For four consecutive years, the New York Yankees have been eliminated from the postseason by the eventual AL pennant winner. Although there has been some turnover, the primary core has remained in tact. The addition of Gerrit Cole to the roster wound up not being the move to push them over the top.
While addressing the media in a Zoom press conference on Wednesday, Brian Cashman reassured the organization’s desire to assemble the roster that will to get to the World Series and win it. He claimed that the Yankees will have the highest payroll in 2021. However, he cited league guidelines for why he cannot reveal their offseason budget.
In order to get there, it sounds like the plan is to leave the 2020 roster mainly in tact.
Cashman emphasized his belief that the Yankees have a strong core already in place. Although that roster never played to the best of its abilities in 2020, he believes that the abnormal season did not do some players justice.
In fact, he occasionally thinks about a 2020 season that was longer. The prospect of getting James Paxton back from injury and possibly Domingo German returning from suspension, among others, may have changed things.
“These are all things that you day dream about, but they’re (the missing pieces) reality,” Cashman said. “At the same time, that gives you great hope when you start to day dream now moving forward.”
Free Agent Retention
In Cashman’s mind, the Yankees’ performance against the Cleveland Indians in the Wild Card Series is evidence of what they are capable of doing. As a result, his offseason priorities center around retaining DJ LeMahieu.
After consecutive top-four MVP finishes, the Yankees are not prepared to put a timeline on re-signing LeMahieu. Cashman has done his due diligence on other free agents – including talking with the agents of Brett Gardner and Masahiro Tanaka – while he keeps his ears open for trade opportunities. Either way, the value that the infielder offers is quite desirable. So much so, that Cashman is willing to take the risk of possibly missing out on alternative upgrades while courting him on the free agent market.
“There’re certain players that you feel are more worth the waiting game on and DJ LeMahieu is worth that,” Cashman said.
As the Yankees negotiate, the plan is bring LeMahieu back and assemble the same infield from 2020 featuring both Luke Voit and LaMahieu. Cashman has no plans to trade Voit and sign LeMahieu to play first, as some speculation has suggested.
LeMahieu’s ability to play multiple positions is valuable although his value is maximized at second base. He has played 1,004 games there compared to 104 at third base and 55 at first base.
Therefore, Cashman wants him back t0 be the second baseman for the long term.
“He’s a special player,” Cashman said. “He’s done everything right. We were fortunate to have him for two. We’d love to have him for longer, and it just remains to be seen if it’s going to work out that way.”
Aside from retaining LeMahieu, another area of the Yankees roster driving discussion is at catcher. Two viable options were available on the free agent market although James McCann has already signed with the New York Mets, leaving the more expensive J.T. Realmuto available. Cashman voiced confidence in the Yankees’ current catching duo.
Kyle Higashioka‘s emergence late in the season indicate to the team that he can be an everyday catcher. They receive calls on him although they are not looking to trade the 30-year old.
Still, the plan for now appears for Gary Sanchez again to have the starting catching job. Cashman went as far as calling him the “heir apparent,” heading into Spring Training.
Sanchez’s struggles during the season were well chronicled. Regardless, the team does not view the version of him that slashed .147/.253/.365 as the true Sanchez. That is evident by their tendering him a contract.
While he consulted with the team about playing in the Dominican Winter League, it was his decision to go get the additional work. The hope is that this is an indication of him bouncing back in 2021.
“Gary’s going to have to prove that 2020 was an aberration,” Cashman said. “The fact that he, on his own, is determined to play winter ball, to work through things, to get back on track, I think is a prelude to things to come. This is not something the Yankees mandated.”
Currently, Sanchez is performing well in the Dominican Winter League as he looks to regain his confidence at the plate. In eight games, his slash line is .308/.471/.654.
Cashman also addressed the starting pitching. He said he would love to add to it although he likes what they have to fall back on if nothing works out.
He understands he needs to make the right additions to the Yankees roster to put them back in the World Series.
Although the current core has failed to get there for straight seasons, he still believes they are a championship group. Ideally, Cashman hopes to run a similar roster to 2020 out in 2021, understanding that there is still untapped potential.
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