Even with the luxury tax mandate dictating every inch of their plans, the New York Yankees have still managed to have a pretty great offseason.
A cost-effective one that wouldn’t have turned heads in 2002, but still, they’ve taken a good team and made it better.
There are a few exceptions to the rule here, and alternate strategies that would’ve improved the roster at a far-from-extravagant cost. There are also a few options that would’ve been too rich for their blood this year, but they shouldn’t have been. Those still qualify as gaffes.
Because, when the Dodgers are willing to incur a tax over 40% and drop significant spots in the draft to sign Justin Turner and Trevor Bauer, a behemoth like the Yankees doing the limbo under the tax line can be looked at with scorn.
It’s fair to do so.
All told, the Yankees have turned Adam Ottavino into Darren O’Day and Justin Wilson, traded spare prospect parts for Jameson Taillon, signed Corey Kluber for his resurgence tour, and done the right thing by extending DJ LeMahieu infinitely (or, at least for six years). Love ’em all! No notes!
But these three moves would’ve created an even better situation for the Yankees.
Heck, one might’ve kept them under the dreaded tax, too.
3. Joc Pederson
Why didn’t the Yankees make a bigger push for Joc Pederson?
Before you start quibbling with every decimal of the team’s salary structure, as yourself: is the Yankees lineup better with the powerful Joc Pederson platooning in it, or is it better with Jay Bruce? Brett Gardner? Mike Tauchman?
There. Thanks. That wasn’t so hard.
And for only $7 million, Pederson wasn’t exactly a bank-breaker either.
As of now, the Yankees have either gifted a fifth outfielder spot to Bruce, who posted an 88 OPS+ last season in the shortened campaign and is about to turn 34, or they’ve set up an open competition for the as-yet-unsigned Gardner, who found his sea legs by year’s end in 2020, but is still a capped-out, 37-year-old version of his best self.
Adding Bruce was a neat way to save $6 million, but if the team brings Gardner in for $3-4 million, they’ll have only saved ~$3 million and neglected to add a 30-homer clutch mashing lefty who’s got a pedigree for competing in Joctober, the month we collectively renamed after his slugging.
Again, the dollar figures only matter because the general public has embraced the role of defending the Steinbrenners’ frugal ways as the Dodgers blitz past the marker on the other coast.
Who makes the team better? Bruce, Gardner, or Pederson? That’s it, really.