certainly speeds up the process.

After losing free-agent Patrick Corbin to the Washington Nationals on a ridiculous six-year $140 million deal, I hope the Yankee front office continues to pursue big name arms. This team is in win now mode, and messing around with something like a reunion with Nathan Eovaldi just wont cut it. Hurlers like Corey Kluber or Madison Bumgarner, whose names are surprisingly being tossed around in trade rumors would certainly be ideal. Although far-fetched, I would welcome either of these aces with open arms, and the fact that Kluber isn’t a free agent until 2022 is certainly something the Yankees should consider. 

Harper or Machado?

Thanks to the plethora of young talent that the Yanks currently possess, the Steinbrenners have some extra money to spend this offseason. With this extra cash came rumors that the Yankees organization is in the market for the two best free agents available: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

Personally, I love the current state of the Yankees. They have moved away from buying talent and have focused on crafting their own, something that baseball fans and Yankee haters (often synonymous) have whined about for years.

Now they finally have a young, cohesive team, something they haven’t had since the mid ’90s when they went on their historic run. Since then, they have had to deal with the egos and contracts of players like Alex Rodriguez.

Signing Harper or Machado will put the Yankees in a downward spiral. Signing these players to huge contracts sucks up most of their payroll, leaving little for the rest of the team for years to come.

With all the young talent and leadership on this team, I firmly believe that signing Harper or Machado will not only mess with the clubhouse atmosphere and chemistry, but will also financially handicap the organization in the coming years. 

This team is certainly on track to be a powerhouse in 2019. Another starter or two and/or a middle infielder would help, but I’m loving the aggressive moves so far. They are being smart about who they are bringing in, as well the accompanying price tag. I just hope this trend can continue through the remainder of the offseason.