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2020 MLB Offseason: Yankees have big decisions ahead, while the Mets now have big pockets and big dreams

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Brett Phillips’ game-winning hit in Game Four, the masterful pitching performances of Clayton Kershaw and Julio Urías, and the greatest exhibition of postseason hitting in baseball history from Randy Arozarena. These indelible events from the 2020 World Series simply became part of the past as soon as the confetti stopped and the dust settled on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ championship win. The attention for the 30 Major League Baseball clubs now switches to an offseason that raises concerns of possibilities.

As Los Angeles experiences sports nirvana, New York City is currently experiencing sports purgatory. However, there is genuine excitement surrounding both New York baseball teams, which makes this offseason vital. Let’s take a look at the state of the clubs and see what they have to look forward to.

New York Yankees

This season would be deemed as a failure for the Bronx Bombers. They have failed to reach the World Series for the 11th consecutive year, even after their high-profiled acquisition of pitcher Gerrit Cole. While Cole performed as advertised, cementing his status as the ace of the Yanks’ staff for years to come, the rest of the rotation crumbled under the bright lights of October in baseball.

The offense was plagued by injuries for the second straight season, as superstar sluggers Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit were each placed on the injured list for an extended period. In the postseason, the Yankees were beaten at their own game by the Tampa Bay Rays, who used the longball to dispose of their division rivals.

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on the country and affecting life on the diamond, the 2020 season will most likely be remembered as water under the bridge.

Heading into the offseason, the Yankees have several significant decisions to make. However, the top priority for the Bronx Bombers should be to let go of DJ LeMahieu. Over the last two seasons of Bronx baseball, it is arguable that LeMahieu was the Yankees’ most valuable player. In 2019, LeMahieu led the team with a 5.9 Wins Above Replacement rating, as he drove in 102 runs with 26 home runs and a .327 batting average.

“The Machine” was superb in the clutch, as he had a .397 batting average with runners in scoring position. In 2020, LeMahieu accumulated even gaudier statistics, as he became the first player in baseball history to win the batting title in both the National League and the American League. With a .364 batting average, along with a league-high .421 on-base percentage, 10 home runs and 27 runs batted in, LeMahieu was a finalist for the American League Most Valuable Player Award.

LeMahieu’s play style is predictable, as he spreads the ball to all parts of the field. This variety in the types of hits that LeMahieu generates makes fielding a nightmare, seeing as the opponent cannot change their defensive formation.

LeMahieu’s variety also extends to the field, where he can play both second and first base. A consummate professional, LeMahieu’s presence in the lineup almost guarantees hit and run-scoring opportunities. The one obstacle that could stand in the way of LeMahieu resigning with the Yankees would be the financial losses that baseball clubs are suffering from across the country, as a result of COVID-19. Estimates have projected that the MLB lost upwards of $3 billion dollars this year, and the only source of income for the Yankees’ owners is the ballclub.

LeMahieu’s production demands a significant amount of money, and the Yankees might not have enough. If LeMahieu fails to resign with the Yankees, another option would be to move star Gleyber Torres to second base and wait for free agency in 2021, when Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor and Trevor Story all become free agents.

Starting pitching is also a need that the Yankees should address this offseason. When Gerrit Cole was not on the mound, the starters for the Yankees had an earned run average of 4.70, as compared to a 4.24 ERA with Cole. The rotation in 2020 was inconsistent at best, catastrophic at worst.

J.A. Happ was originally brought to the Bronx as a decent southpaw starter. However, over the last two seasons, Happ has surrendered 42 home runs. Happ is an example of how the statistics and the eye test differ. On the statistics sheet, he goes deep into the games and is seen to be decent. On the mound, Happ is a liability.

Another liability for the Yankees’ rotation is James Paxton. “The Big Maple” was acquired last year to be a competent number two starter. What the Yankees received was a pitcher who was frequently blown up by opposing batters in the first inning. In 2019, Paxton allowed 29 earned runs in the first innings and registered a 9.00 earned run average in his first frames. In his limited appearances in 2020, Paxton did not inspire any confidence, as he had a 6.23 earned-run average across the first three innings.

With the return of Luis Severino from the injured list, as well as the potential return of Domingo German, the Yankees should have an established pitching core. The development of Jordan Montgomery and the debut of star prospects, Deivi García and Clarke Schmidt were unexpected surprises.

Garcia performed well in his limited outings and has the look of a potential star of the staff. However, the Yankees should try to supplement the staff with another starter. Trevor Bauer is the biggest name on the free agent market and his personality is matched by his incredible repertoire of pitches. Other names to look at include Marcus Stroman and Jake Odorizzi.

The Yankees should address the bullpen, since it is not consistent. Once vaunted, the bullpen was terrible at some stages of the season. Adam Ottavino lost all confidence in his pitches and it showed. Chad Green was not the 7th-inning pitcher he was last season.

Jonathan Loaisiga was placed into several high-leverage situations, especially in the postseason and failed miserably. In addition, Aroldis Chapman found himself surrendering the postseason-ending home run in two consecutive seasons. If the Yankees address this, it will be in the form of long relievers who can start if necessary. One player that the Yankees should look at is Brad Hand, who was recently made a free agent from the Cleveland Indians.

New York Mets

Rejoice Mets’ fans! The team is now free from the grip of the Wilpon family. When initial negotiations between the Wilpons and hedge fund manager Steve Cohen collapsed earlier this year, Mets fans were understandably despondent.

Although a consortium of investors and celebrities led by former Yankee’s Alex Rodriguez and his fiancée Jennifer Lopez were also bidding for ownership of the Metropolitans, the owners would only approve a change in ownership if Cohen was the winner. However, last-minute threats from Mayor Bill de Blasio could not stop this deal from occurring.

Arguably the most important transaction of the last 10 years, Cohen bought a controlling interest in the team at a valuation of $2.4 billion. Cohen now becomes the wealthiest owner in Major League Baseball, as his net worth is estimated to be $14 billion.

His first order of business was to donate $17.5 million to small businesses in New York City, as well as to “dramatically increase the giving of the Mets Foundation in the coming years, with priority given to non-profits and causes in communities surrounding Citi Field,” according to his official statement upon the approval of the sale.

In addition, Cohen has instituted pre-pandemic salaries to all Mets employees, which is an effort that is estimated to be valued at approximately $7 million. Earlier this month, Cohen looked for feedback from fans about what he can do to make the team better.

So far, Cohen has done a great job at ingratiating himself to the fanbase. However, fans look to the offseason for any substance to Cohen’s words.

Although the Mets have been a laughingstock for the majority of the millennium, they have a solid foundation in the lineup and in their rotation. At the batter’s box, Pete Alonso is the power bat that the Mets need near the top of the lineup. In the shortened season, Alonso decreased the rate of his strikeouts from his 2019 campaign. In addition, Alonso had respectable hits of 16 home runs and drove in 35 runs.

In left field, Jeff McNeil had the most doubles on the team and a .311 batting average. “The Flying Squirrel” is not a power hitter, but he is effective in the leadoff spot, where batters must make contact and get on base. Another great contact hitter is Michael Conforto, who had the most hits on the team with 65 and led the team with a .322 batting average. However, the brightest star on the Mets is their ace of the rotation, Jacob DeGrom.

DeGrom was simply sensational this season, as he was one of three pitchers to reach 100 strikeouts. Although his win-loss record does not inspire much praise, his pitching is some of the best in the league. His 2.26 Fielding Independent Pitching rating is third best in the majors. For the Metropolitans, he is their most valuable player with a Wins Above Replacement rating of 2.6.

What the Mets need to do this offseason is to bring in additional pieces to elevate the franchise. An area for improvement is the catcher’s position, as Wilson Ramos’ bat is a liability in the lineup.

The premier free agent catcher this year is J.T. Realmuto. He has excelled with the Philadelphia Phillies and he will demand big money. Another free agent that the Mets could sign is Trevor Bauer. Bauer will demand a significant amount of money for his services and the Mets have a strong need for starting pitching beyond DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard.

Steve Cohen wants to build the “Dodgers of the East” in Queens. He is not only in an advantageous position because of his net worth, but he is one of the few owners who did not lose a large amount of money due to the pandemic. If there is any team that can splash the cash this offseason, it will be the Mets. For Yankee fans, the days of feeling pity for the “little brother” could be winding down and the rise of Mets starts now.

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