The New York Yankees, a 92-win team in 2021 that performed worse across the board than projected (except in right field and at DH), have some serious explaining to do to the masses.
They’ve atrophied at every position since their 2018-19 rise. They’ve equipped their roster with the ace it so desperately needed in Gerrit Cole, but instead of fueling his prime with additional signings, they’ve tried to pass the buck elsewhere to make up for it, kneecapping the purpose of the move in the first place.
So … what are the Yankees, moving forward?
Are they the behemoth that the rest of baseball has long been scared of, even if they don’t want to admit it, or is that the Mets’ role now? Are they a team full of homegrown talent, only supplemented by the occasional free agent signing? Are they a scrappy underdog? Do they want to survive as a simulacrum of all these things melded together, instead becoming neither?
Entering 2022, the Yankees have an identity crisis to attend to.
They’re not short on talent, but they’re also rife with regression. They’re not as old as they’ve been, but they’re not as young as they should be. There are kids waiting in the wings, but for how long?
And can we really trust those kids? Is that really what the Red Sox and Rays do, or are we perceiving it wrong and too simplistically?
The Yankees are close, but close has never been enough for this city and this fan base. It’s also never been more frustrating for them to be close but clearly behind, considering they’ve historically been one of very few teams willing to wield a financial advantage, an edge that is more powerful than ever these days … and one they’re disregarding.
These three burning questions will determine the franchise’s future for the remainder of 2022.
3 burning questions that will decide Yankees’ future
3. If Anthony Volpe’s the Future … How Soon and Where?
Anthony Volpe appears to be a can’t-miss talent, and as strong a contender as anyone to be the No. 1 prospect in baseball next winter after this latest top of the class graduates.
One year ago, though, he was a complete unknown. He was thought to be a first-round reach. He was a possible shortstop, possible second baseman, possible third baseman subsisting on instincts alone before his swing lit up and changed the narrative entirely.
It’s phenomenal that the Yankees have Volpe in the system, alongside Oswald Peraza, Roderick Arias, Trey Sweeney and several other floating middle infielders — but there’s still a black hole at shortstop for the 2022 season.
Will Volpe’s promotion sync with Gerrit Cole’s prime? Or are they part of different roster cycles? Is the Cole-fronted version of the Yankees being neglected in favor of the next generation already?
And if Volpe’s not a shortstop, but rather belongs elsewhere in the infield, is the flimsy justification for not spending at the position this offseason already a wash?
We’re not advocating for Volpe to be rushed to the bigs, where he’ll more than likely take a step back from the most recent form we’ve seen. But if he and Peraza are untouchable … when, exactly? Is there a way to foster the present and the future, the way the Red Sox have seemingly been able to for nearly two decades? There has to be a viable team-building strategy for the Yankees here that doesn’t involve signing, say, Carlos Correa, blocking the position, using Volpe as a utility man, watching him flail, and then cutting bait on another failed asset.
And the Yankees need to show us they have such a plan.