The Yankees might not connect this offseason, but it certainly seems like they're going to swing for the fences in a limited market for top-tier offensive players.
The only problem? Shohei Ohtani, the clearest upgrade (maybe ... ever), is more than likely a no go. Juan Soto, entering his final year before reaching free agency, might not be available. AndCody Bellinger, who finished 2023 on a heater, will cost an inflated sum and could regress.
That hasn't stopped him from being Brian Cashman and the Yankees' primary focus (of the three names), though. Despite rumors that Bellinger's salary will climb past $200 million when all is said and done, MLB insider Jon Heyman still believes the Yankees will prioritize his addition, and have already reached out to gauge interest.
Bellinger's father, Clay, was a dynastic Yankee and a 1998 World Series champion. Happy homecomings don't mean much, though, when hundreds of millions of dollars are involved (and when said home is currently in disarray).
Yankees prioritizing Cody Bellinger over Juan Soto, per Jon Heyman
As Heyman wrote, after power ranking the three impact offensive players currently on the market (to varying degrees):
"The Yankees’ best hope to revive their lineup with one move is probably Bellinger, and they’ve already touched base on the free agent who returned to superstardom his first year on the North Side of Chicago. The Yankees are said to like Bellinger, and in a way, he fits best, since he can play center field or first base at an elite level."- Jon Heyman
Bellinger is certainly an improvement over the Yankees' current outfield picture, a blank whiteboard with a picture of Snorlax taped to it. However, he's not in the same stratosphere as Soto, who Heyman fears the Padres won't be willing to cut bait on just yet.
Yes, even as their financial woes become more highly publicized, Heyman still doubts that it's in their DNA to punt a season.
That would leave Bellinger as the best non-Ohtani upgrade actually available to the Yankees this offseason. In that case, they should probably hold off on top-tier free agents until next winter, when Soto, Alex Bregman and Willy Adames will be available for money alone.