Another early playoff exit means an early start to the offseason, again. Winter is coming…and a long winter it will be for the New York Yankees. This offseason will be one of change for the Yankees, in one way or another. There has already been a major coaching change, but not any managerial change yet. Additionally, a front office change or an on-field change could still come. With all that said, the 2022 Yankees will not look the same as they do now.
The baby bombers that reached game seven of the ALCS in 2017 are no longer a thing. Even with Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar breaking onto the scene early in 2018, the future was bright for this Yankees core. Now, Aaron Boone’s contract is up, and Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino are all free agents after 2022. Furthermore, Andujar has played in a total of 78 games in the last three years combined. Torres has hit a total of 12 home runs in his last two seasons along with a 95 OPS+. All of this just goes to show that the once-promising core of baby bombers has declined to the point where a big change is necessary.
Yankees Offseason Coaching Changes
The Yankees have not yet announced if they will part ways with Aaron Boone. He has been the subject of much ire from the New York faithful. Whether it be from his lack of “fire,” questionable bullpen decisions, or poor lineup construction, fans have no shortage of ammo against Boone. However, the team has announced hitting coaches Marcus Thames, P.J. Piliterre, and third base coach Phil Nevin will not be returning. Nevin came to New York with Boone in 2018, while Thames and Piliterre have been two notable coaches that have been with the club for a while. Considering how much the club underachieved in 2021, a change in hitting coaches was expected. The Yankees had a top-five offense from 2018 through 2020, yet was barely top-20 this past season. An inconsistent and underperforming lineup calls for a new voice to lead the offense.
The Yankees have been a team whose offense relies on plate discipline and power. They have had some of the highest walk rates in baseball in recent years and ranking first in the sport in 2021. While this approach works on a macro level, it can crumble easily if key players are having “off” days. This occurred countless times in 2021, leading to mediocre team offensive numbers. A change in hitting coaches will bring about a new philosophy to the team. One that might help unlock certain things in players such as Gleyber Torres or Gary Sanchez, two of the most notable underperformers in 2021.
Previewing the Yankees Infield Situation
Owner Hal Steinbrenner attributes underperformance as the primary reason for the mediocre offense this past season. This makes a lot of sense as the players are the ones on the field, not the coaches or managers. While coaches are primarily scapegoats, they cannot really be blamed for Gio Urshela’s strikeout rate increasing from 17.2% in ’19-’20 to 24.7% in 2021. Gio Urshela regressed from a 132 wRC+ in 175 games in the previous two years to a 96 wRC+ this past season. He is one of the players the Yankees will have to make a decision about. Will they want him to play third base full-time, or do they think he can handle being the primary shortstop over the course of a 162-game season? This type of decision influences where they play Gleyber Torres moving forward as well.
It has been widely talked about how Torres is better at second base than at shortstop. They positioned him at second down the stretch in 2021 and it seems likely they will keep him there in 2022. If the Yankees decide to keep Urshela at third base and Torres at second base, this leaves a hole at shortstop. As dynamic as Tyler Wade can be, he has not shown the ability to be a starting-caliber hitter in today’s game. His role is best served as a bench piece who has defensive versatility and can steal some bases at the end of games.
Free Agency or Trade
All of those questions are what bring the free agent market into play. This class of free agents boasts the most loaded shortstop market…ever. It seems likely that the Yankees inquire about at least Trevor Story and Corey Seager as arguably the two best shortstops on the market. Carlos Correa is also an option but does not seem as realistic. Regardless, the Yankees look to upgrade the shortstop situation through free agency this offseason.
Another position of question is first base. Luke Voit played only 68 games this year due to multiple IL stints. When healthy, Voit is a force in the lineup. However, he is a major question mark defensively. Yankees fans saw how crucial good first base defense can be with Anthony Rizzo. Speaking of, Rizzo is a free agent once the World Series concludes. He brought an experienced lefty bat along with elite first base defense to this squad. He also made Voit expendable, as the Yankees were in talks to trade him, which they still might do this offseason. While it still seems like New York will look to move Voit, what are the odds they can sign Rizzo long-term? The first base market is quite thin this offseason and so the team might look to improve via trade, perhaps for someone like Matt Olson, who might be made available by the Oakland Athletics.
Matt Olson is a fantastic defensive first baseman who just had his finest season in the majors. With 39 homers, a .911 OPS and 153 OPS+, and 5.8 bWAR, Olson is sure to get some MVP votes. The Yankees would have to sacrifice a lot to acquire him, yet he is the type of difference-maker on both sides of the ball that this team needs.
It remains to be seen if Aaron Boone heads into 2022 as the manager of the New York Yankees. This offseason is one of great importance and change for the Yankees. They have already had some coaching shakeups and only time will tell when the player movement starts to occur. Most of the change looks to be on the offense. This is because the Yankees posted the third-best ERA in the American League. It was their pitching staff that carried the team for most of the season. All the way up to the last day of the season, in a 1-0 shutout against the Tampa Bay Rays, the pitching was fantastic. Whether through trade or free agency, look for the Yankees to be very active this offseason.
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