Gerrit Cole, Francisco Lindor and Anthony Rendon? This is what the Yankees will do in winter

In many ways, this was a decade of success for the New York Yankees: They had the most wins in the majors at 921, hit more home runs than any other team and scored the second-most runs, never had a record-breaking season. negative and played in the most postseason games between American League teams.

Yet the one fact that matters to Yankees fans: zero World Series appearances. The 2010s were the first since the 1910s in which the Yankees failed to appear in the Fall Classic. That was the decade, by the way, before a certain “Sultan of Batting” was acquired from the Boston Red Sox.

Hey, at least we have a silver lining: The Yankees finished on top for the first time since 2012. Six straight seasons went by without the Yankees achieving a division title. Still, 103 wins and a subsequent loss in the American League Championship Series to the Houston Astros for the second time in three seasons left a final sense of frustration. That does not satisfy a franchise and fans that regard World Series appearances as a birthright.

It’s especially frustrating in light of what happened last offseason. After acquiring James Paxton, DJ LeMahieu, Zack Britton and Troy Tulowitzki, the back cover of the New York Daily News called them the “Snore 4”. During spring training, they wondered why the Yankees didn’t sign Manny Machado or Bryce Harper; Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said, “Every year, I get beaten up for something. If we don’t win the World Series, it’s perfectly justifiable.”

The irony is that Gio Urshela had a better season than Machado. LeMahieu was better than Harper. Nice work, but that doesn’t take pressure off Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman to figure out a way to get the Yankees back to the World Series. The truth is that Yankees fans still want shiny new toys. It’s about all that birthright perception dating back to the Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson years. Steinbrenner can say, “We did everything we wanted to do to really improve,” just as he did last spring; However, until that first World Series trophy since 2009 is lifted, the belief will always be that the Yankees didn’t do it all.

The local media in New York love to dwell on this tale. Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Madison Bumgarner, Francisco Lindor, Luis Castillo, Zack Wheeler, Jonathan Villar, Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson are all targets of the Yankees, depending on which newspaper report they prefer.

Three of the above-mentioned toys would bring a lot of happiness to Yankees fans. However, it has been a long time since the Yankees stopped operating that way. Since hiring Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltrán and Hiroki Kuroda in the 2013-14 offseason (part of a $ 471 million loot in a single winter), the Yankees have not signed a single free agent for $ 100. millions. There is the old Yankee way of doing things and the new style.

Let’s take a look at those three toys and see what could happen.

Old style: Firmar a Gerrit Cole

New style: Give Michael King and Deivi García a chance

During their cycle of 17 postseason appearances over an 18-year span from 1995 to 2012 (which includes 13 division titles), the Yankees never let money get in the way of hiring a high-caliber free agent pitcher. Among the starters who signed in those years are David Cone (who they renewed after initially acquiring him in a trade), David Wells, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens (which involved the return of both to New York), AJ Burnett and CC Sabathia.

After that $ 471 million investment in free agents that resulted in an 84-78 record in 2014, the Yankees have not played in that market again. Sixteen players have signed for more than $ 100 million, and none of them ended up playing for the Yankees. The $ 100 million pitchers who weren’t signed by the Yankees: Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Yu Darvish and Patrick Corbin. We are certainly talking about a group with mixed results, although with Scherzer wearing the classic striped uniform, perhaps the Yankees win it all in 2017 and 2019. The most valuable contract awarded by the Yankees in the five most recent off-seasons was that of $ 86 million given to Aroldis Chapman. The second most expensive deal was for $ 85 million with Chase Headley.

Obviously Cole is probably more like Scherzer than Zimmermann. Maybe it’s the pitcher that makes Hal act similar to his father. Additionally, after falling below the luxury tax in 2018 to readjust their tax rate, the Yankees again surpassed it in 2019. Their 2020 payroll currently stands at $ 196 million, including the $ 21.1 million they owe to Ellsbury and that Shamefully, they try to avoid shelling out.

That gives them roughly $ 35 million to spend to match last year’s payroll. Although they will also have a lot of money that will be released after 2020, including commitments to Ellsbury, Tanaka, Paxton, LeMahieu and possibly JA Happ (who has a “vesting” option, which would be an optional year at the end of the guaranteed contract if the player meets certain minimums in his production). In other words, they could hire Cole, take on a substantial one-year payroll increase (which they could afford without much difficulty), and then return to 2019 salary levels.

Now, maybe Cole doesn’t want to pitch in New York and Strasburg is likely to return with the Nationals. The Yankees may also believe they have enough depth in their starting pitching with a healthy Luis Severino, plus Paxton, Tanaka, Happ, Domingo Germán and Jordan Montgomery, in addition to Garcia (who struck out 165 batters in 111 1/3 innings in Major League Baseball). Leagues) and King (who battled injuries in 2019 but dominated in the minors in 2018).

New pitching coach Matt Blake arrives from Cleveland, where he had just been promoted to the position of Director of Pitching Development. The Yankees may want to see if Blake can work with pitchers already on his staff, similar to developing figures such as Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac to reach the majors.

What will happen: There is a sense that the Yankees will get a pitcher, although it will most likely be a second-tier one like Bumgarner, Wheeler, Michael Pineda or Dallas Keuchel. Bumgarner would be the new toy that the Yankees would like, but right now, Paxton is a better pitcher than Bumgarner.

Old style: They change for Francisco Lindor, play Gleyber Torres at second base and LeMahieu at first
New style: Torres plays in shortstop, LeMahieu in second and Luke Voit / Mike Ford in first

The acquisition of a big star instead has been a tradition of the Yankees for a long time. Since 1995, those changes include Cone, Chuck Knoblauch, Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, Bobby Abreu, Chapman, and most recently Giancarlo Stanton.

Lindor, however, is a different case than Stanton. That transaction depended on the Marlins begging for someone to take Stanton’s contract, and the Yankees didn’t have to sacrifice all-star talent to get the slugger. Lindor would cost several prospects and talent ready to play in the majors. Miguel Andujar could be bait, but he doesn’t fit in well with the Indians who already have Jose Ramirez in third base and Carlos Santana at first base. Pitcher Garcia is an interesting prospect, but Cleveland has depth in its starters. Clint Frazier doesn’t move the needle. Realistically, a team with a better estate of young talent would be a more compatible partner.

Also, the Yankees don’t have to make a change in this situation. Torres can play shortstop and LeMahieu was a Gold Glove in second base. Sure, LeMahieu was a valuable utility player in 2019 and Torres may not have optimal reach in shortstop, but a Torres / LeMahieu double combination would be one of the best in the majors if LeMahieu repeats his great 2019.

There’s a crazy scenario that could be at stake: How about Lindor for Torres? Before you scoff, consider what the Yankees would win:

1. The best player. Lindor had 4.7 WAR last season (and missed 19 games) and 7.9 in 2018. Torres had 3.9 WAR in 2019.

2. The best defensive shortstop.

3. A switch hitter who would bring more balance to a Yankees lineup that leaned too far to the right side (and that Houston’s right-handers managed to dominate).

In short, would you trade five years of Torres for two of Lindor? No. But maybe the Indians include someone else as part of the transaction, like one of their young pitchers, or maybe they agree to take Happ’s contract. It’s an extremely unlikely scenario, but at least it’s fun to consider.
What will happen: They are left with Torres and LeMahieu in the middle, with Thairo Estrada serving as a capable replacement.

Old style: Firman a Anthony Rendon

New style: They play Gio Urshela

If they can’t get Cole signed, why not invest money in Rendon? That would also follow a long Yankees tradition that began with Reggie in 1977. Since 1995, they have signed star players in the free agency market like Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira and Ellsbury (oops). . Do they really need Rendon? No, not if Urshela hits .314 / .355 / .534 again. You also have Andújar back after shoulder surgery, so this would create an unnecessary plug in the anteroom that would cost a lot of money.

Sure, but don’t forget it wasn’t the pitching that cost the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. They hit just .179 with 21 runs in six games against Houston. The pitching group held the Astros to 22 touchdowns. In the divisional series against the Red Sox in 2018, the Yankees hit just .214 with a total of 14 runs in four challenges. In the loss to the Astros in the 2017 SCLA, they hit just .205 with a total of 22 runs and seven games.

The offense has been the Yankees’ great weakness in the postseason. Rendon is hitting on the right side, but other than that, he would mesh perfectly. As we saw in October, he knows how to hit good pitching. Puts the ball in play (unlike several of the sluggers in the Yankees). If you put him on the third shift of the lineup, it takes a lot of pressure off the others. You could keep Urshela as a great utility (playing maybe second with LeMahieu at first) and trade Andújar for pitching or put him as 1B / DH.

What will happen: If not Rendon, Josh Donaldson or even Mike Moustakas (as a left-handed hitter) could fill a similar role, following the modic rule adapted by the Yankees when it comes to doing things.