Presented with a 50/50 proposition multiple times this offseason, the New York Yankees opened the wrong door nearly every time.
In fact, it’s more difficult to calculate their correct moves than it is to catalog their swings-and-misses. How much time do you folks have?
Given an impressive offensive core (though one that needed reinforcements, as 2019 and 2020 showed) and a pitching staff generally lacking in sure things behind Gerrit Cole, the Yankees opted to both not add offense or balance the lineup with lefties and went with a few lottery tickets for the rotation in an effort to stay below the luxury tax threshold.
Come to think of it, we can probably just retitle every segment of this 30-item list, “Shouldn’t Have Cared About the Luxury Tax Threshold.” There. Done. Too easy.
Before we move onto the gaffes, though, let’s be nice. What did the Yankees do right this offseason?
For our money, the DJ LeMahieu re-signing was a wise decision and numerically sound. LeMahieu’s new deal was a good example of well-considered fan service. Should the Bombers have brought The Machine back with a “blank check,” as some fans begged during the extended negotiations? Obviously no, and his two-month slump to start this season was good evidence to the contrary. Even if he doesn’t end up providing phenomenal value in the back end of the deal and things sour instead of getting sweeter, the Yankees didn’t give him budget-cracking money, and we’re not interested in re-litigating better short-term fits.
In other words no, don’t tell us the Yankees should’ve instead signed Marcus Semien — who was bad in 2020 — to a one-year deal.
Beyond LeMahieu? Uh … we still like the Corey Kluber signing. There might’ve been a more efficient use of $11 million, but again, we don’t care about the money. We’re terribly sorry Hal Steinbrenner might not be able to put diamonds on the final “R” on his spelled-out name on the hull of his yacht, but Kluber got the Yankees a no-hitter and a great month of May.
We did like the Yankees giving Brett Gardner a farewell tour. We did not, however, enjoy all that said tour represented. Which brings us to our disappointments.
The Yankees are paying for these 3 offseason mistakes.
3. Bringing Brett Gardner Back…And Nothing More
Brett Gardner had every right to want to be a Yankee for Life, and his red-hot September (and series of playoff starts over Clint Frazier!) presented a justifiable reason for his late-spring return this season.
But, as a wise man once said, a piano could fall on Gardner and he’d still wind up starting for the Yankees, and this year’s examples of malfeasance that led to a soon-to-be 38-year-old Gardner starting every damned day are especially egregious.
We didn’t think Aaron Hicks would suffer a season-ending wrist injury, but to not be able to predict he’d miss significant time (either scattered or all at once) was a large misstep. Gardner is a piece to the puzzle, but he’s not an everyday solution, and his extended slump to start the year only underscored that fact.
Plus … we cannot stress this enough: there was no alternative. Tyler Wade and Aaron Judge have ended up in center field. Estevan Florial was briefly promoted ahead of schedule. Clint Frazier has somehow become an unplayable left fielder and offensive player (that’s been a whole ‘nother issue) and Miguel Andújar is also in the outfield now for some reason?
This Yankees offense presents a distinct lack of lefty balance, which led to Rougned Odor being acquired on a whim in the middle of April. They also have less than zero outfield depth, especially considering nobody seems to want Giancarlo Stanton to set foot on the grass. Bringing Gardner back was fine, but relying on him as the sole backup plan was egregious. Maybe they should’ve traded for Adam Frazier in the spring instead of next month?
(Maybe they also should’ve sold high on Clint Frazier and signed Michael Brantley. Sorry!)