Yankees baseball has come to a close this fall, so now it’s time to blueprint a potential offseason plan for the Bombers.
Back to the drawing board goes Yankees GM Brian Cashman, after another season of unanticipated disappointment. The unlikely hero Mike Brosseau sends the Yankees home after a season where they underperformed their initial expectations. This will be a pretty big offseason for the Yankees, as key players like DJ LeMahieu, Masahiro Tanaka, and James Paxton will all be unrestricted free agents. With that being said, here is my (realistic) offseason plan.
Let LeMahieu Walk?
For starters, this is an incredibly unpopular opinion, but I think we should let DJ LeMahieu walk. You might be thinking “well he was an MVP candidate last season, so why would we let him walk?” Well, the answer is rather complicated. Lemahieu’s 2020 batted ball data suggests that he is going to regress, and was not going to sustain the same progress he had, as he had a .370 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), and a .356 xwOBA (expected weighted on-base average) relative to his .422 wOBA (weighted on-base average). I also believe that he will demand and receive a contract north of $100 Million, and entering his age 32 season, I do not believe that it will be worth it in the long run. Another reason this would happen, however, is because of a great potential replacement option, for general contract value.
If the Yankees are going to let DJ Lemahieu walk, then they need a replacement, and shortstop Andrelton Simmons appears to be a great option. 2019 was a down year for Simmons, but since 2017 he has accumulated 16.3 rWAR. Being the best defensive shortstop of all time means you do not have to hit at an extraordinary rate, especially in the Yankees lineup. This would also mean that Gleyber Torres can slide back over to second base, where he is a much better defender. I predict that Simmons’ contract would be in the 2 year, $18-20 million range. This would be perfect for the Yankees range of budget, as there is still much more work to be done.
Paxton Back in Pinstripes?
After letting Lemahieu walk and taking the cheaper Simmons over him, the Yankees would have a lot more cap room to play with, and this means resigning Starting Pitcher James Paxton. Paxton only made 5 starts in 2020, but in 2019 with the Yankees, he was pretty good. He had a 3.82 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 4.03 xFIP, 3.93 SIERA, 20.7 K-BB%, and a 3.5 fWAR. This was Paxton’s first season in the Bronx, as he still was acclimating to pitching in New York. Expect a better season in the Bronx from a healthy Paxton in 2021. I predict Paxton to get somewhere in the 3 year, $55 Million range.
Repair the Bullpen
As we saw in the playoffs, with Adam Ottavino struggling and Tommy Kahnle out, the bullpen isn’t quite where it used to be. Enter Liam Hendriks. In 2020, Hendriks was probably the American League’s best relief pitcher, where he had a 1.78 ERA, 1.14 FIP, 2.07 xFIP, 1.90 SIERA, 37.0 K-BB%, and a 1.4 fWAR in only 25.1 IP. These are incredible numbers, and for a team like Oakland who neglects to spend money, I certainly believe that Hendriks could be on the move this winter. He would be a great addition to the bullpen, and I predict his contract to be around 3 years, at $35 Million.
Add Another Starter
With Luis Severino projected to be back in late July, the Yankees should think about adding another starter to the mix, and this would be former Giants’ right-handed pitcher, Kevin Gausman. Gausman’s improvement has been incredible in 2020. Even though he only pitched 59.0 innings, I am completely sold. In 2020, he had a 3.62 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 3.06 xFIP, 3.24 SIERA, 25.7 K-BB%, and a 1,5 fWAR. The great thing about Gausman is that I don’t think his progression is done, as I think with analytically minded pitching coach Matt Blake, Gausman can get the spin on his fastball and splitter up even more to solidify those two already deadly pitches. Another great thing about Gausman is that he is relatively cheap compared to other guys out there. I predict his contract to be around 2 years at $18 million.
As for the Rest of the Yankees…
A couple of things I have not mentioned here are resigning guys like Masahiro Tanaka or Brett Gardner, and the answer is because I think it is time to part ways with both of them. For Gardner, Clint Frazier has pretty much solidified the starting left fielder spot, and the Yankees have Mike Tauchman on the bench as it is, so I really do not see the point in bringing back someone like Gardy. As for Tanaka, if we bring back Paxton and bring in Gausman, we would have a plethora of rotation arms, including Clarke Schmidt, who is bound to get his opportunity at some point soon. Additionally, there have been reports of Tanaka receiving a 1 year 23 million dollar contract offer from the Rakuten Golden Eagles, the team he was on in Japan before he signed his massive contract with the Yankees. Overall, I think if we can get these moves done this offseason, New York will be much better suited to make a playoff run and contend in the future.