Led by Stanton, Judge, Yanks look to win now
Heading into 2017, the New York Yankees did something seemingly out of character: rebuilding. They parted ways with Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira retired and they traded away four All-Star caliber veterans: Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. The team’s new core was a young catcher, an injured first baseman, a struggling starting pitcher and a strikeout-happy outfielder. They would be the first wave of Baby Bombers: Gary Sánchez, Greg Bird, Luis Severino and Aaron Judge.
Heading into the 2018 season, the Yankees are looking to build on a season in which they lost Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. They started this process by replacing manager Joe Girardi with Aaron Boone. Girardi was the Yankees’ manager for 10 seasons and led the team to a World Series victory in 2009. Boone was a third baseman from 1997 to 2009 and most recently worked for ESPN.
He has no managerial experience. This move was part of the front office’s desire to have a manager who would embrace analytics and communicate well with the young team.
The Yankees have been frugal this offseason, as they hope to stay below the luxury tax threshold. This strategy would reset their luxury tax rate in time for the strong free agent class next offseason. That group is headlined by Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. As a result, the Yankees added just three players this offseason.
First the Yankees made a blockbuster trade, acquiring Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins in exchange for Starlin Castro and two low-level prospects. The acquisition of Stanton gives the Yankees last year’s National League Most Valuable Player and adds to an already strong offense.
These moves had no negative effect on the team’s goal to stay under the luxury tax threshold, as they subsequently traded Chase Headley and Bryan Mitchell to the San Diego Padres for Jabari Blash.
Next, they acquired infielder Brandon Drury in a three-team trade. Drury played for two full seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks and is under team control until 2022. He is expected to be the team’s starting third baseman.
Lastly, the team signed veteran second baseman Neil Walker to a one-year deal. Walker will likely begin the season as the starting second baseman before moving to the bench when the team inevitably calls up their top prospect, Gleyber Torres.
The trade for Stanton adds to an already strong and crowded outfield. Stanton and Judge are locks in the starting lineup, which leaves four outfielders fighting for playing time: Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier. In all likelihood, Frazier will start the year in the minors as he recovers from a concussion and the other five outfielders will stay on the 25-man roster. Stanton and Judge will be rotating the designated hitter spot most games; thus, the Yankees could have any four of their outfielders playing on any particular day.
Last season the bats carried the Yankees, as the offense finished second in runs scored and first in home runs. However, the pitching staff should not be overlooked. The Yankees finished with the fifth-best starter ERA and featured one of the best bullpens in the league. In the postseason, pitching kept the Yankees competitive when the hits were not dropping.
The pitching could be even better this year. Relievers Chapman and Dellin Betances have a chance to rebound following an unusually rocky season. Masahiro Tanaka went from having his best season in 2016 to his worst in 2017. Tanaka finished the season strong and should be back to his 2016 form this year. Lastly, Jordan Montgomery could build off a respectable rookie season.
The core of last year’s team was very close to a World Series appearance.
The Baby Bombers are growing up, and now they will chase a championship.