Believe us or not, but the New York Yankees are going to have to sign some free agents when the 2021-22 offseason resumes.
Are we promising they’re going to hit the upper tier and fill their shortstop hole for a decade to come? No. Absolutely not. But we are pledging they’re going to do something — there are too many current roster holes for them not to.
Some will be filled by trades. Some will be filled by cash. All proposed solutions will make you somehow madder than before the team took action. That’s the modern-day Yankee fandom guarantee.
How’s the process going to go down? That’s anyone’s guess, though the upper tier of the cupboard is now fairly barren outside of Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Seiya Suzuki and Kyle Schwarber.
Schwarber’s not a Yankee fit (even though he was a Brian Cashman pipe dream for five years), and was reportedly close to a Phillies deal before the lockout hit. Suzuki feels more and more like a Red Sox project every day. Correa’s preferred landing spot remains Houston on a blowout, short-term deal (or so we’re told…), but he also rifled a bunch of his Astros memorabilia into the straight-up trash recently, so who knows how that’s going.
That leaves Story, who many have projected will eventually be a Yankee when the dust settles on a bloated two-year contract. Count us … not among those people. Last-second discourse before the offseason’s flame was extinguished projected Story to the Mariners, and it still feels like he can get a five-or-six-year deal from Seattle, a team on the verge of contention. With his arm breaking down a bit, why would he settle for just two in New York?
We predict the Yankees will fill their shortstop spot with a trade, and will add an arm or two that way as well (stay tuned for a future list article…). As for the offseason’s free agency spending, all crammed into a big ol’ month before Spring Training begins, these are our predictions and contract projections.
Projecting the Yankees’ free agent contracts after MLB Lockout ends
3. Anthony Rizzo: 3 Years, $40 Million
He’s back, and he doesn’t cost all that much!
As much as we’d like Matt Olson on the Yankees, and as often as we’ve sounded the horn to deal Oswald Peraza and two or three other top-10 prospects in exchange for him, this isn’t about what we want. This is a projection of what we believe the Yankees will do. And as they move towards the end of the offseason without making any overtures at a top-tier free agent shortstop, let alone landing one, it seems likelier and likelier that the plan will be a short-term solution followed by a transition to a top prospect.
And do the Yankees really want to thin out that top prospect pool, removing Peraza as an option and leaving just Volpe and the teenaged Roderick Arias to boom or bust? We think not.
So, that leaves us with Anthony Rizzo, who changed the tenor of the 2021 Yankees immediately, both offensively and defensively, before succumbing to COVID-19 and coming back a bit sluggish at the plate (nobody hit more foul-ball home runs or ever will again).
Still, even after a tough few weeks at the end of August into September, Rizzo still posted a 110 OPS+ in the Bronx with a couple of massive home runs down the stretch, and he retained his excellent glove (and locker room presence). Bringing Rizzo back and expecting him to be an immediate monster is foolish, but he’s only a few years removed from a 2019 season where he hit .293 with 27 bombs and a 139 OPS+.
If he’s signed for three years, expect one standout season in the 120s and two similar years to 2021 before the regression really kicks in. We could absolutely see the Yankees settling here.