The Yankees have wrapped up their offseason, but how well did they perform in the free-agent and trade market this Winter?
The Yankees played their first spring training game on Sunday, which, in my book, officially marks the end of the offseason. It’s safe to say that the Bombers were active this winter, acquiring six major league players either via trade or free agency. With all this action, the question must be asked — how would you grade their offseason?
Additions to the Starting Rotation
The Yanks added two fresh arms to slide in behind Gerrit Cole who will be at the front of the rotation. In mid-January, the Bombers added both Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, who are both high-risk, but high reward, starting pitchers. Taillon hasn’t pitched since 2019 while Kluber threw just one inning in 2020. Long story short, the Yankees are banking on two arms who haven’t pitched a lot in the past few years to hold down the middle of the rotation. The good news? Corey Kluber is a former two-time Cy Young award winner, while Taillon had a very strong 2018 — his last full season — himself.
Furthermore, the Yankees added some solid depth to the starting rotation, signing guys like Jhoulys Chacin and Asher Wojciechowski to Minor-League deals. It’s fair to assume that these other two arms probably won’t make a huge impact, but having depth to come and fill in in case there’s an injury may pay big dividends at the end of the season.
Re-Signing DJ LeMahieu
The biggest objective the Yankees had all offseason was to bring back DJ LeMahieu. Thankfully, they accomplished this mission when they signed LeMahieu to a six-year, $90 million deal. Overall, this deal was a lot better in terms of value for the Yankees than most people were assuming it would be. It was originally expected that LeMahieu would get nine figures after two strong seasons in Pinstripes. As it turns out, however, LeMahieu’s deal only has an AAV of $15 million, which, all things considered, seems like a steal for what DJLM can bring to the table the next few seasons.
Yankees Fortify the Bullpen
The Yankees also made a pair of key additions to the bullpen, as well. New York signed Darren O’Day in mid-February to a one-year, $1.75 million deal. The deal also includes a player option for next season. O’Day had a strong 2020 pitching to a 1.10 ERA in 16.1 innings. The Bombers weren’t done there, however, and they made that clear when they inked former Yankee Justin Wilson to a one-year pact. These additions were much needed after the loss of Tommy Kahnle and Adam Ottavino, who went to the Dodgers and Red Sox, respectively.
Bringing Back Brett Gardner
It took a while, but the Yankees finally continued their offseason tradition of re-signing Brett Gardner. Gardner had a mediocre season in 2020, hitting .223 but having an OBP of .354. Gardner should slide in as the fourth outfielder behind Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Clint Frazier.
Who Did the Yankees Lose?
Although the Yankees added some key players, they also lost some key players, as well. I already mentioned the Bombers losing a pair of arms in the bullpen when Tommy Kahnle signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Adam Ottavino was traded to the Boston Red Sox. Other than that, the Yanks also lost two starting arms, as well, in the form of Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton. Tanaka went back overseas to pitch for his former team, the Rakuten Eagles, while Paxton also went to his former team before being traded to the Yankees — the Seattle Mariners.
I love what the Yankees did with the bullpen, the starting rotation, and the LeMahieu deal. I think the high-reward possibility of Taillon and Kluber is far better than the team would’ve gotten if they stuck with Paxton and Tanaka, despite the risk that the latter comes with. In the bullpen, Kahnle wasn’t going to pitch in 2021 due to Tommy John Surgery that was received in 2020, while Ottavino had become a liability out of the ‘pen, especially in October. Bringing in a pair of vets in O’Day and Wilson for far cheaper than what Ottavino’s contract was is a huge plus. As for LeMahieu, that deal speaks for itself.
The only deal I can’t get behind is the re-signing of Brett Gardner. Gardner has shown a serious decline over the past few years and that likely won’t change. Also, the Yankees seem to lean on Gardner as a crutch, and I fear that they’re going to use him too heavily this season and stunt Frazier’s growth. I would’ve preferred the Yanks to opt for Mike Tauchman as the primary back-up outfielder, let Gardner walk, and use the money somewhere else.
All things considered, it wasn’t a bad offseason by any stretch in the Bronx. Time will only tell if this is what leads to a championship.
FINAL GRADE: B+