It has been nine years now since the Yankees last celebrated a World Series championship.
After watching their bitter division rival Red Sox celebrate ending their 2018 season at the Stadium Tuesday night, well short of their goal to end that drought, the Yankees have work to do if they don’t want to make it a decade.
Tuesday night was a huge disappointment for a team that was within a game of going to the World Series last season. The Red Sox were a machine the Yankees couldn’t catch this season and with young talent and J.D. Martinez locked up for the next four years at the core of their success, they will be there again in 2019 to push the Yankees.
So Brian Cashman has work to do now that the offseason is here to make sure that the “drought,” doesn’t extend yet another year. The Yankees braintrust prepared well for this winter, getting under the luxury tax threshold for the first time since MLB instituted the payroll penalty in 2003.
So, the Yankees need to win the winter in order to win in 2019.
Any big offseason would have to start with the two big bats set to hit the market. Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are both going to be commanding big contracts this winter. The Yankees could accommodate either one, even though some feel that the trade for Giancarlo Stanton last winter pulled the Yankees out of the Harper sweepstakes.
Maybe, but if the Yankees want to create a new narrative for 2019, having Machado at third base or Harper in left field on Opening Day would do the trick. Machado makes the most sense, because the Yankees could easily move rookie Miguel Andujar to first or the outfield.
Perhaps the most dire need is starting pitching that can contend with the Red Sox and Astros’ dangerous, powerful and athletic lineups. With only Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino, whose inconsistency in October is troubling, under contract for next season, this is an obvious area the Yankees need to address.
There are no easy or internal answers. The free agent class is led by Patrick Corbin, an upstate New York native, who makes sense for the Yankees. They could also re-sign J.A. Happ, who despite a tough Game 1 of the ALDS, was solid for the Yankees coming over after the trade with the Blue Jays. CC Sabathia, 38, says he wants to be back in pinstripes next season.
None of those options, however, give the Yankees an ace in October. Cashman may have to work the phones to see who is available via trade. Industry sources think that the Giants might be willing to deal Madison Bumgarner.
The Yankees don’t just need starters. Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman are back to anchor the bullpen with young arms to put around them. Chapman’s knee was balky most of the season, causing him to go on the disabled list late in the season, and Betances had a great season as a setup man. They need to have insurance and depth in that bullpen. Zach Britton and Andrew Miller lead the class of relievers that could help bolster the Yankee bullpen and both have already proven they can pitch in New York.
Who is going to be behind the plate catching these pitchers in 2019? The Yankees have been adamant that they are willing to walk “through the fire,” with Gary Sanchez because of his potential power. But Sanchez, hit just .186 this season with 18 homers and 53 RBI in 89 games this season. That doesn’t counterbalance the major-league leading 18 passed balls and 45 wild pitches with him behind the plate.
There are not a lot of strong options available at the position via free agency and a trade is going to be expensive in terms of prospects, which may be why the Yankees are so willing to publicly back Sanchez.
And the Yankees really need to figure out “Who’s at first,” heading into 2019. Cashman said that Greg Bird still has the same ceiling and they have breakout slugger Luke Voit heading into spring training. They need to figure out what they are going to do there and that could depend on how the rest of the winter goes. If they get Machado, they certainly could move Andujar there to keep his bat in the lineup.