3 questions the Yankees must answer during the offseason before the 2021 season
Gary Sanchez dejected after the strike
The Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman had to switch to offseason mode after the ALDS defeat by the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night.
No one knows more than Cashman how impatient Yankee fans can get, and without a World Series appearance since 2009, there are undoubtedly some fearful members of the fan base who will be watching closely every Hot Stove decision.
Here are three questions the Yankees need to answer as they look ahead to the 2021 season.
Is Gary Sanchez the starter?
Sanchez came into 2020 with fresh expectations after an All-Star season in 2019. He bounced back from a brutal 2018 season, mixing 33 home runs with an OPS of 0.841, and while his defense remained a question mark, there was hope that he could finally be right about the ship on this side of things. But even if he's only average defensively, his superior offensive production would more than make up for those shortcomings.
This plan toppled everyone in the shortened season. Sanchez spent much of 2020 on the worst batting average among qualified hits in baseball. He struck more than a third of his record appearances (64K in 178 PAs) and ended the season with an abysmal slash of .147 / .253 / .365.
In the meantime, Kyle Higashioka established himself as Gerrit Cole's personal catcher, but also started in two of the other three ALDS games in which the Yankees ace did not serve. Higashioka finished in Game 1 and had four hits on bats in 14 postseason.
And of course the possibility of J.T. Realmuto is also threatening, although SNY's Andy Martino reports that the Yankees are unlikely to be making huge spending this off-season. But it's the Yankees, after all, and acquiring high-end freelance talent is never entirely off the table.
Sanchez made $ 5 million this year and has two more years of arbitration before becoming a free agent after the 2022 season. He's been with the organization since signing as an international free agent in 2009, but have the Yankees finally seen enough of him to cut bait? His commercial value will be at an all-time low and despite a bad season, his salary is unlikely to drop in arbitration. The bombers may just have to cross their fingers and hope for another Sanchez rebound season.
What upcoming free agents will the Yankees re-sign?
When the Yankees signed DJ LeMahieu ahead of the 2019 season, they couldn't have expected him to be one of the most prolific players in baseball over the length of his $ 24 million two-year deal.
After finishing 4th in the MVP vote in 2019, LeMahieu led the American League on the batting average (.364) based on the base percentage (.421) and the OPS (1.011) in 2020.
He's an integral part of the Yankees line-up, and despite the certainly higher raise for LeMahieu, one has to believe that Cashman will do whatever it takes to bring him back.
Giancarlo Stanton has one player option this off-season that he will no doubt exercise, so you can expect him back in pinstripes in 2021.
That being said, there are some important decisions that need to be made.
After bringing Brett Gardner back to a one-year contract in 2020, will the Yankees finally say goodbye to their longest-serving player?
Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. All free agents are happy. All on the wrong side of 30, it's hard to imagine all three - especially Happ - coming back next season. That brings us to the final question for Cashman to answer this off-season ...
Do the Yankees have enough pitching?
Yankee fans will long, long argue the decision to go piggybacking on the hill in Game 2 of the ALDS with a piggyback option from Deivi Garcia and Happ, but their lack of start pitching forced their hand a little. Cole and Tanaka were the foundation this season, but Paxton was injured again, Jordan Montgomery struggled intermittently, and the Yankees struggled for a solid five-man rotation.
Let's say Garcia turns into a full-time starter in 2021. Then where is the rest of the starting rotation? Even if Tanaka comes back, is that enough to top it off? With just 60 games this season, the Yankees haven't particularly stared at Clarke Schmidt, who only played three games in 2020.
There are many options in the free agent market to fill in the back end of the rotation. Jugs like Jake Odorizzi, Mike Minor, and Robbie Ray are all available at likely affordable prices.
While the Yankees are again unlikely to make big in the free agency market, online perpetual Trevor Bauer hinted on Twitter earlier this week that he might be interested in going to the Bronx, although he does have some calling out other teams in the past, he planned to get one-year contracts for the rest of his career. So maybe the Yankees would be interested in a short-term investment?
The Rays cemented their place as the American League class that season, ending with the best record and then knocking out the Yankees in the playoffs. Now Cashman needs to make some tweaks to regain his place among the best in the AL.
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